PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (Swing Update) – Justin Thomas played in the 15th hole of the Players Championship twenty times, but never earlier this year. That is why he turned to his caddy for last minute advice during a workout.
"We do not have to worry about going through the fairway, is not it?" he asked Jimmy Johnson.
The peloton is still strong, with each of the top 50 in the world rankings among 144 men. The prize money is richer than ever, at $ 12.5 million, of which $ 2.25 million goes to the winner. And it seems like the same stadium course at TPC Sawgrass has hosted the PGA Tour's flagship event since 1982.
But that's not it.
A move in March changes everything.
The players' championship has gone green, with oversized rye making it lush, green and longer than last May, on a Bermuda grass that can be fast and fiery. The prevailing winds can come from a totally different direction, which can give this island a little less green to the 3rd by 17.
"I had between iron 6 and iron 5 out of 17 to hit the ball," said Tiger Woods. "Few people can say that unless playing in March."
What has not changed, is to handicap the field. The TPC Sawgrass was renowned every month for not preferring any style of golf. He produced champions like Woods and Greg Norman, or Fred Funk and Hal Sutton during its March performance. Moved in May, the winners have varied games, whether it's Phil Mickelson and Jason Day or Tim Clark and K.J. Choi.
Woods is the only player to win in March and May. He did a lot of things that no one else did.
It will all begin Thursday, with only 23 players having known the conditions of March before their move in May 2007. Woods and Adam Scott are the only Sawgrass players to have won the players in March.
"I think we're going to have a good challenge this week," said Scott. "It's not brutally difficult, but if the wind blows, it will play hard."
Heavy rains earlier in the week made the fairways even sweeter and smeared some golf balls with mud – a thing rarely seen in May – but Scott immediately noticed the difference.
"I hit a 5 iron in the first hole," he said. "It's been 12 years since I hit anything but an iron or a shim there, many other holes are too, so if it gets a little firmer, even if you hit a iron 7 The first, I think it will require very good driving performance and very good irons, I think it's an excellent test. "
Dustin Johnson is among those eagerly awaiting the move in March, even though he only played this event in May. He has not played very well, not at his level or anyone who has reached the world number 1 and has 20 victories for his career.
Johnson, who just won a five-shot win in Mexico three weeks ago, has never finished higher than a draw in 12th place out of 10 starts. It only has five towers in the 60s.
"Judging only the distance, the balls traveling for miles and never stop in the fairways," Johnson said. "I think that good moves are not always rewarded by the way the course was played, but yes, I struggled … it was frustrating too."
Woods, who played nine holes on Tuesday and nine holes Wednesday, had one of those moments described by Scott. During his training session on Tuesday, he touched a 3-piece wooden ball, as usual. But instead of hitting iron 9, he went with a 3 iron.
One thing has not changed regarding Woods.
"It's a very simple formula here: hit it well," Woods said. "It's not really complicated." The golf course is the one that Pete (Dye) has set up to intimidate you visually.You have to overcome that, and no, you can not really play badly and win this event I think we all have to accept that you're going to make good strikes and get some odd hopes, as well as some really great lies, whether it's off the fairway or around the greens. "
Nobody played better last year than Webb Simpson, who created such a lead by equalizing the record of 54 holes, which earned him a score of 73 in the last round – the highest score recorded Sunday by a winner of the PGA Tour – and still won by four. shots.
Now he is defending his title on what looks like a new course, which could be the comparison with a major this week.
"I have somehow had to relearn the golf course in recent days," Simpson said. "Based on the events we experienced here in May, make sure you understand what we are doing in tees … I'm trying to treat it like a new golf course because it's very different . "