The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach has long had the feel of a major tournament. Ever since it moved to the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course in 1982, it has drawn solid fields and big crowds. And it has one of the most recognized holes in golf, the par-3, 135-yard 17th with its island green.
Last year, the event got an even bigger boost when it was moved from March to early May, out of the Masters' large shadow. The Players had been two weeks before Augusta, which meant golfers were more focused on honing their games for the year's first major.
As the schedule is now, there are five big tournaments in five months, Masters (April), Players (May), U.S. Open (June), British Open (July) and PGA Championship (August).
"I think this can only help it because we always had that huge gap between the Masters and the U.S. Open,'' Tiger Woods told the New York Times. Woods is out of this year's tournament while he rehabs from knee surgery. "And now the Players is a wonderful fit to bridge the gap."
Another reason for the switch is that May usually provides better weather. The unpredictable patterns in March caused rain delays. The 2005 tournament, for example, had weather problems, forcing a 36-hole finish on Sunday.
Lastly, the drier conditions allow the course to be played as designer Pete Dye wanted it, hard and fast. In March, the course was overseeded with rye grass. In May, the course is played on Bermuda grass, which creates a faster surface. Also, before the 2007 tournament, TPC Sawgrass was dug up and replaced with 6 to 8 inches of water-draining sand underneath the grass to aid in drainage.
"March was a tough time for this tournament," three-time winner Jack Nicklaus said. "The golf course was never really in the condition you wanted it. You always want a fast golf course if you can. A fast golf course produces a better champion."