The Players Implementing More Ways For Fans To Beat The Heat
The Players Championship will be played this Thursday-Sunday, the "latest dates ever" for the event, and PGA Tour and tournament officials said that they are "doing everything possible to give fans cooler places to watch the tournament," according to Garry Smits of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. This includes more "comfort stations" where fans "can either escape the heat by getting inside air-conditioned structures or under the shade of the numerous trees on the property." The tournament also has "nearly doubled the number of restroom facilities on the course." The Players Exec Dir Matt Rapp said that it is "all part of the evolution of holding the tournament in May as opposed to March." The Players was first held in May in '07, and the tournament and the tour now have "four years of feedback from fans and believe they've hit on a model that will keep fans at the course and engaged in golf longer." Rapp: "The key is staging this tournament for May. We had been staging it for March and had not been addressing the heat. The difference is that in March, fans were seeking out the sun. In May, they're seeking out shade." PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem noted fans have "a lot of options in May, such as the beach." Finchem: "We want them to be out there, stay longer and be a part of the tournament longer. As a result, we've got to make more creature comforts available." Smits noted heat was "one of the main reasons for a major change at the par-4 18th hole: the bleachers have been removed and fans will now sit on grassy banks called 'the Bluff.'" Finchem said that views of the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse "should be more impressive as a backdrop to players finishing No. 18 -- both on TV and for fans in person" as a result of the bleachers' removal. Finchem: "It allows the camera to capture more of the clubhouse and have a Riviera feel to it" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/9).
STILL CHASING THE LEADERS: Former PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman believed that The Players "might have approached the status of the four tournaments currently accepted as major championships sooner." Beman: "I think it's taken longer than I thought it would take. ... I felt that (The Players) would have a little higher status with every player in the world that no player, regardless of what his agent said to him, would ever consider stepping aside." The Players and the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course "merged in 1982" while Beman was commissioner, and he said, "I'm very pleased with where the course is. It's everything I wanted when we set out to build it. It doesn't favor any player" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 5/10).