PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There are 20 golfers making their debut at The Players Championship this year. For many of them, this also marks the first time they have played, and even seen, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
One of those first-timers is Bryson DeChambeau. The 24-year old already has one PGA Tour victory under his belt when he won the John Deere Classic in 2017. Even though he has seen most of the courses on tour, he’s putting in some extra work this week during the practice rounds.
"It is kind of unique this week trying to understand every facet of the golf course in such a short time span," DeChambeau said Wednesday. "I feel like a rookie all over again, but I’m making the adjustments to different situations and different conditions. I’m going to have to just experience it on my own, I’m not going to get that anywhere else. The goal is to do the best in each situation and that’s what I’m going to do this week."
DeChambeau got some extra help from a fellow competitor that knows a thing or two about the Stadium Course. He was invited to play a practice round Wednesday morning with Tiger Woods, a two-time Players Championship winner. He had a straightforward response when asked about how much he plans to lean on Woods for advice.
"A lot. I mean, he’s you know who, right? He knows a lot about the game and every chance I get with him, I am going to try to take advantage of how he sees the golf course. He’s a tremendous asset to our sport and every time I get to play with him I’m honored and it’s a great learning experience," said DeChambeau.
Fellow first-timer Brandon Harkins played the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship with Woods last week. He said Tiger couldn’t have been more accommodating and forthcoming with help that round and once again this week at The Players.
"He was just awesome," said Harkins. "He couldn’t have been nicer to me. He gave me tips about this place and we chatted all the way around. He was very, very cool."
Like DeChambeau, Harkins is one of the first-timers that is seeing the course for the first time. But he said he feels familiar with the course after watching the tournament on TV in years past.
"I’ve watched it on TV my whole life and never been around it in person until Monday. I played nine holes Monday, played nine holes yesterday and it’s weird because I’m pretty familiar with the place from TV, but it’s just so awesome to be here."
First-timers and veteran players all agreed that it helps to have a hot hand coming into this tournament. One of those golfers is first-timer Austin Cook. Cook won the RSM Classic at Sea Island earlier this year. He said that this is not the week to be trying new stuff.
"There are so many small fairways out here you really have to find them to have a chance," said Cook. "My goal is to make every fairway and if I don’t, miss it in a place where I can get to the green."