Friday, May 11, 2007

"Sporting Event #1 Of The Weekend: The Players Championship"

Skip to the random thought (WARNING - contains "Lost" spoiler!)

Normally, I save the "weekend sports lineup" for the Saturday post. But I don't have anything else to write about, so I'm dragging it out to two days, because there are two main sporting events I am interested in this weekend.

Most weekends, NBC shows two NHL playoff games - one on Saturday afternoon, and one on Sunday afternoon. Now that we're in the conference finals, you'd expect NBC to continue that pattern, now that the games have increased prominence. But nope - the weekend's games are on Versus at night. Why? So that NBC can show the Players Championship instead. And they'll surely get better ratings for it, too.

First off, a couple of logistics. Officially, the name of the tournament has the word "players" all capitalized, as in "The PLAYERS Championship". I don't like that. Is "PLAYERS" an acronym for something? I don't believe so. Therefore, I will refrain from using all capital letters. Also, I will refrain from calling it "The TPC". In this context, the "t" in "TPC" stands for "the", so saying "the TPC" is like saying "The The Players Championship", and that's dumb. Also, TPC not only stands for "The Players Championship", but it also stands for "Tournament Players Club", in the context of the name of golf course at which the event takes place, "TPC at Sawgrass". There are many "TPC at (fill in the blank)" courses around the country. I will only use the acronym "TPC" to refer to the name of the course, not the name of the tournament. Now that I have that cleared up...

The Players Championship is my favorite golf tournament. Why? Well, it has everything to do with being a homer. The Players Championship is played just down the road from Jacksonville in Ponte Vedra Beach (where all the rich people live). It's the only golf tournament I have ever attended in person (I think), and I have been multiple times. And every year I haven't gone, I've watched it on television. And because it's played at the same course every year, I know the course. Every hole. Not just from being there and watching it on television, but also from playing the course in various video games. When you've been to the event and know the course, it makes watching a golf tournament much more interesting. I'm even watching the Thursday and Friday coverage on the Golf Channel.

Besides the "home feel" the tournament gives me, there are a lot of other things I like about the Players Championship. Unlike many PGA Tour courses, the TPC at Sawgrass favors accuracy over distance. That helps level the playing field, and can sometimes allow for the "anonymous winner". Tiger Woods has only won the event once, in 2001. Other winners this decade include such household names as Stephen Ames (Canadian), Fred Funk (notoriously one of the shortest hitters on tour), and Craig Perks (who?). So, given the classic choice between "Tiger or the field", give me the field for this tournament. Every time. (And for the record, I wrote this before he shot an opening-round 75.)

This isn't just some random tournament, either. This is a big tournament, widely referred to as the "Fifth Major" (i.e. the biggest tournament of the year that isn't a major). I don't like that designation, personally - I think calling it "The Players Championship" is sufficient. But backing up its status as the "Fifth Major" is the largest purse on tour, the appearance of almost all of the world's top golfers, and all the perks (no pun intended) that go to the winner (5-year tour exemption, 3-year Masters exception, etc). The course is also sort of the "home course" for the PGA Tour, with the tour headquarters and World Golf Hall of Fame in nearby St. Augustine. Many golfers also make their home in the Ponte Vedra area. Fred Funk even lives on the course grounds (I think).

Also adding to the tournament's prestige is the famous island green, the par 3 17th hole, possibly the most famous hole in professional golf. (It's probably also one of the shortest holes on the PGA Tour. I mean, I could reach it with an 8-iron.) When I attended the tournament in the past, we never really hung out at the 17th hole. That's where everybody goes. I think the 15th green was always our primary stopping point. But there are three main ways to watch a golf tournament in person. Either pick a spot and stay put, walk forward following a specific group, or walk in reverse and see a whole bunch of groups on a whole bunch of holes. If you're looking to sample the entire field and the entire course, walking backwards is the way to do it. (By that, I mean walking in the opposite direction of the course, from hole #18 to hole #1. I don't mean literally walking backwards.)

So, that's one sporting event I'll be watching this weekend. The other? NASCAR, of course. More tomorrow.

Today's random thought: (WARNING - "Lost" spoiler!)

- "Lost" is on too late for my taste, so I record it on the TLD and watch it after work on Thursday. Unlike with sporting events, it's not too hard to avoid the outcomes of fictional television dramas. Except when's A.M. Jump ruins it for me with the following headline: "6 Who Will Be Missed Besides John Locke (If He Is, In Fact, Dead)". Thanks, guys. I hate you.


Jeff said...

Of course, TPC also stands for "Tropical Prediction Center."

James said...

I think the correct way of saying it is "TPC at the TPC."

And TPC is considered the "Fifth Major" because it's the premier event of the PGA Tour; the Tour doesn't "own" any of the majors.