Tampa Bay Sports Day

The Players … From Inside and Outside the Gates

By FRED SEELY

Inside …

• This sounds ridiculous, given the amount of space on a golf course, but they may have to think about limiting the attendance because the place is getting so crowded. Even at a not-so-special viewing venue, such as the 10th fairway, it was hard to squeeze into a place to watch.
• Jason Day was a gracious person from the very start but created a downside that doesn’t often happen: as the leader after every round, he dominated the news coverage to the extent that you got a bit tired of him.
• The jerks that insist on yelling things like “IN THE HOLE” are still around. Not as much, maybe. The tournament did a good job of scaring the hecklers into being quiet so maybe the next effort will be to shut up the fools who only bother everyone, and make the area look like Rubesville to national TV watchers.
• Amazing: the spectator food choices were plentiful, good and reasonably priced. Predictably (because of the pre-tournament publicity from defending champ Rickie Fowler,) the longest lines were at TacoLu. Midday Saturday:4 5 minute wait.
• Hero of the week was our Russell Knox, who took his 9 on No. 17 with good humor. Maybe it hit him when it saw the final standings: he tied for 19th and won $131,775. Had be parred, he would have tied for second, worth about a million bucks.
• Don’t forget Jim Furyk, coming back after hand surgery. Tied for 35th.

And Outside …

• What CBS is to the Masters, NBC is becoming to the Players. There are obvious similarities, such as limiting television commercials and having announcers who only have great words of praise, but there are subtleties, such as the “Stadium Stories” that extolled the tournament’s history. Might help both sides if the announcers didn’t shill quite so much. Overall, a very good performamce, though.
• Now we get the U.S. Open, where much of the story will be Fox’s coverage. It was so bad last year that USA Today’s headline was “The 19 worst things about Fox’s U.S. Open coverage.” Please, Mr. Fox at least leave Curt Menefee and Tom Weiskopf at home. Holly Sonders and her barmaid outfits, too.
• It looks like the network has anointed Gary Koch as the star of the future. They listed him as the commentator on No. 17 but he got a lot more air time, maybe as much as over-the-hill Johnny Miller. Koch deferred to the main booth (Miller and the very capable Dan Hicks) but still was the go-to guy.
• Oddity: David Feherty is being promoted as the best thing since white belts but they relegate him to minor commentary. Maybe they’re wary of a loose cannon.
• The crowds were much, much bigger but auto traffic seemed to flow much better. Might have been the insistence to make people buy parking passes on the internet only, rather than pay at the gate.
• The big parking lot, by the way, gets smaller soon. The course maintenance area moves out there, opening more space around the clubhouse.
• Second year in a row that a big new dining venue didn’t open on time in Sawgrass Village. Last year it was Aqua Grill. This year was Nona Blue. Metro Diner barely made it.