Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Players 2014: Will The Greens Be Up To Par?

Tee times for the first two rounds are out fo the 2014 Players. They’ll play in threesomes and start at 7:15 as expected, going off the first and the tenth tee. If you’re a morning player on Thursday, you go in the afternoon on Friday and vice versa.

In the morning on Thursday, last week’s winner J.B. Holmes goes off the 10th tee at 7:47 with Ken Duke and Rory Sabbatini. Stuart Appleby is at the same time going off one. A contender last week, Martin Flores is in the first group off of #1 with Lee Westwood and Brendon de Jonge.

Patrick Reed is playing with Jason Dufner and Luke Donald at 8?08 off #10, the start of four good groups in a row going off the back. Zach Johnson, Jordan Speith and Graeme McDowell at art 8:18, the Harris English, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy at 8;29 followed by Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia at 8:39.

Billy Horschel is a morning player on Thursday at 8:18 at number one. K.J. Choi is at 7:57 on #1 and Ernie Else is at 8:39 on number one.

The afternoon rounds start at 12:25. Angel Cabrera goes off number 1 at 1:07. Keegan Bradley in the next group at 1:18 with Jonas Blixt and Webb Simpson. Jim Furyk Henrick Stenson and Brandt Snedeker are at 1;28 and then Rickey Fowler, Adam Scott and Steve Stricker at 1:39. They’re followed by Matt Kuchar, Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker at 1;49. Matt Every is at 1:39, Ian Poulter at 1:49 and Russell Knox at 2:21.

Phil Mickelson played a practice round this morning with Ricky Fowler and Dustin Johnson. They all switched clubs on 17, with Fowler and Johnson playing Mickelson’s left-handed irons. All three had nice swings from the other side, a testament to their athletic prowess. Fowler actually knocked one on the green. Mickelson does just about everything else right-handed, so he looked good from that side of the ball as well. Mickelson had his press conference this afternoon and laid out the nuances of the Stadium Course. His approach to 17 will be “middle of the green. I think you make more birdies that way,” he said about the island green. Phil says the course is a bit softer than in past years so he’ll keep driver in the bag and hit it a lot. “I think we’ll see some low scoring.” Mickelson is toying with two putters this week, and probably will play “the blade” after working with it on Monday.

Bubba Watson played in the morning as well. He said he likes to look at “the ground, how it lays out, and it’s difficult here because the fairway and the rough seem to blend together when you’re looking from the tee.” Watson doesn’t like to aim at trees, so that’s his reason for never seeming to drive the ball well here. Watson laughed when he was reminded that if he wins here he could move to #1 in the world. “Let’s remember that my best finish here is 37th. We probably don’t need to worry about that.” But it was interesting that his assessment of the rankings is that they’re flawed. Phil Mickelson has never been the top ranked player and Watson doesn’t see how that’s possible. “I played against Tiger when he was at his very best,” Mickelson reminded everybody. Watson said LeBron James and Kevin Durant have been in contact with him since his Masters win.

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem held his annual “State of the Players” media session, limiting his comments to the Players. He noted that the television broadcast of The Players this year could reach a billion people, being broadcast in 230 countries. Regarding the greens, Finchem sais they’re going to replant the Stadium Course with a strain of grass called TifEagle after the 2015 tournament. The Tour has struggled getting the greens right since moving to May in 2007 and they now believe giving a little more room on the greens, changing them slightly and going with the new grass could be the answer.

Finchem didn’t seem concerned that the NFL draft was rescheduled for this week. He joked that if “Shad would share with me who the Jags were going to draft in the first round, I might watch that.” Finchem also downplayed Tiger Woods’ absence, saying “it’s not the first time we haven’t had Tiger.

As far as The Players staying in May, the Commissioner said he likes the date and hopes to make it work. But if they keep having what he called “these weather related issues, we’ll re-think the date.”

Finchem has been Commissioner for 20 years and recently named Jay Monahan as a Deputy Commissioner, kind of a Commissioner in waiting role. Monahan was the Executive Director of The Players in the past and has fulfilled a variety of roles with the Tour, putting him in a position to become Commissioner. When? Finchem says he’ll be around for a while and is looking forward to finishing his tenure.