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Pete Dye would be rolling his eyes at the bumper rails at TPC Sawgrass

Pete Dye would be rolling his eyes at the bumper rails at TPC Sawgrass

Pete Dye had no interest in coddling PGA Tour players. He would frequently chuckle when pros would complain his courses were too difficult.

“Life is not fair, so why should I make a course that is fair,” said the legendary designer who passed away in 2020.

It would be a safe bet to say Dye wouldn’t love the setup of the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which he designed, for this week’s Players Championship.

In particular, Dye probably would have told the grounds crew to get out there with the mowers and shorten the ring of rough that has neutered the sharp edges on several of his most fearsome hazards.

Perfect examples would be the edges of the pond at Nos. 16 and 17 and again on the left side of No. 18 green, where thick rough several inches deep has stopped many marginally errant shots from rolling into the drink midway through the first round. Instead of a penalty and a drop, players have been rewarded with a short pitch from tall grass. Instead of rough presenting a challenge, around these greens it’s serving as a safeguard.

In 1982, Players winner Jerry Pate pushed Dye and Tour commissioner Deane Beman into the water off No. 18 green as penalty for such a difficult course, then dove in himself. This year, the rough would break their fall before they ever splashed in.

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In years past, the fringes of those greens were slightly taller than the green heights. Balls that landed on the final three greens could spin or bounce off the putting surfaces, cross the fringes while hardly slowing down, then splash into the water. With the increased ring of rough this year, those same shots come to an overly safe stop. Several players have had to stand on the boards ringing the greens to play their next shots, but that’s much less penal than taking a drop.

Patrick Cantlay was an early recipient of a good bounce off what are essentially childproof bumper rails on a bowling lane. His second shot into the par-5 16th flew too deep into the green and sped toward the back, where the ring of rough stopped the ball. Standing on the boards, Cantlay pitched his third to within a few feet of the hole and made birdie. In years past, that second shot likely would have been sunk and Cantlay would have been scrambling for a par, with bogey likely.

Viktor Hovland was the recipient of such kindness on No. 17. His tee shot…


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