The Players Championship is held every year at the Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. It is owned by the PGA Tour and the home of the PGA Tour headquarters. The Players, as they now often call it, has pretty much always been recognized as the unofficial fifth major championship in professional golf. Since all of the best professional golfers in the world compete in The Players, this tournament probably always has a slightly stronger field than any of the four majors. That tournament came along late in my career, and I never played well in it.
After three rounds today, on Saturday, Americans J. B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley are tied for first at nine under par. Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, is one shot back at eight under par. Twenty-one year old S. W. Kim is two shots back at seven under par. Sergio Garcia of Spain–a former winner of The Players who just won his first major, this years’ Masters–is four shots back at five under par.
Holmes and Stanley are past champions of our Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, near where I live. Both times they won I was in their gallery the final nine holes. Both are impressive to watch and drive the ball a long ways. It’s especially true of J. B., who has been a member of the Bible Study group on the PGA Tour.
The first time I saw J. B. Holmes at the Phoenix Open, my son–who was my regular caddy on the Senior/Champions Tour–and I were walking together at the tournament. We like to watch the pros on the practice tee. So, we were approaching it one day when Michael said, “Dad, there’s J. B. Holmes, the longest hitter on the Tour.” I didn’t know that and didn’t even know about Holmes. From about seventy yards away and behind him, for the first time I saw him hit a drive. I couldn’t tell where the ball went. But I said to Michael, “there’s no way that guy is the longest hitter on the Tour. Did you see how short his backswing is? He didn’t hardly have any wrist cock.” Ample wrist cock is the main way to get distance. We arrived at the gallery ropes and watched some more. The next three drives Holmes hit were duck hooks that barely got off the ground and carried about 230-250 yards. I said to Michael, “See what I’m telling you.”
As kept watching J. B. hit drives. And I kept saying to Michael, “I just don’t see where [in his swing] he’s getting that power. He swings it back so-o-o short! That seems impossible!” Not only does J. B. swing back short, he also doesn’t have much turn of his body on his backswing. So, he leaves his left heel on the ground on his backswing. He gets his power almost entirely from the amazing amount of torque he creates with his body. That’s something that is difficult to see with the naked eye. J. B. does it by turning his hips a whole lot, and very early, on his forward swing.
It’s just the opposite with a long hitter like John Daley. He has an extremely long, syrupy backswing. He does it by getting lots of wrist cock, and swings way past parallel, on his backswing. John has such a huge turn of his body on his backswing also. Like Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus, John Daley takes his left heel way off the ground on his backswing.
Well, tomorrow could be a very interesting competition at The Players.