The Florida Swing kicks on this week at TPC Sawgrass as a star-studded field readies for the TOUR's flagship event, THE PLAYERS.
A theme in recent weeks is the elevated prize pools for designated events. This event was already elevated but it got another push this year with a total purse of $25 million up for grabs.
There are 144 goflers lining up to start the week and that will get trimmed to the Low 65 and Ties after two days of action.
TPC Sawgrass is the longtime host of THE PLAYERS and it needs no introduction. It's most widely known for the iconic island green but there is plenty more to the story.
This Pete Dye design is a par 72 that plays to 7,275 yards.
There are three par 4s that play under 400 yards but also a trio that play over 470 yards. A good blend of short and long holes.
When played in May, there were a lot of irons and woods off the tee but golfers are more confident pulling more drivers in March when the overseeded conditions are generally more receptive and softer.
Water comes into play on 17 holes so it's no surprise to see a double bogey or worse rate of 2.13 per 72 holes played which is the second-highest among regular TOUR stops behind only PGA National.
For turf, the course base is bermuda but that is all overseeded for the March edition of THE PLAYERS. Golfers will see ryegrass from tee-to-green and poa trivialis on putting surfaces. Those greens are smaller than TOUR average at 5,500 square feet and are often ramped up to 13 feet on the stimp. Very speedy.
The overall scoring environment sits right around TOUR average but it certainly doesn't seem that way when watching. You'll see some super-low scores each day but also see some massive implosions with all of the water in play. Those two cancel each other out to produce an average scoring environment.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Justin Rose in 2020: "The keys to success around here are putting the ball in play off the tee. It's not necessarily a driver's golf course, either. A 280-yard draw on this golf course works really well."
Collin Morikawa in 2022: "Anyone can play. You can play it a million different ways. It tests every aspect of your game, and you can't get away with just hitting some bad shots and getting away with a par or getting away with a birdie even. Like you have to play really good golf. That's what makes a great golf course."
Justin Thomas in 2022: "I think being in March it's definitely going to favor more of a long hitter than it did in May just because of how firm it would be, but you look at the winners, it truly is a place that favors one shot shape."
While you need some shot-shaping here, Thomas points out that it doesn't favor one shape, you have to work it both ways. Rose talks about how it's not always a grip-it and rip-it test with many of the holes forcing or nudging you to hit less club.
Using historical data we can look at overperformance and underperformance at this week's host course and compare that to all of the courses played out on TOUR. Here are the ones that shared a lot of overlap:
TPC River Highlands
There isn't one main theme but ryegrass and thriving in risk-reward situations are two themes that stand out a bit.
Thursday: Partly Sunny with a high of 71 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.
Friday: Partly Sunny with a high of 75 degrees. Winds at 10 to 20 MPH.
It looks like it might be a calm start to the week but winds potentially pickup on Friday afternoon and continue into the weekend.