|The world famous no. 17 island hole at TPC Sawgrass Stadium.|
Taking The Masters and Augusta National out of the conversation, my favorite tournament to watch in person is THE PLAYERS at the TPC Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This year's event takes place next week May 7-13. Among those in the field are Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Webb Simpson....and the list goes on.
|Phil Mickelson in celebration mode.|
While star players are everywhere (except Bubba this year), it's the TPC Stadium course and its unique features that make the tournament a great experience for spectators.
For players, it's the ultimate four hour exam that quickly identifies the contenders from the pretenders. Narrow fairways with tiny target areas, immense strategically placed waste bunkers, railroad tie barriers, grassy mounds and knolls and pool table-fast greens are just some of the elements players must deal with on the Pete Dye designed 7,215-yard, par 72 layout.
For spectators, many fairways are framed by high, banked slopes upon which crowds can sit. There are also bowl-shaped natural grass amphitheaters around many greens where you can watch putts break wildly in either direction.
Where to Sit and Watch
One of the best spots to sit is between the 16th green and 17th tee box. If you're close enough to the ropes you can see the player's facial expressions and anxious body language as they slowly walk the 100 yards to tee up at no. 17 and it's famous island green.
It's called the "Lonliest Walk in Golf".
Here's what Brandt Snedeker has to say about the walk: "I wish it was a lot shorter. It's very nerve-wracking. You're thinking about the shot the whole time. It's a very daunting shot. It looks easy on Tuesday and Wednesday, but it's hard on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There's no way to fake it in there."
If you can't secure a position there, sit on the hill flanking the left side of the lake overlooking the 17th green. It's a great place to watch tee shots to the island green and you can scurry over to the 18th tee box to watch one of the most harrowing and demanding tee shots on the PGA Tour. A lake frames the entire left side from tee to green on the 462-yard par 4. Even if you keep your tee shot right, there's not much space for a safe landing.
|Sit on the hill overlooking no. 17 and watch the drama unfold.|
Before any round, make sure you spend a little time hanging around the range and practice putting greens. The practice facilities at the TPC Sawgrass are among the best in the world and its sheer joy to sit and watch the best players in the world go through their practice routines.
What's New in 2012
--This year, THE PLAYERS Closing Ceremonies will be held on the Lower Clubhouse Lawn, where THE PLAYERS Trophy will be on display all week, allowing fans to encircle the stage and get close to the new champion (and 2011 champion K.J. Choi, who will award the trophy). The 2012 winner will also sign a limited number of commemorative PLAYERS pin flags to distribute to some of the lucky fans in attendance.
--Better still for moms, the 2012 winner will draw the winning ticket for THE PLAYERS Mother's Day Car Giveaway at the end of Closing Ceremonies. Mothers, 18 and older, can register all week in the Stadium Village (where the Toyota Camry Hybrid will be on display), but they must be present for the drawing during Closing Ceremonies to win.
--Wine & Dine on 9 will offer spectators the chance to enjoy gourmet food and wine, including "small plates" offered by Matthew Medure, one of Northeast Florida's most renowned chefs. Located in a cool, shady area to the left of No. 9 fairway, Wine & Dine on 9 will also feature BERINGER'S expanded portfolio of varietals and will offer tournament-goers the opportunity to watch the action at the par-five 9th in style.
--The Oasis, located between No. 9 and No. 18 tees, will expand on what has been a popular concession area in years past. The Oasis will still feature a concession area, but fans will also find an open-air tent providing a shaded area to cool off. The venue will also include the NOLET'S Silver Lounge, an enclosed, air-conditioned tent open to all fans age 21 and over offering a range of spirits, including Ketel One flavors and NOLET Silver Gin, for purchase.
--The Kid Zone by THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children's Hospital will offer parents a family-friendly area to entertain their kids while on-site at the tournament. Activities available at the Kid Zone include a putt-putt course, face painting, temporary tattoos, bag toss games and much more. Located at the end of the Nicklaus Gate walkway behind No. 17 tee, the Kid Zone will also have a misting tent where fans can cool off, as well as a concession area with televisions so adults can still follow the action while their kids play.
This phenomenal video will definitely get you in the mood for this year's THE PLAYERS. Watch it and I guarantee you'll be ready to watch the tournament in person or on television.
|Hang around the clubhouse and visit the range.|
THE PLAYERS Ticket Information
For ticket information, go to http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/r011/tickets.html
After the tournament, if you've got the juices flowing and you want to stay and play at TPC Sawgrass, here's a link for golf packages: http://booking.tpc.com/golfpackages-32-71.aspx
Good luck on the course....you'll need it.