Why  The Players Is Moving

What Will Be The New Date?  How about St. Patrick's Day?

What Do PGA Tour Players Think about March?

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    “It’s the first major of the year now,” Davis Love III said when asked about the move of The Players to March.  “Yeah, you can quote me. We need to get it to a major.”

    He said it definitively, like there was no other way to think about it.

    Love III is a two-time champ of The Players. He won a PGA.  He’s won 21 PGA Tour events.  He’s in the Hall of Fame as of last year. He’s been the captain of the Ryder Cup team twice. And he insists The Players is as big as it gets in golf. 

    “Finchem said it, 15 maybe 20 years ago. ‘Whatever you guys say is what it’s going to be. I’m not going to be the guy to say it. But if you guys say it….’” Love continued. “It’s like the PGA (of America) said for a long time, they’re the best field of the four majors. It’s hard to argue with that, but The Players is the best field all year.”

    In other words, logically, if The Players has a better field than all other tournaments, that should make it a major because whoever wins The Players beats all the best players that season.  Love also said he’d be prejudiced in calling it the first major of the year. Although he didn’t say why, it’s definitely because he won two of them! 
    Billy Horschel agreed, although he was a little less reluctant to insist the way Love did.
    “You know when you get done playing golf, the tournaments you want to win, you want to win the four majors and The Players. So, obviously when you look at it in that light, when you look at how important that tournament is, and that fact that you can be a Hall of Fame golfer (with a victory),” he said. “They want it to really be a fifth major.  Is it a shame, that moniker? A little bit.”

    Regardless of your opinion on it,  one thing is certain.  The Players is moving to March.  It will be the first, big, full-field tournament of the year.  

   The why is simple.   FedEx, as well as the PGA Tour would like to end the season with the Tour Championship before football eats away at sporting audiences.

    What’s hard is figuring out where to put all the rest of the tournaments.   The PGA Tour controls all but four:  The Masters, the U.S. Open, British Open and the PGA Championship.  The first three weren’t budging.

    To end on Labor Day weekend or thereabouts, and to have the Tour Championship be that weekend, and to have the Playoff tournaments before it means the PGA Championship needed to move somewhere.  So, the PGA Tour said, do we need to be in May or could we go back to March and give up our May date in order to have the schedule finish on Labor Day. Can we make that work? They decided they could.

    Traditionally, as great as the ratings often are for The Players, they are historically bigger for golf in the January-March period than they are after that, except for The Masters.  That’s fact.  So, it doesn’t hurt the tournament from a ratings perspective.  One reason the ratings are higher is that half of the country is snowed and sleeted in, just as they were this past March.  So, March is actually a benefit.  

    The Players’ sponsors liked March. In fact, many of them preferred it as it gives them a chance to have a spring break outing for business customers. 

    What happens to tournaments that will be displaced?  One or two will go away.  One or two or three or four will move to a date between September and Thanksgiving.

    The move to March will also make the course play differently, but you don’t have to take my word for it.  I asked several PGA Tour and former PGA Tour players who have played the tournament in both months as well as some who have only played in May.  It’s a random sample, but it’s an interesting mix.

     Regarding the move to March, Davis Love III said, “It can be a little windier. Obviously the grass’ll be a little different.  But I don’t think a whole lot different. It just depends on the weather week. You know, we get one of those northeasters, it can be cold and windy, but I like it because it’s away from everything else.”

    Two-time U.S. Open winner Andy North played TPC Sawgrass in the years when it first opened,  when it was, as they say, wilder.
     “The wind’s going to blow and you stand on the 17th tee with a northwest wind. It’s not a lot of fun.  There won’t be a lot of sand wedges on those days,” North said.

     Masters champ  Patrick Reed is too young to have seen both iterations of The Players.

     “I’ve never played it in March, so I wouldn’t know," he said. " To me, it doesn’t matter what time they play it, as long as you get to go play.”

     He's not afraid of the change in seasons and the island 17th.

     “You should be able to hit the green. It’s a 9 iron. If it’s downwind, it’s a pitching wedge," he noted.  "For me, the windier, the better I play.”

    Adam Scott won The Players as his second victory.  It was in 2004, before the move to May. He likes the change back.

     “I’m excited. I think they tried to make it the best in May they could, but I think that course just played better with the grass conditions in March," he explained.  “It’s such a huge event. I think it’s going to kind of be the first big event of the year again so I think that’ll be exciting for that tournament.  For the tour, generally, it’s a good move.”

    Rickie Fowler, champ in 2015 has only seen the golf course in May.

     “I don’t have a very good opinion in a way. I’ve never played the course in March, so I wouldn’t know a whole lot about i," he said. “I’m looking forward to kind of the flow of the season and seeing how it goes next year with The Players in March and Augusta and PGA, and I think it’ll make that a little better, but whether we like that or not, who knows? I’ll kind of wait and see.”  

     Billy Horschel lives in the area.  He’s seen the course in all kinds of weather.

    "I think it’s great that it’s going back to March. I understand why it went to May. They wanted to create a little bit more of it’s own identify and not have it be a runup to the Masters,"  he noted.  "I think a lot of guys who haven’t played the tournament in March are going to be pretty surprised to see how much different the course plays. You know it can get really windy there when fronts move through, 15-25 out of the northwest blowing pretty hard, and it can get pretty cold. So, it’s going to be nice that conditions are going to be tougher so that makes the course play tougher.”

     Everyone who played it before the move insists that it has played too easy in May.   May is mostly lovely. Not much wind. Lots of sun.  Beautiful weather.   But March, there’s a month that can smack you in the face a couple times. It can be 50 degrees or 85 degrees then.  You just don’t know. The year David Duval won.  The greens were so baked out that they were brown.  Balls didn’t stay on them.  The year Greg Norman won and set the tournament record, the course had a lot of rain and was soft.  

   Only one thing is certain about the March date.  It is the height of azalea blooming in Ponte Vedra.  If the PGA Tour decides to plant azaleas, there will be quite a showy telecast. 

   "At the John Deere Classic, about five years after we started, they had the deer jumping up instead of down," he said.
       One of the most valuable trophies might the for Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout which DeMille has been making for 15 years.
    "It is a sterling silver piece," DeMille explained. "The winner gets the same one as the perpetual in sterling.  We take the same piece, and it goes on a little smaller base. But it's the same sterling silver palm tree sculpture that two winners get."
    Demille's biggest creative battles are with what he calls the corporate logo police. ( As someone who has written corporate identity manuals, I can attest that this is always a touchy subject.)  As he pointed out, most logos are represented in two-dimensions.
    "When we try in to create a three dimensional logo, it becomes difficult to represent them in the same way," DeMille said. "What you have in 2D representation is impossible to replicate in a 3D world."
    For instance, the Valspar tournament logo is a paintbrush holding a golf ball.
    "Something we are good at is to take something relevant to the company and make a beautiful art piece out of it, something that stirs conversation and comment, represents corporate sponsor in a flattering way, and people know what it is and what it means," he said.  "For Valspar, the trophy almost looks like golfer swinging but it is a paintbrush."

Shark Shootout trophy.

   "At the John Deere Classic, about five years after we started, they had the deer jumping up instead of down," he said.
       One of the most valuable trophies might the for Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout which DeMille has been making for 15 years.
    "It is a sterling silver piece," DeMille explained. "The winner gets the same one as the perpetual in sterling.  We take the same piece, and it goes on a little smaller base. But it's the same sterling silver palm tree sculpture that two winners get."
    Demille's biggest creative battles are with what he calls the corporate logo police. ( As someone who has written corporate identity manuals, I can attest that this is always a touchy subject.)  As he pointed out, most logos are represented in two-dimensions.
    "When we try in to create a three dimensional logo, it becomes difficult to represent them in the same way," DeMille said. "What you have in 2D representation is impossible to replicate in a 3D world."
    For instance, the Valspar tournament logo is a paintbrush holding a golf ball.
    "Something we are good at is to take something relevant to the company and make a beautiful art piece out of it, something that stirs conversation and comment, represents corporate sponsor in a flattering way, and people know what it is and what it means," he said.  "For Valspar, the trophy almost looks like golfer swinging but it is a paintbrush."

The Players: " It's the first major of the year now." -- Davis Love III

Kathy Bissell has more than 25 years experience as a golf writer and television producer.

Photos courtesy Malcom DeMille

     Morning Read, a popular golf newsletter, confirmed that next year, the Florida Swing will return in one cohesive unit.   The order is supposedly Honda Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, The Players, and Valspar Championship.  

    Here’s what that means in timing.  If the first tournament of 2019, the Sentry Tournament of Champions, is held the first week of January, finishing on the 6th, The Players will finish on March 17th.

    This actually corresponds to a hint the PGA Tour’s Jarrod Rice made last year in a media presentation when he suggested that St. Patrick’s Day might be an ideal time on the calendar for Players. 

    Here’s how it works:

    None of the Hawaii or California tournaments are being dropped, and having WGC Mexico in the middle of the Florida events has been awkward to be polite about it. It will get moved and become a buffer between the west coast and Florida.  That puts The Players with a finish date of March 17th.  Mark it on your calendar or in your electronic date minder. Seven west coast events, plus Mexico, plus Honda, plus Arnold Palmer Invitational.  That puts Players at the week of March 17th.

  
    Joe Sanderson, CEO and Chairmen of the Board of Sanderson Farms, Inc., a poultry company, happened to have a favorite Chaucer fable which featured a rooster. He wanted that for the trophy.  It also happened to fit the image of the company.
    DeMille formed the initial part of the rooster in clay.
    "After the clay rooster was formed, it was scanned into a computer and additional detail was added. So, it was not hand modeling exclusively," DeMille said.   
    Sometimes tournaments want to change up the trophy, only not too much.

​​Malcolm DeMille: Trophy Maker for PGA Tour and LPGA Tour Events 















Jordan Speith with Valspar Trophy made by DeMille --  Courtesy Malcolm DeMille


Every week that there's a PGA Tour event, someone ends up with a trophy.  It's a given.  But who creates all that magnificent hardware?

     Eight PGA Tour events, about 20% of the total, call on the California studio of Malcolm DeMille to create distinctive presentation pieces for the winners.  DeMille has crafted trophies for Quicken Loans National, Franklin Templeton Shark Shootout, Wells Fargo, Farmer's Insurance Open, Sanderson Farms, John Deere Classic and Valspar, to name but a few.

    If the name DeMille sounds familiar, it should.  He's a distant cousin of the famed movie director Cecil B. Demille who held the reins for The Ten Commandments.

    "I have a little of the talent and none of the money," he joked about the family connection.  Yet, his location in Nipomo, California, is about 10 miles from where the second version of that movie was shot was shot.

    Cousin Cecil B. DeMille actually made The Ten Commandments twice, once in the silent era and the one we know today. Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner and thousands of others left their footprints in the soil near the Nipomo studio of Malcolm DeMille.  They posed and gestured in Egyptian-styled costumes, standing in and on fake ancient monuments, all constructed to recreate biblical times.  But nothing visible remains from those days.

    "He bulldozed all the sets and plaster casts of the sphinx and other things into the sand dunes," the current DeMille said of the aftermath of his cousin's 1956 version of the film.  "He had 25,000 people living here to create the movie."

    Today, the entire town of Nipomo has just over 16,000 people in it, significantly fewer than the number Cecil B. DeMille brought in for the film.

    Malcolm DeMille has a much smaller staff, just a handful of skilled artisans. They work in clay and bronze and precious metals, not in celluloid, but the work is just as spectacular, if on a smaller scale. They are seen on the small screen, not in Cinemascope, and treasured as much as an actor prizes an Oscar.  They create works of art in trophy form. One very recognizable trophyis for the Sanderson Farms.


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   DeMille took the paintbrush and extended the brush stroke to become a paintbrush in motion.  The brush makes a circular stroke, as he described, like a golf swing. Then the golf ball floats out onto the brush stroke.   
​     While many trophies are for PGA Tour events, DeMille also maintains his connection to the LPGA. This year he made a brand new trophy for the ANA Inspiration, which was formerly the Kraft/Nabisco and before that the Dinah Shore, the year's first major championship.
    DeMille's trophy was presented to the winner, Brittany Lincicome, after her playoff victory.  It's the second major for Lincicome and another memorable creation by Malcolm DeMille.
    So next time you see the trophy presentation, remember, it might be one of DeMille's, all ready for its close up.