PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – It was mid-March when Jay Monahan took part in a junior foundation charity golf tournament on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
While he perhaps needed a color chart to determine whether the grass was brown or perhaps tan, it didn’t really matter. His mood was blue.
“My throat went down to my knees,” Monahan said.
As executive director of The Players Championship, Monahan knew that by early May the golf spotlight would be on a stage that arguably is one of the most identifiable in golf. And with only weeks left, Monahan couldn’t be blamed for wondering how it was going to all come together.
“Players,” he said, “expect perfect. But it doesn’t always come to that.”
No, it doesn’t, but when brown turns to green and unplayable becomes playable within a matter of weeks, what is owed is a rousing round of applause and plaudits to all involved.
Tom Vlach, the superintendent at TPC Sawgrass, and his tireless crew should be feted as heroes of the 2010 Players Championship. Instead, too much focus was devoted to the condition of the course, and players shamefully didn’t help the cause.
Consider Tiger Woods before the tournament even started: “The course is a little bit spotty.”
Consider Jerry Kelly after Round 2: “There’s no excuse for the greens. They’re soft. They’re spongy. They don’t roll true in the afternoon. They can’t keep them short enough. I’m disappointed in the way that this thing is set up.”
Come on. There’s a good reason why things were the way they were this year at the Stadium Course. It’s called Mother Nature, which gave Florida its coldest winter in decades.
“We had no warm weather,” Monahan said.
“They had to cover the greens 36 times this winter. Last year they did it twice,” said Mark Russell, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition.
For weeks, players heard the stories and perhaps feared the worst. That is why it was shamefully easy for some to utter unfortunate criticisms. Thankfully, other colleagues showed more dignity, perhaps knowing that as our nation wrestles with a horrific oil spill that threatens in so many ways, the issue of dead grass and soft greens doesn’t resonate.
“It came out better than I thought. That’s for sure,” Robert Allenby said. He conceded that it went from soft and easy to firm and difficult, hardly the sort of consistency players seek, “but in fairness, they did a good job.”
Vlach and company certainly did, and while it wasn’t perfect, it was perfectly fine.