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Winning score? TPC Stadium is firm and fast

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – If they wanted to, they could make it impossible.  The Stadium Course in 2017 is going to be firm and fast, thanks to a lack of rain in Ponte Vedra in the last month.

“We’ve been able to control it this year,” said Jeff Plotts, the Stadium Course’s Director of Agronomy.  “We haven’t had rain here in a while so we’ve been able to make it just right.”

It’s quirky, that’s for sure.  Locals say often “you’ve been TPC’d” when a shot is a foot or two off line and trundles into an impossible spot. 

“You can’t fake it around here,” Rickie Fowler said this week. “If you’re not on, it’ll expose you.”

Daily tee times

So with the lack of rain, the firm greens, the quirkiness and the ability to hide the flagstick in obscure and tight places, they could make it impossible.  But they won’t because it’s The Players Championship and the players want to make birdies and that’s what fans want to see.

With benign weather expected, the best players in the world will figure out how to shoot a low score.  But how the golf course is set up will determine how low the winner can go.

It seemed everybody at the PGA Tour was upset when Greg Norman shot -24 in 1994 and vowed it wouldn’t happen again.  They failed to mention that only Fuzzy Zoeller and Jeff Maggert that year approached Norman’s record score with the rest of the field near single digits.  Since then, Davis Love in 2003 (-17) and Tim Clarke in 2010 (-16) have gone low. 

But something in double-digits under par usually wins The Players.  In four straight years, 2011-2014, the winning score was -13.  Rickie Fowler shot -12 (So did Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia that year to get into a playoff).  Last year Jason Day won at -15.

Since the tournament moved to May in 2007, Garcia’s -5 in 2008 (also in a playoff with Paul Goydos) is the highest winning score.  In March, David Duval’s victory came at -3.

So what wins this year?

The way the golf course is set up, somebody will play great and post a low number in one round.  But over 72 holes, the Stadium Course will offer enough resistance to keep only the best and most patient players of the week at the top of the leaderboard.

It’s why I like Sergio, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy this week.  The first to -10 wins.