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Pete Dye is still twisting the thumbscrews at TPC Sawgrass

Pete Dye is still twisting the thumbscrews at TPC Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — The aphorism about not speaking ill of the dead is believed to have originated with Chilon of Sparta, one of the Seven Sages of Greece. It’s a noble sentiment, admittedly, but then Chilon never had to play a Pete Dye golf course. It’s been three years since the celebrated architect died at age 94, but his name has surely been muttered in vain by quite a few competitors this week at TPC Sawgrass, where the Stadium Course ranks among the most taxing of his designs in a career that spanned half a century.

As many a USGA official can testify, elite professional golfers are often unable to distinguish between being tested and being humiliated. The higher the number on the scorecard, the greater the odds a player will hold a dim view of both golf course and architect. T’was always thus with the Stadium Course. The first Players Championship held here was in 1982 when J.C. Snead famously sniped that Dye had ruined a perfectly good swamp. (His verdict probably didn’t soften in eight subsequent appearances, during which he broke 70 only once and even carded an 85).

Dye earned the moniker of the ‘Marquis De Sod’ for what Tour players saw as his gleeful embrace of sadism.

Four decades after it opened, the Stadium Course is golf’s equivalent of a medieval rack, across which the world’s best players are stretched until their breaking point is identified. By Sunday evening, 143 competitors will have snapped as cleanly as the club Shane Lowry angrily pulverized in Thursday’s first round. Perhaps even all 144, since some years not even the winner emerges unscathed. Aaron Wise must have wanted to snap all 14 of his after rinsing three balls at the 18th hole on his way to a 10.

Friday brought more misery. Lucas Herbert followed his opening 82 with 85. Through 36 holes, his scorecard showed 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, leaving the Australian only an ace and a Wise shy of batting for the most improbable cycle in elite golf. And Herbert didn’t even have the worst day.

More: Pete Dye’s top 10 courses according to Golfweek’s Best rankings

Justin Lower eyes his shot from the rough on hole 5 during the first round of The Players golf tournament on Thursday, March 9, 2023, at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union)

Max McGreevy signed for 89 after a day in which he had more 7s than 3s. To borrow a quip from the late Peter Alliss, his card resembled the dialing code for Tierra del Fuego. It…


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