May
15
2011
Soft Greens + Dry Course = Birdie Bonanza at TPC Sawgrass
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

17 green like you've never seen it before

By the time the players and caddies emerged from the “Caddie Room,” the Locker Room,” “Player & Family Dining,” and for those less social, the “Scoring Area,” the sun also surfaced in the early evening hours on Saturday at The Players. When the horn sounded, within minutes it began pouring really, really hard — you know, the kind of rain that if you run outside to your car and back, you’re guaranteed soaked from head-to-toe. Not long after: lightning and thunder followed. Four-hours twenty-seven minutes later, players started warming up and mentally turning their minds back to TPC Sawgrass. There were about 10 pairings yet to start their third rounds. PGA Tour official Mark Russell said the course took about three-quarters of an inch of rain, but the sub-air drainage system rapidly sucked the moisture away.

“The golf course was unbelievable how it drained,” said Russell. “It’s the first time it’s rained here since we sand-capped the fairways, redid the greens and did the renovation, and it was amazing how the golf course held up. Once it stopped raining, the water was basically gone.”

Tree falls down along 16th fairway after severe storm suspended play

It’s true. Charlie Wi, and KJ Choi sat in player dining. “We ate,” said Wi. “That’s all we did. I didn’t move for four hours. I only went to the bathroom once.” After the rain delay, Wi came alive, firing darts at the now gettable pins on receptive greens.”

When play restarted, Wi was on eight green. He putted out and then commenced his red-hot streak, posting four consecutive birdies on 9, 10, 11, and 12 to get to six-under for the day. It appeared he might shoot a real special number, but Wi hadn’t reached 14 yet — his worst enemy this week.

“I bogeyed 14,” said Wi. “This week I’ve had two bogeys and a double, I figure it’s my turn tomorrow to get it back.”

Wi also bogeyed 16 and posted a four-under 68, which was a little disappointing just because of the two bogeys coming in.

“This is a really difficult golf course, said Wi, who claims he’s a distant cousin of mine. “You could definitely be more aggressive. The greens were really receptive, so I was able to fire at some pins. The ball started backing up after the rain and you never see that here. There’s a lot of low scores today.”

And expect even lower numbers on Sunday morning. “There’s not going to be any wind in the morning,” said Wi, “and with the receptive greens, those guys are going to shoot low scores.”

In other words, TPC Sawgrass will be defenseless when the world’s best golfers embark on birdie sprees.

He cracked, “Hopefully the greens will really dry out for those guys tomorrow morning.” Which he acknowledges won’t happen. The amount of rain combined with the humidity will make the greens stay somewhat damp and soft.

The leaders only got in five holes before play was suspended due to darkness. Of course, Ian Poulter did a rendition of speed golf in the last two holes to ensure he and playing partner Dustin Johnson would finish and save them the trouble of waking up at 5am.

Defending US Open champion Graeme McDowell and Nick Watney currently share the lead at eleven-under. G-Mac, who played in the penultimate pairing, hadn’t even teed off when play was called in the afternoon, so he knew he had time to relax and take it easy. Like Wi, he predicts we’ll see some real low numbers tomorrow because of the shift in conditions.

“Golf course had changed significant when we did get back out there,” said McDowell. “The greens were a lot more receptive, the fairways were a lot more receptive, so you can play the golf course much more aggressively, and I think that’s going to make for low scoring tomorrow.

“Under no illusions; maybe if the golf course had have stayed the same way it was yesterday and continued to firm up, 10-, 11-under might have won this golf tournament, but I think it’s going to take 15, 16, maybe more, with the way things have softened up.”

There’s a slew of nearly 20 guys five shots off the pace that may still have a chance to contend.

“I could see someone going and shooting 62, 63 tomorrow,” said G-Mac. “I think there’s a low score on this golf course, depending on what the wind does tomorrow, of course. But it really has opened the field up a little bit, these conditions now. There was some good scoring this morning even before the delay. I know Peter Hanson was 7-under through 16 holes. But it just shows you what can be done on this golf course. It’s not long by modern standards and when you start attacking some pins you can make some scores.”

Could it be Phil, who has been doing a lot of talking, but not as much producing? “I’ve got to go low, I’ve got to shoot 8-or 9-under,” said Phil. “But I’m going to try to make a run. It will be tough, but I’m going to give it a shot.”

“It’s going to be exciting,” McDowell continued. “This is probably one of the most exciting finishes in world golf, and to have that many guys within striking distance tomorrow, it’s going to be a lot of fun hopefully to be part of.”

We hope so, too. But ya hear that, boys and girls? It’s going to be another riveting finish, so remember to tune in or DVR the coverage or just follow me on Twitter!