PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – The idea behind redesigning the short, par-4 12th hole at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course was to entice more players to attempt to drive the green during the Players Championship.
But what if most players decide not to play with fire?
Just because the hole is expected to play – on average – around 290 yards doesn’t mean they’re going to fire away.
They might but the early returns through two practice days suggest players may not be willing to play the risk-reward game, at least not initially. The new design features a water hazard tight along the left side of the green with a variety of bumps and rolls, plus a small pot bunker, protecting the right side.
Then again …
Jordan Spieth nearly aced the hole in his practice round Tuesday, his tee shot lipping the cup before stopping 6 feet away.
“(Caddie) Michael (Greller) said that was the worst thing you could have done because now I believe I can do it each time,” Spieth said.
During practice rounds, players are trying it both ways. They’ll hit an iron in the fairway, leaving a wedge shot in. They’ll also fire at the green to see what happens.
Two factors will play heavily into a player’s decision:
The pin position and the wind.
“For the most part, I would say there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll lay up three days and maybe go once, if not lay up all four,” Rickie Fowler said. “That’s probably not what they want to hear with it being a drivable par-4.”
Adam Scott sees it the other way, believing more players will choose to be aggressive.
“You’re going to see a lot of guys go for the green,” Scott said. “They have made it very open in the front of the green. There’s nothing to stop a straight shot going right up into the wind.
“If they play that (short) tee all week, which I would assume they will because that’s the point of changing the whole hole, you’re going to see some eagles there and a lot of birdies, a lot more than we saw on the old 12th.”