There is a possibility, however thin and however long-term, that the struggle to find the right formula for the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course greens might result in The Players Championship moving back to March in the future.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said during a news conference Tuesday that such a scenario is “unlikely,” but also said that unless the agronomy staffs at the Tour and the TPC Sawgrass can figure out the right formula for maintaining the greens during the winter, the May date that the tournament has occupied since 2007 will come under further discussion.
The problem is that the MiniVerde bermuda greens, planted when the course was renovated, hold up well to hot weather but aren’t as hardy in cold weather. Since the Tour moved the Players to May in 2007 there have been four winters colder than normal, and this past winter also involved rainfall 9 inches more than normal and numerous cloudy days.
“If we’re doing everything we can and it just is a continuing weather problem that we can’t beat, I suppose we’d rethink the date,” Finchem said.
Before there are any serious discussions about changing the date, the Tour will wait a few years to see the results of Stadium Course greens after they are re-sodded in the summer of 2015. Finchem pegged that chance as “90 percent,” and TifEagle bermuda is the leader in the clubhouse to replace the MiniVerde.
Finchem also said making some greens larger to lessen the impact of foot traffic is a possibility.
“We’d probably go to that first ... before we switch dates, because we love the date,” he said. “One way or another, I think moving the date is unlikely.”
The Stadium Course greens, and in particular Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 14, developed large patchy areas after a cold, wet winter and a chemical application that was used too aggressively. The fourth, 11th and 12th greens remained closed to practice Tuesday, but will be reopened for Wednesday’s practice rounds. The tournament begins Thursday.
Finchem said nearby courses that use TifEagle grass offer him optimism that they could work on the Stadium Course. Dye’s Valley, currently undergoing renovation, will be planted with TifEagle.
“We have two golf courses within a couple miles that have TifEagle,” he said. “They perform quite well. We’re still looking at some other varietals but that’s our current plan.”
When the tournament was played in March, the greens were overseeded with bent grass. But when there is a warm spring, the dormant bermuda flowers or “transitions” too soon and, essentially, battles the bent grass and results in uneven putting surfaces.
Players continued to brush off the controversy regarding the greens as overblown.