(Reuters) - The Players Championship will bid farewell to its May date in the calendar with the thinnest rough in a decade, according to the PGA Tour rules official overseeing the course set-up at the famous TPC Sawgrass Stadium course.
Cool weather over the last month or so in Ponte Vedra, Florida has prevented the rough from growing to the density desired by the Tour for next week’s tournament, Stephen Cox told Reuters on Thursday.
“With this date and location, we have a very short growing window for Bermuda grass,” Cox said in a telephone interview.
“It’s been quite cool for the last four-to-six weeks so the rough hasn’t really materialized. This year we’ve got thinner rough than I can remember in the last 10 years. Unfortunately we’re going to be down in that two-and-a-quarter inch range.”
The wispy rough could perhaps encourage players to wield their drivers more frequently on a course that over time has become more of a strategic test than a bomber’s paradise.
However, the absence of punishing rough is only one of the considerations players will have to take into account when deciding their weapon of choice off the tee, with numerous water hazards also uppermost in their minds.
“We don’t want mega-rough,” Cox said. “Yes, I’d like it a little bit more dense and punishing but unfortunately we can’t control the weather.”
Cox also said only one hole — the driveable par-four 12th — had been modified since last year, with a few minor changes there designed to encourage more players to go for the green with their tee shots.
Also, some parts of the course will have a more open look after a hurricane last September knocked down hundreds of trees.
“We’ve lost an awful lot of trees,” Cox said. “We’ve embarked on a fairly aggressive tree-replacement program.”
Widely regarded as the most prestigious event outside the four major championships, the Players invariably boasts one of the strongest fields of the year.
The tournament will move back to its original March date next year after a 12-year run in May.
The earlier date will make way for the PGA Championship to move from August to May, which will compact the majors from early April (U.S. Masters) to mid July (British Open).
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Nick Mulvenney