It's a home game for the PGA Tour this week... literally. TPC Sawgrass -- site of PGA Tour headquarters -- plays host to the always much anticipated Players Championship, where K.J. Choi returns as the defending champion.
There's so much to love about TPC Sawgrass. From the remarkable clubhouse to the island green at No. 17 and everything around it and in between, it's first class all the way.
Before the first shots were hit, we sat down with TPC Sawgrass PGA Head Professional Matt Borocz for a little Q&A, where he summed up a bunch of the things that make The Players so special.
PGA.com: Thanks for joining us, Matt. As is usually the case, 2011 provided another awesome finish to THE PLAYERS. In the end, it was K.J. Choi who defeated David Toms in a playoff. Both needed a late birdie. Choi got one on No. 17 in regulation and then Toms matched him with a birdie on No. 18. What was that finish like to watch?
Borocz: The 38th PLAYERS was very thrilling finish! It was a long day for the leaders. David Toms played 32 holes and K.J. Choi 27 holes because of the rain-delayed third round. David Toms was the 36-hole leader and led the majority of the final round till the 17th hole. I remember watching the coverage in the clubhouse as Toms hit his second shot on the 16th hole into the water and made a bogey. Toms fought back with a par on 17 and on 18 hit a 5-iron out of a divot to 18 feet to make a birdie and force a playoff. In the sudden-death playoff at the 17th hole, both Choi and Toms hit the green. Choi hit a solid lag putt to putt the pressure on Toms. Unfortunately, Toms missed a 3 1/2-foot putt and gave Choi an opening. It's not fun watching a player miss a short putt especially in a playoff. With a tap in for par K.J. Choi was the 2011 PLAYERS Champion. Both Choi and Toms are great ambassadors of the game and excellent role models. It was very exciting to have two players of their caliber in the playoff.
PGA.com: Choi is certainly a great champion and it's too bad someone had to lose. But, the very next week, Toms went out and won at Colonial. Would you attribute that to the confidence he took away from TPC Sawgrass?
Borocz: David Toms played a solid four rounds the week of THE PLAYERS. Although the results of the playoff did not finish in his favor, it was a great boost the following week. It had been five years since he won on the PGA Tour. He shot 62 the first two rounds, had a few bumps on Saturday but finished with a solid 67 to win at Colonial. Certainly an emotional week with the playoff at THE PLAYERS and to win at the historic Colonial was very special for David Toms.
PGA.com: For those of our readers who haven't had the pleasure of visiting TPC Sawgrass, can you please explain what it is that makes the facility among the best in the world?
Borocz: It starts with the history of TPC Sawgrass and how Commissioner Deane Beman, Pete Dye and many others contributed to the vision of TPC Sawgrass and THE PLAYERS. This will be the 39th playing of the championship and 31st at THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass. During this time there have been several memorable moments that golf fans remember watching on television. Many of those moments have occurred on the final three holes 16, 17 and 18. THE PLAYERS Stadium Course was built to be the home of THE PLAYERS Championship, designed to enhance the fan experience and accessible to all golf fans.
TPC Sawgrass is the flagship of the TPC Network and PGA Tour Headquarters. The facility has two golf courses: THE PLAYERS Stadium and Dye's Valley host of the Nationwide Tour Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open presented by Planters. TPC Sawgrass offers game improvement with the TOUR Academy and TaylorMade Performance Lab. The Mediterranean Revival-style 77,000 square-foot clubhouse is the centerpiece of the property. Our award-winning restaurant offers a variety of dining options including meeting and event space that are available for all types of special events and weddings. The clubhouse is open to the public to enjoy and discover, with our Storyteller docents on hand to help every guest explore the club's wide array of history and amenities. One place you want to make sure you visit is our award-winning Golf Shop to take home a souvenir to remember your experience.
Our goal is to make our members and guests feel at home and have a magical experience. The TPC Sawgrass team is extremely dedicated and passionate about their role at the club. One of the most special things about TPC Sawgrass is the interaction with all the people that travel from all over the world to visit. Many of them have personal stories and connections why TPC Sawgrass is their favorite course. There are definitely days that you have to pinch yourself. We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to work at such a beautiful place that is showcased to the world every year by THE PLAYERS.
PGA.com: What do you most look forward to during tournament week?
Borocz: The most exciting part of the week is seeing how everything comes together. Hosting a PGA Tour event is a lot of hard work for several different entities. It's exciting to work together and see the end results. Our goal for the week is to host a great Championship for the contestants in the field, exciting fan experience and to raise significant charity dollars for the local community. THE PLAYERS has over 2,000 volunteers that support the efforts of the tournament. Our Golf Course Agronomy team has 70 volunteers from all over the world that assist with the setup on THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. In total we over 500 TPC team members that support the Clubhouse activities, Food & Beverage around the Clubhouse and our two PLAYERS Merchandise Shops. It's exciting to see everyone working together and giving it their best to host a great Championship for the World to watch.
PGA.com: THE PLAYERS is one event out on Tour that doesn't forget the caddies. Can you tell us some of the special things you have in store for the caddies during tournament week?
Borocz: We definitely want to make the Caddies feel at home while at THE PLAYERS. Our Caddie Volunteer team does a great job of assisting the Caddies the week of the tournament. Each day we offer breakfast and lunch for the caddies in our Caddie Program area which is one of the finest in the country. The Caddies receive a yardage guide which is compliments of THE PLAYERS. The special TOUR edition yardage guide is designed by Mark Long, longtime PGA TOUR caddie. All of the caddies park at the Clubhouse and receive a shuttle ride to the bag room. Each year the past PLAYERS Champion Caddie receives the No. 2 parking spot, right next to the Champion in the main lot. On Wednesday of THE PLAYERS the Caddies compete in the annual Bruce Edwards Memorial Caddie Contest. The closest-to-the-pin competition is on the 17th hole. The winner receives a prize and their name on the Bruce Edwards Memorial plaque which is displayed in the Caddie lounge. Our No. 1 goal is to make the Caddies feel at home while at TPC Sawgrass and THE PLAYERS.