Steve Wenzloff became supremely familiar with all of Taco Lu’s 12th hole offerings. The PGA Tour’s in-house architect says he witnessed about 90 percent of the shots played into the revamped short, par-4 green during the 2017 Players Championship. But in between groups, Wenzloff drifted over to the outstanding taco stand behind the reinvigorated green complex.
“They took care of me and kept me hydrated,” Wenzloff said a year removed from the TPC Sawgrass’s most dramatic hole remodeling carried out in advance of last year’s tournament. Data suggests the PGA Tour’s effort paid dividends.
As they are prone to do, Tour players and caddies had reached a consensus by mid-Tuesday of Players week 2017: no one will drive the hole! This is not what Pete Dye would have built! They’ll have to stop play! The sun will not rise in the east!
By week’s end, players were still refusing to declare the new 12th a rousing success. But the verdict for fans and the PGA Tour referees charged with setting up the hole was clear: the TPC Sawgrass saw a dynamic addition to an already strong back nine and was only in need of a few minor adjustments to generate even more intrigue.
To put it another way, if TPC Sawgrass were an 18-song set list, the PGA Tour replaced that bathroom-break, meandering piano ballad B-side with a soaring, up-tempo rocker that no one wants to miss.
To recap, Dye’s original 12th hole featured a forced layup to a well bunkered and green. A large mound essentially prevented players from driving the green.
Dye later rebuilt the hole and the 12th remained fine but hardly one that offered risk and reward or enjoyable spectating.
With Dye’s blessing, the Tour and Wenzloff set out to invigorate a dead spot in the routing and unveiled the hole last year.
Players definitely drove the green – 40 percent of tee shots made some sort of attempt according to ShotLink — though many wisely attempted to drive just short of the putting surface, while many others laid up to find an obstructed view.
Options, strategy, decisions and a few crazy things happened. The field averaged 3.830, placing the hole 15th in difficulty.
Cody Gribble and Luke List made eagles after stellar tee shots onto the green. There were 127 birdies registered, 49 bogeys and three double bogeys.
Armed with ShotLink data and suggestions from Tour brass, an advance official, Stephen Cox and longtime back-nine setup official Robby Ware, tweaks have been made this year.
Approach Change – No. 1
In the approach area, where players griped that the alley into the green was not enticing enough to go for the green, a small trap door of tight grass about 30 yards short has been closed off. The fairway bunker players must drive over has been extended a shade up the left to sucker more players to go for the green. And the approach leftside has been raised a shade to hold shots up instead of sending them to the water.
Approach Change – No. 2
A classic Dye mound defining the right side of the approach has been shaved a bit to give more visual enticement to have a go at the green. Players should be careful what they wish for, however, as missing the green right was no picnic last year.
A little more rough by the lake
The green is guarded by a tightly-mown slope that leads to a small strip of rough, followed by a classic railroad-tie guarded lake. That small strip of rough was created to keep the ball just barely moving down the slope from getting wet. Now a bit wider, players should attack left holes a bit more with a little less fear of good shots spinning just off the green and into the hazard.
Considering all that took place in Year 1 and the improvements incorporated for 2018, there are more reasons to head to TPC Sawgrass’ 12th green for a lot more than just Taco Lu.