PGA Tour 'Bryson-proofs' TPC Sawgrass No. 18 ahead of Players Championship

Jason Owens
·4 min read

After a young Tiger Woods exerted his will with three wins in his first six professional Masters appearances — including a 12-stroke victory in his 1997 debut — Augusta National commenced with "Tiger-proofing."

This was not an official stance, of course. But designers made the course tougher in response to Woods' dominance, most notably by lengthening the Par 5s.

The PGA Tour is taking a similar tack to the Bryson Dechambeau revolution. Golfweek reported on Tuesday that the Tour has introduced a new rule for No. 18 at TPC Sawgrass ahead of this week's Players Championship intended to thwart Bryson's big-bombing ways.

A statement on the rule change from the PGA Tour, per Golfweek:

“In the interest of safety for spectators, volunteers and other personnel, the Players Championship Rules Committee has installed an internal out of bounds left of the lake for play on hole 18.”

What does this mean?

In short, this means that Dechambeau won't be permitted to take a shortcut across the famed 18th's water. He'll have to drive the fairway just like everybody else.

Dechambeau dazzled the golf world last weekend by eschewing the severe dogleg left of No. 6 at Bayhill last week en route to victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Instead he used his massive drive to bomb his tee shot straight over the water, significantly shortening his approach.

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This is not how Bay Hill architect Dick Wilson intended the hole to be played. No matter. Dechambeau found an edge and exploited it as any competitive, capable pro would and should.

Dechambeau talked about Sawgrass shortcut — the Tour listened

Dechambeau talked earlier this week about taking a similar approach to No. 18 at Sawgrass with an unorthodox path over the water into the ninth fairway left of the 18th green. This, instead of aiming directly toward the fairway right of the water.

Let Dechambeau explain:

“I have thought about sometimes on 18 going left into 9," Dechambeau said, per GolfWeek. "But we’ll see — with the stands and everything — if it’s even worth it."

Bryson DeChambeau tees off on the third hole during the first round of the Masters golf tournament Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
The Tour is changing the rules in response to the most exciting thing going in spectator golf. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

What would be the advantage of this path?

“It just gives you a better shot into the green, I think, personally, where you can just hit it a little long and you’re always going to be OK."

He also noted that the risk might line up to the reward.

“It’s probably not worth it. I mean, the cover’s like 310, but we’ll see. I just —I look at all options and hopefully there’s an advantage there. But if not I’ll just hit 4-iron down the fairway and hopefully an 8-iron or 7-iron into the green.”

What this looks like

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Why would Bryson do this?

An ideal shot into the ninth fairway would leave a clear, short approach to the 18th green. It would also remove the fairway-length water hazard that comes into play for golfers who pull out driver on the tee box.

It's not as clear an advantage as Dechambeau found by chopping significant length off No. 6 at Bay Hill. And it's not one Dechambeau was convinced was worth the risk.

No matter. Once the Tour got wind that Dechambeau was even thinking about, it changed the rules "in the interest of safety for spectators, volunteers and other personnel."

It's a shame. While the Tour's panicking about Dechambeau blowing up traditional course design, it's muting the buzz of the most exciting thing going for spectator golf.

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