Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Area Fans Can Enjoy 1-2 Punch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Area Fans Can Enjoy 1-2 Punch

Article excerpt

There's a a great opportunity in the next two weeks for First Coast golf fans. To relate it to another sport, think of the Major League All-Star game, followed by a gathering of past stars so strong it makes the mythical pickup games in the movie Field of Dreams lame by comparison.

It begins tomorrow, will last through April 1, and doesn't happen in any other sport.

Ever.

It can't happen in any other sport.

Ever.

Here's the one-two punch:

Tomorrow begins Players Championship week at the Stadium Course at the TPC at Sawgrass. You know the drill -- best field in golf, the highest purse by astronomical measures, a tournament tough enough, on a course stern enough, that no one has made it their first victory. The last 10 past champions will be here, along with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, 2001 leading money-winner Joe Durant and what has already been called the best international contingent in the history of the event.

All those scoring records that have been tumbling this season on the PGA Tour? Forget it. Won't happen here.

Superintendant Fred Klauk has the Stadium Course primped and ready for the best players in the world. Meaning, of course, that the rough will be thick (ever try hitting a golf ball out of six inches of melted carmel?), the greens fast (sorry, fellows . . . you can't put restrictor plates on a 30-foot downhill putt at No. 18) and who knows what the March winds of Ponte Vedra Beach will bring.

The following week will bring two more significant events to the First Coast.

The day after the new Players champion hoists the Waterford Crystal trophy on the 18th green and tries to fit an oversized check for $1,080,000 into his car trunk, there's a little match going on a few miles south at the World Golf Village King and Bear Course in St. Augustine.

Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, the co-designers of the track and, incidentally, the winners of a combined 130 PGA Tour victories and 25 professional major championships, will tee it up for 18 holes in a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match, beginning at 1 p.m.

Their bout will be televised on ESPN at a later date, which gives area fans the chance to see the two legends in person, then see how the new course shows its stuff on national cable television. No one's expecting a pair of sub-70s scores, but Nicklaus recently held the first-round lead on the Senior PGA Tour and Palmer shot his age (71) at the PGA Tour Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

The price of admission? Free. Just show up, say WGV officials. I'll bet if the NBA set up a one-on-one, halfcourt game between Michael Jordan and Jerry West, they'd charge admission, and maybe pay-per-view to boot.

And after Arnie and Jack are done with their battle that day, they'll be partners for the rest of the week, competing against a star-studded field of golf's greatest living legends in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. …

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