'Imperfections' at Players? Believe it or not, yes

The damaged green on the fourth hole at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., leading up to this week's PGA Tour's 2014 Players Championship.

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Commissioner Tim Finchem is well aware of how optics and the PGA Tour work hand in glove.

But even on a Tour that specializes in message control, Finchem didn’t downplay the issues with three damaged greens at TPC Sawgrass, site of this week's Players Championship. Competitors have been restricted from putting or hitting balls into the fourth, 11th and 12th greens during practice rounds.

Most players have expressed their understanding about the weather issues that contributed to the spotty conditions at the Tour's flagship event, but Finchem clearly was disappointed Tuesday during a news conference.

“When you build a tournament and you're shooting for perfection, which is what we do – and we have some imperfections – it doesn't make it any more palatable that the players are being good about it,” Finchem said. “We need to fix our greens.”

Finchem outlined potential changes, which could include a combination of new grass (likely TifEagle Bermudagrass) and enlarging greens to improve the foot traffic. Any renovations wouldn't happen before summer 2015, Finchem said, because he wants to preserve the integrity and shot values on the demanding Pete Dye-designed course.

Another option: change the date of the tournament.

“If we can't maintain consistent conditions, and I think they will be competitively fine this week on balance, then we may have to examine the date,” said Finchem, who floated the possibility of reverting to a March date.

“I really feel like if you go back to the March date, where we had overseed, which is easier to manage the situation in the early spring with overseed, it still took us 10 years to really get it dialed in, in terms of the speed and firmness that we wanted.”

For Finchem even to suggest a possible return to March – the Players' historical calendar slot, until 2007 – illustrates his concern with the greens. Yet shortly after making the suggestion, he stepped back from a potential earlier date.

“We can make bigger greens and probably not have a problem,” Finchem said. “We were trying to maintain the heritage of what these greens mean, historically, so you don't want to do that. We'd probably go to that first, though, before we switch dates, because we love the date. So, one way or another, I think moving the date is unlikely.”

It seems for the first time in a while that Mother Nature is cooperating. Warm conditions will allow the greens at Nos. 4, 11 and 12 to be open for play Wednesday, with competitors asked to limit their practice on those greens.

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