What all of this wrought was Sawgrass. Sawgrass-by-the-sea. Sawgrass-in-either Jacksonville-or-Ponte-Vedra. Sawgrass-on-the-dunes-left-over-from-Hurricane-Dora-with-alligators-to-boot. Whatever you wanted to say about the course, old Sawgrass did one thing. It finally attracted attention to the Tournament Players Championship, and when the competitors have had time to think the four rounds over and get the sand bathed off and cure their windburn, they will probably be grateful.
By Sunday night Sawgrass had contributed heavily to the lexicon of the game. The tournament started on Thursday with the field accusing Communists of plotting the par-5 4th. The hole is a 527-yard terror, narrowly sculpted among brush, dunes, gnarled timber and swamp. It demands radar from the tee, a minister and choral group for the second shot, a snorkeling outfit thereafter and a considerable amount of cussing. You can either lay up with a four-iron and then pitch to a box top, or you can go for the green and more than than likely wind up with a double bogey or worse.
Par-5 holes rarely play over par in a PGA tournament, but on that first day the 4th played to a dandy total of 22 over par. There were so many horrible numbers posted, the players began to laugh and see who could think up the best lines in the locker room. They didn't make scores on the hole, they said, they made estimates. Roger Maltbie probably put it best: "It's not so bad. It's like having a tooth pulled with no anesthetic."
The outrage about the hole was good for Sawgrass. Suddenly, the place had a tourist attraction, a genuine monster that golfers everywhere should want to see. One can only hope that when changes are made in the 4th to allow room for a gallery, the design of the hole won't be tampered with.
The second thing that made this TPC memorable was Friday, when somebody turned on the fan. It was a marvelous day for anyone who hated golf and touring pros. A 25-to-30-mph wind started whipping across the premises in mid-morning, and the wind, combined with the dangers of the course—water, sand, greens of shallow depth, scrub, etc.—added up to the most rugged test of golf since Walter Hagen tried to chip with a swizzle stick.
Exactly 50 men in the field shot 80 or higher. One fellow actually confessed to a 91 (John Lister), and one did not ( Homero Blancas), although 91 is what he shot. Blancas was disqualified after failing to sign his scorecard. The average score in the afternoon was 81. All the players could do was laugh. There were lines like John Schlee's, "If the course was an airport, it would be closed." And Allen Miller saying, "There won't be anyone left on Sunday but Mr. W.D. and Mr. D.S.Q." Meanwhile, Bruce Lietzke sat in the locker room trying to figure out a "worst ball" score among the field. The worst score on each hole from anybody. He got the number up to 131. Which was when Don Massengale came in with an 84 and couldn't improve on Lietzke's worst ball total.
The round was summed up by Cesar Sanudo, one of the day's 14 dropouts. Hitting his third drive at the 9th hole, after the other two had gone into the water, and seeing this one take a huge, soaring turn toward the same hazard, he started walking in. "It's the first time I ever withdrew when the ball was in the air," he said.
Even without a vicious wind, with only the normal breezes, which is how the course played for three of the four rounds, Sawgrass gave the players a flogging such as they have rarely experienced. They were thrashed as they were in a couple of recent U.S. Open championships, those at Pebble Beach in 1972 and Winged Foot in 1974. Not bad company for Sawgrass, which tortured the professionals even worse. There were all sorts of accident tolls. Such as one-sixth of the field quitting. Such as 57 players, more than two-thirds of the field, failing to break 300. Such as only one man, the quiet Mark Hayes, managing to break 290.
What basically happened on the non-links of Jacksonville is that a new verb joined the language of golf. From now on, when something terrible happens to a touring pro, he will no doubt say he got Sawgrassed.