Tiger Woods says there’s no faking it on Pete Dye’s tough Stadium Course
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Having not played in The Players Championship since 2015, Tiger Woods saw the redesigned 12th hole on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass for the first time on Wednesday and spent a few minutes on the tee talking strategy with his caddie, Joe LaCava.
The scene was repeated when the two got to the new tee box on the 15th hole, which adds 25 yards to an already difficult hole. And on Tuesday, the two saw the new look at the 6th and 7th holes, which run parallel to each other but now share a large lake instead of a little-used spectator mound.
Woods also putted on the resurfaced greens for the first time, the surfaces now featuring a different type of Bermuda grass.
Quite a few new wrinkles, in other words, to adapt to on a course that was already flat-out demanding and tiring.
“The overall layout is the same, so that’s a good thing,” Woods said of the changes to the Pete Dye course. “And as always, you need to hit the golf ball well. Pete likes to, one, try and intimidate you visually, and then, two, tries to really punish you for making a mistake.
“Pete really puts it on you on the misses. If you’re hitting it well, then the golf course, you can be aggressive, you can shoot low scores, but if you’re not playing well, Pete will definitely punish you.”
Woods has had mixed results on Dye’s creation in the PGA Tour’s flagship event that features the strongest field in golf year in and year out. He won the 1994 U.S. Amateur here, finished second in The Players in 2000, and is the only player to win The Players in March and May, his 2001 victory coming in March, his 2013 win in May.
But the best player of his generation, who has 79 PGA Tour titles and 14 major championship victories, has only five top-10s in 16 starts. He went six years starting in 2002 without a top 10. In his last start here, he tied for 69th.
“I just haven’t played well here at times,” Woods said. “And you can’t get away with anything when you’re not playing well here. You can’t fake it around here. There’s only a few holes in which you can be aggressive off the tee length-wise and have an advantage. But generally, we’re all kind of playing from the same spot, and that just opens up the field.
“In 2000, I hit it great that week but Hal (Sutton) just hit it a little bit better than I did. In 2001, I didn’t really miss a whole lot of shots. And then in 13, I put a 5-wood in that week just for that golf course, hadn’t used it all year except for that one venue, and it worked out perfectly.”
Woods is coming off two of his worst tournaments since he came back from spinal fusion surgery. He was disappointed with his tie for 32nd in the Masters and frustrated throughout his tie for 55th in last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, where he needed 126 putts to finish his four rounds.
He said the speed of the greens threw him all week. But after doing some putting drills Monday at his Florida compound, and putting in long work on the greens since he got here on Tuesday, Woods feels better with the putter in his hands. Especially on the faster greens here. And he’s pleased with his ball-striking from tee to green.
“It’s good to be back here, good to be playing in the tournament again,” Woods said. “I feel good. I’m looking forward to the week.”