Inside The Ropes At Sawgrass

BREAKING NEWS: Danny Lee found a girl!

It seemed like it would never happen (if you listened to Pat Perez), but Danny is not only loved up, he's engaged! He happily spilled the beans today in an interview I had with him. Congratulations champ!

Time flies on the PGA Tour!! It seems like just yesterday that we were on the edge of our seats wondering if Sergio could finally do it. Would he be able to forget or forgive a career's worth of heart-breaking finishes and join Golf's exclusive locker room reserved only for Masters Champions? The final few hours viewing was top draw and will go down as one of the most memorable Masters Tournaments of this era. The newest Green Jacket has racked up some extensive frequent flyer miles (more like Gulfstream private jet...) with its owner travelling to some pretty cool locales. To New York City for the two-day media tour immediately following the fitting, to his home town in Spain and a footy match between Sergio's favorite team Real Madrid and Barcelona. Home to its new wardrobe for the next 11 months in Switzerland and this week it will be back in Florida at TPC Sawgrass. This week’s Players Championship is the flagship event of the PGA Tour and is widely renowned as the "5th Major” in men's professional golf. With Tour HQ's right on site at Sawgrass the top brass go all out to make this every bit as special as the big four. In some ways, this week far exceeds the others and it has steadily grown in stature largely due to the unique design of the golf course. Since moving to TPC Sawgrass in the early eighties the Stadium Course always identifies the player that best holds his nerve coming down the stretch with possible disaster looming over every shot. The "Island Green" 17th garners most of the attention and rightly so. Many a Tour Pro has seen his championship dreams sink after an errant short iron on the penultimate hole. The author included!!! As painful as it is at the time players take solace that they are not alone...there have been 550 balls rinsed at the 17th since 2003. Although the shortest of all the holes at Sawgrass screws with every player's head the other seventeen can impart collateral damage as well. However, TPC is not a long course by Tour standards at just over 6400m. Precision is greatly rewarded with shot making and shot shaping a perquisite to scoring in the red. Those who successfully challenge calamity on certain holes and respect the architect on others set themselves up for potential glory in the late stages of the tournament. The famous Pete Dye design of 35 years ago is barely a memory now after numerous renovations and enhancements. Over the most recent 12 months that theme has continued. Straight after Jason Day was crowned the 2016 champ the PGA Tour went straight to work adjusting several holes and upgrading several spectator areas. Most notably:

• Several new spectator mounds have been added to enhance the "Stadium Like" viewing areas for fans. • A new state of the art practice facility was built with every target and surface the modern-day tour professional would require playing at his best.... including a replica 17th in the middle of the range (minus the aqua). • A massive new lake was created between the 6th & 7th holes which will come into play for tee shots missed left on both tough par 4's.

• And a completely new 12th hole was built. Reducing a ho-hum two shot hole into an exciting drivable par 4 measuring just 275m.

• A lake way left of the old green was expanded and is now green side to the new putting surface. With plenty of sand in play this short hole will no doubt play a pivotal part in determining which name is on the Crystal at weeks’ end.

Of those to keep an eye on:

- DJ for sure... After the Masters misstep, he reckons he's back to 100% and proved it shooting 10 under last weekend nearly picking up his 4th win of 2017. He's a clear favorite on form but hasn't finished inside the Top 25 at Sawgrass in his last seven Players starts.

- Rory... This will be his first start as a married man so we'll see if the Mrs has said "no more golf on the weekends!!". I suspect not. His game has been really close to popping this season and he comes with decent record here in the past. He's finished inside the top 12 each of the last four years and with a solid week on the greens will be in touch over the final couple of days.

- Sergio of course... As a freshly minted Major Champion he re- starts his season on a course that really suits his game. He won in 2008 and has had two other very close calls. It seems like every year his name is on the board here and with a new-found confidence it would be silly not to back him...

- Rickie... A rapid finish over the final few holes here 2 years ago ended in an enthralling playoff victory. He birdied the 17th twice on Sunday so that's good stuff to have in the memory bank. His form guide suggests he'll also be at short odds. Although Sunday at Augusta didn't work out he's finished inside the top 16 in his last 6 stroke play starts.

- and JDay. Around this time last year, he was on a DJ like run ripping his two iron around TPC over 270m and dominating every field he came up against. With his Mum's health concerns behind him he'll be looking to refocus and attempt to become the first ever back to back winner of The Players.

- Danny will be our lone Kiwi in the field and his record here has been mixed in the last few years. Danny's ability to employ patience and restraint here is really tested so hopefully a relaxed mind will serve him well. Freshened up after a rare week off he'll be looking to continue the run of top 25 finishes over the last 2 months and start to climb the Fed Ex Cup standings.

The Players is one of the very best spectator experiences on the PGA Tour. The "stadium like" viewing is unparalleled on Tour and the finishing holes always deliver some of the most nerve racking drama of the Tour season. The players themselves know that a victory here elevates them to a whole new level of respect amongst their peers. The list of former champions confirms this...

Outside of Augusta, Pebble and possibly The Open on the rota of historic links, The Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass is maybe the next most recognizable track on TV each and every year. And it's open to the paying public so I highly recommend adding it and checking it off your bucket list of courses to play.

I'll be inside the ropes again this week with commentary duties of the featured groups and featured holes including all of the action at the 17th for PGATOUR Live on PGATour.com.

It's a fun week so enjoy all of the coverage. And whilst you’re watching...imagine yourself on the 17th tee hitting a wedge with a one-shot lead and $2 million on the line!!!

#whatnerves

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Elite Golf Tours is New Zealand owned and operated travel company specialising in Major sporting events, like The Masters, The Open, US Open, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and much more. For more than 10 years Mike Turner and Sam Sullivan have been creating dream golfing holidays, in 2016 one of New Zealand's favorite golfing sons - Phil Tataurangi joined the team on a permanent basis.

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