Shackelford: Chance for aggressiveness should make TPC Sawgrass more fun to watch

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Shackelford: Chance for aggressiveness should make TPC Sawgrass more fun to watch

PGA Tour

Shackelford: Chance for aggressiveness should make TPC Sawgrass more fun to watch

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida — It’s amazing what a little ryegrass can do.

TPC Sawgrass is greener thanks to the overseed of cool-season perennial ryegrass. But will it be more forgiving, or just a lot more interesting?

While no less testing thanks to Pete Dye’s intimidating design features, the change in hue has players believing that more length and aggressiveness will be necessary to contend in the first March Players Championship since 2007. At a golf course that lost some of its dramatic appeal during May playings, the change in vibe has players considering a more aggressive approach despite TPC Sawgrass’ ability to punish the presumptuous.

“This golf course is very interesting from a mindset point of view,” said Justin Rose. “I think overall you’re going to have to be a little more aggressive in your mindset.”

The numbers say TPC Sawgrass played tougher in March due to more wind from different a directions and rough kept that was allowed to grow taller than this week’s 2.5 inch height. But after years of harrowing Bermuda rough lies stripping players of spin control, the players have welcomed the challenge of a longer test in exchange for the chance to hit recovery shots. Besides the more forgiving rough, the target golf features appear better defined by the higher contrast look.

“It sharpens the course up a lot,” said 2004 Players Champion Adam Scott of the emerald green hues. “It suits this course better. It gives it more definition which is actually easier for us. There are really clear color differences out there which is visually, good for us. Maybe for every golfer.”

The primary unknown: just how much more players will attack a course known for showing no major biases by stout ball-striking, mastery of misses and a generally conservative approach. Early on, however, players sound freed up by the slightly softer feel and richer look of TPC Sawgrass.

“When it’s greener the golf course does suit your eye a lot better around here,” said Rose. “The definition is there in terms of the run-outs and the fairways and the margins that you’re playing with.”

The combination of a more inviting look could prove to be a different type of deception out of Dye’s playbook.

While his original vision of swamp golf featured a course far rougher around the edges than almost anything golf had seen when it opened in 1982, this year’s edition of TPC Sawgrass looks infinitely easier. However, subtle touches may lure players into a false sense of security, including more of the pine straw areas closer to landing areas at holes 1, 9 and 16, and shorter rough bringing the perimeter trees into play. Whether the visual appeals fuel an increase in driver usage or attacks of greens from so-so lies, remains to be seen since players are still getting used to early spring wind directions and slower fairways.

“It’s just the golf course plays so much shorter in May than it does in March,” said Tiger Woods, citing his use of a 3-wood and 3-iron into the 18th hole Tuesday compared to a 3-iron and 9-iron last year. “We’re going to have to hit more clubs off the tees, have a little bit longer clubs into the greens, but the difference is the greens are much slower and much more receptive.”

Room for aggressiveness should make the Players a little less demanding but a lot more fun to watch.

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