PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – With just a week until golfers and fans converge on TPC Sawgrass for The Players, don't ask Director of Agronomy Jeff Plotts if he and his team are on schedule.
"Some people say we are ahead of schedule, I say that we are behind," said Plotts. "But I'm picky."
Picky is a good trait to have when you are in charge of making sure that one of the biggest golf tournaments in the world is not only perfect for the golfers competing on it, but looks perfect for the hundred thousand plus fans in attendance and millions watching at home.
"It is all-encompassing," said Plotts who is in his second year at TPC Sawgrass. "We want to try make everything look as good as it can. Obviously inside the ropes is the most important, we have competition and we want it to be perfect for the players. But we also have a tremendous amount of fans that are going to come out here and we want it to be a great experience for them as well."
One thing that the fans will notice right away is the drive up to the clubhouse is much different. Gone are some of the trees lining the road as well as the light posts with pictures of past champions. They have been replaced with manicured lawns and flowers taking their place on the way up to the clubhouse.
Also gone is the pond next to the practice putting green behind the first tee. More lawn is in its place, making the clubhouse appear bigger and more dramatic. However, similar to asking him about the schedule, don't ask Plotts to pick his favorite change to the grounds."
"There really are some great changes, from the lake that was added between six and seven, to the incredible drive up here with the front lawn. The new number 12, I mean there are changes on every hole. Some of them are really subtle, some of them are pretty dramatic. There's too many to really tell you what my favorite is, but the practice grounds are gorgeous and it is really just an extension of the new front lawn."
As difficult a job as it is to make the stadium course perfect for the players and fans, it would seem to be a more daunting task with the small amount of rain our area has seen of late. However, Plotts says that as much as we need the rain, he is just fine with waiting until after the tournament is finished.
"We are blessed with a great irrigation system, so we love things when it is under our control," said Plotts. "Mother nature has been very kind to us, we have had great weather. Everybody wants to see rain and I understand that because it is kind of droughty. But right now we like the dryness because we can control the conditions. So to me, I'm fine with it lingering until after The Players."
Fans can get their first glimpse of the changes to the course next Tuesday. Gates open at 7:30 a.m.