News & Opinion

Players Championship returns to March home

After 12 years of residing in May, the Players Championship is next up on your PGA Tour schedule, returning to its former home in March. 

The "save the date" change brings back a number of things, including the need to overseed the golf course — TPC Sawgrass — where the Bermuda doesn’t quite pop in March. Beware the Ides of March, as the return of a rye grass overseed impacts the character of the golf course. That is, the course will be more like the one players knew before the championship moved back in 2007. 

“I think the way it played in March, I kind of preferred over the firm, fast (version),” said Phil Mickelson said when the schedule change was announced last year. “I don’t think when it was designed, it was designed to be firm, fast the way it has played the last few years.”  

But don’t get too nostalgic. Not everything will be just as it was in Ponte Vedra, Fla. The championship has taken an “out with the old, in with the new” approach toward some of the accoutrements. For instance, we’re talking all new hardware. Forget the giant block of crystal that looked like a movie prop from Frozen, the new trophy is gold Jerry, gold. 

Next Sunday the 2019 champ will be handed a sterling silver and 24K gold vermeil trophy, custom-designed by Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The mantelpiece topper has a base that replicates the iconic "Island Green" at TPC Sawgrass. On top is a full-bodied golfer at the top of his swing, said to incorporate features of the 38 past winners of The Players, from three-time winner Jack Nicklaus to reigning champion Webb Simpson. 

Not sure if 2008 winner Sergio Garcia’s temper will be readily discernible.

The championship also has a new theme song: “Hey, hey we’re the Players, and people say way we’re playin’ around …” 

Actually, it’s not anything like the Monkees theme, and sounds nothing like the old soundtrack to the The Man From Snowy River. The new music strives to capture the sense of history and drama surrounding the event and was performed by some of the top musicians in the world.

 Starting with his knee surgery in December, 1994, Tiger Woods now has 25 injury-related episodes in his career. In short, he is the Evel Knievel of golf.

 In case you missed it, the USGA has taken back its Twitter snipe at Justin Thomas with a tweet that retracts the original. You just can’t beat a good Twitter War, can you?

 On this day (March 9) in 1941, Jim Colbert, winner of eight PGA Tour events, was born in Elizabeth, N.J. Experts also point to this date as important in the evolution of the turned-up shirt collar.

 No doubt a number of PGA Tour veterans enjoy seeing John Smoltz get three exemptions on the PGA Tour Champions, and Tony Romo receive the same on the PGA Tour. And they’re probably wondering when they’ll get a start for the Atlanta Braves, or call signals for the Dallas Cowboys.

Reigning British Open champ Francesco Molinari has agreed to an endorsement deal to play Callaway’s clubs (driver, fairway metals, irons, wedges, putter and ball). Just to be clear, he won’t be playing Cab Calloway’s old clubs, but new clubs made by the Callaway Golf Co. 

It’s a small sample size — he’s played in five events — but Jordan Spieth currently ranks 213th on the PGA Tour in final-round scoring with an average of 73.80. 

With the Arnold Palmer Invitational in full swing, we would be remiss not to pass along a remembrance of “The King,” who passed away on Sept. 25, 2016. This from the 2018 champion at Bay Hill, Rory McIlroy:

“I guess my thing with Arnold was he always, no matter who he talked to, whether it was me or a guy in the cart barn or a person in the media, he always looked you in the eye and he always made you feel as if you were the only person in the world at that time. And I think that's something that was really cool. 

“He was so personable and he made everyone feel valued and felt like he was really appreciative to give up a part of his time to talk to them. That was, I think that was the magic that Arnold had.”

Dan O’Neill, who covered golf for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1989 to 2017, is an editorial consultant on golf for Fox Sports. His articles have appeared in publications such as Golfweek, Golf World, and The Memorial magazine. 

Twitter: @WWDOD