Sports Columns

May 15, 2013

Loran Smith: Musings from the final round at TPC

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The setting for the conclusion of The Players Championship was very familiar. Pretty girls overrunning the golf course, which was resplendent in its classy layout of vibrant green grass, sand that sparkled in the sunlight and enough water trouble to cause the bravest of shotmakers to fret.

It was another remarkable day for this part of the Atlantic coast of North Florida, which has grown in every direction except east since Deane Beman, the visionary commissioner, bought 415 acres for  a dollar and set about making Ponte Vedra the home of the professional tour.

From the beginning — his first year as commissioner was 1974 — he wanted to make this event the showcase tournament on the PGA Tour. Beman had a goal of the Tournament Players Championship paying the most prize money and making the field the best in golf.

He was able to do that, but not without raising some eyebrows, notably from several of the game’s leading players at the time — Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. They essentially questioned the tour being in the real estate business.

Beman, however, had the backing of the rank-and-file players who supported him, which led to what we just witnessed this past weekend at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass — about the best you could find in tournament competition.

Tiger Woods, who has been hanging around million-dollar paydays for years, headed back to his home in Jupiter late Sunday $1.7 million richer. He should have called Beman on the short flight to say thanks.

Tiger has always been about money, but that was not his first priority. Winning brings home the big paychecks, and before his career is finished he obviously will own the record for winning the most tournaments in history. He now needs five victories to surpass Sam Snead, who won 82 times in his storied career.

Snead won his last event at age 46, which means that Tiger has nine years, based on birthdays, to overtake him. But the guess is that if he continues to play as he is currently, he will go sprinting past Snead by this time next year if not sooner.

The only question for Tiger now is whether he can regain his magic and dominance in the majors.  The best competition — players like Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, and Adam Scott — faded without a whimper at The Players Championship last week. Who will challenge Tiger at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in June, Muirfield at the British Open in July and the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in August?

However, there were a couple of times during the final round of The Players Championship when you saw Tiger making shots that seemed unthinkable for him in years past. Hitting it into the water at No. 14 on Sunday led to a double bogey, which opened the door for the challengers to seize the moment, but Kevin Streelman, Jeff Maggert, David Lingmerth, Martin Laird and Sergio Garcia folded instead of charging.   

Does the way The Players Championship played out this past weekend suggest that Tiger is vulnerable? When he missed from 11 feet at the fifth hole and eight feet from the sixth, it brought to mind that while he is a young golfer at 37, he is displaying that those 20-footers that used to be gimmes are fewer and fewer. But if his putting stroke holds up he is likely to win everything in sight.

The Players Championship is about birdies. The opportunity to score at Ponte Vedra is considerable, especially with the short par-4 holes that exist on the Pete Dye layout. Three of the holes are shorter than 400 yards in length and the longest measures only 481.

The story is that Dye, the designer, wants to return and lengthen the par-4 holes.  A par-4 hole on tour today, Dye has said, should be 520 yards.

Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for The Daily Citizen. You can write to him at loransmith@sports.uga.edu.

1
Text Only
Sports Columns
  • Devin Golden: Area aims for multiple tennis titles in tourneys

    Afew local high school tennis teams have had successful regular seasons and they aim for bigger achievements this week in the region tournaments.
    Murray County’s girls are right there near the front of the Region 7-2A pack.

    April 13, 2014

  • Chris Whitfield: Miller finds the win he has wanted

    Former Dalton High School standout Chase Miller has had four strong years at the College of Coastal Georgia, transitioning with the school as it went from a junior college program his freshman year to a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics four-year school.
    The one thing missing from his résumé? A tournament title.

    April 12, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Big Three still a big deal for fans

    AUGUSTA — Sinatra is gone, but we still have his music. The same is true with Nat King Cole and Elvis. It would be nice to hear them in concert again, however. With Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, we are not sure what it will be like when they are no longer the honorary starters at the Masters.

    April 11, 2014

  • Tom Lindley: Managing dollars at the ballpark can be an exercise in good sense

    Attending an Opening Day game at a Major League Baseball stadium is one of life’s little pleasures. Everyone should get to experience it at least once.

    April 11, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Meeting old friends under the big oak a tradition, too

    The first time I was in a train station in Great Britain and saw a sign that read, “Meeting Place,” it brought me to a pause. How simple, how functional was this sign? In small towns it is not a problem to meet someone at Sheppard’s Filling Station or at the fireplug across the street from the Baptist church, but at a busy venue — like European train stations — there is nothing more sensible than meeting at the “Meeting Place.”

    April 10, 2014

  • Loran Smith: Golden Bear is still game’s top champion

    Jack Nicklaus is entitled to play the Augusta National Golf Club as a member now, which means when he takes friends out for a round of golf, he hits from the member tees. He hits it a long way still — certainly for a guy in his mid-70s — but not like in 1965, when he drove the ball on No. 15 so far over the crest of the hill that he only needed a 7-iron for his second shot.

    April 8, 2014

  • Chris Stephens: The boys of summer ready for rec baseball

    The emotions are far-reaching and played out all over baseball diamonds each summer. Fear. Anxiety. Fear. Anticipation. Fear. Excitement.
    But honestly, I have no idea how my son feels about his first baseball season. These are my emotions.

    April 5, 2014

  • Tom Lindley: Tough calls part of the job for refs

    Florida brings Scottie Wilbeken to the Final Four with championship hopes. Kentucky has Julius Randle, Wisconsin features Frank Kaminsky and Connecticut will be a tough out as long as Shabazz Napier has the ball.

    April 4, 2014

  • Heritage at NW base#1C009FA.jpg Devin Golden: Stage now set as NW, SE aim for series win

    The team isn’t the exact same, but Northwest Whitfield’s baseball squad is mirroring itself from a season ago.

    March 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jamie Jones: Booker T will write about time in the ring

    Here are the notes and news items from the week in pro wrestling: WWE has released the original Sin Cara (Luis Ignacio Urive Alvirde). The current Sin Cara is being portrayed by Hunico.

    March 27, 2014

AP Video