Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Course Fits International Champs; Clark Makes It Three in a Row for Foreign Players, but TV Ratings Suffer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Course Fits International Champs; Clark Makes It Three in a Row for Foreign Players, but TV Ratings Suffer

Article excerpt

Byline: GARRY SMITS

The PGA Tour made a conscious effort to set up the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course to favor all types of games and exclude none.

Whether by design or not, the current setup of the course in May appears to also be giving international players, used to a variety of designs and conditions as they play worldwide, equal opportunities to win.

When South African Tim Clark soared from behind with a final-round 67 Sunday to win The Players at 16-under-par 272, he became the third consecutive international winner of the tournament, and the sixth in the last nine years to win at The Players. That followed a streak of four years of American winners from 1998-2001.

When Tiger Woods won The Players to cap that streak, it was the 15th time in 20 years that Americans had won The Players since the tournament moved to the Stadium Course.

And if Clark had slipped, Robert Allenby would have become the fourth Australian to win the tournament. Lee Westwood of England led at the 36- and 54-hole mark and Francesco Molinari of Italy, Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden and Andres Romero of Argentina finished among the top 10.

Most international players said cutting down the rough and bermuda grass from tee to green allow for more variety in short-game shots, which opens the tournament up to more strategic thinking than the "bomb and gouge" American-style golf of late.

"They've given us a lot more options if we miss fairways and greens," said 2009 Players champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden. "I think that brings more players of all backgrounds into the mix."

The Tour, with 77 international players representing 21 countries, embraces the diversity of winners. However, overnight TV ratings indicate that American viewers want Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson in the mix, which didn't happen Sunday. The final round on NBC had a 3. …

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