10 Mar 2022 | Professional golf |

Aussies on Tour: Stark reality facing Herbert at TPC Sawgrass

by PGA of Australia

The infamous par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

By Tony Webeck

He was a teenager with a Nintendo Wii when Lucas Herbert first played the infamous par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass yet he is now faced with the real-life prospect of pulling the trigger on one of golf’s scariest tee shots.

Herbert used his first look at TPC Sawgrass ahead of this week’s THE PLAYERS Championship to scout the green after playing the front nine on Tuesday; on Wednesday he played it for the first time as he completed his tournament preparation.

Like so many of his weeks in his first full season on the PGA TOUR this year, Herbert is very familiar with the golf course he is playing… he’s just only ever seen them on TV or via video games.

“I think every golf fan in the world has played it on some sort of console, so yes, I have,” said Herbert when asked of his virtual experience at Sawgrass.

“You feel like you know every inch of that hole based off looking at it on social media or on a PlayStation or YouTube videos.

“But seeing it in real life… both Nick (Pugh), my caddie, and I commented it was quite a lot more slopey than we thought it would be from what we’d seen on TV and whatnot. That was kind of interesting.

“Putting what’s actually on the green to memory based on what you’re kind of seeing and just matching everything up. It was pretty cool.

“There’s just a lot going on around that hole. There’s a TV wire 150 yards that’s got a little camera that sort of rolls back and forth along it the whole way, and there’s stands everywhere and there’s TV cameras everywhere.

“Getting a feel for the place was pretty cool.

“This whole year is going to be a process of this, of going to all these venues and these courses and these tournaments where I’ve watched on TV as a kid and you’ve watched growing up.

“It’s just really cool to be here in person and playing the tournament and seeing the golf course in tournament condition and just experiencing how hard that shot is on 17 on Sunday with the adrenaline running.”

As he adjusts to the demands on the PGA TOUR Herbert has made a subtle shift in the way he approaches such challenging tests of golf.

With a Sunday best of four-under 68 last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the 26-year-old displayed an improving ability to post a score under adverse conditions.

Working in concert with performance coach Jamie Glazier, Herbert is more understanding of the mindset he needs to build a successful career on the PGA TOUR.

“There’s just no bail-out. There’s no safe way to play the PGA TOUR. You’ve just got to kind of go full throttle,” said Herbert, who rose to No.43 in the world in the wake of his tie for seventh at Bay Hill.

“It’s not necessarily firing at every single pin, but you’ve got to be aggressive with every swing you make.

“You can’t be just trying to steer one down the fairway or dial in a shot and not miss it left or not miss it right.

“You’ve got to give up so much control because you can hit great shots out here on the PGA TOUR that just get absolutely punished just because the golf courses are very, very tough.

“Jamie and I worked on a lot of stuff last year trying to get away from feeling like I was avoiding bad shots rather than just hitting a good shot.

“That might sound a bit funny to non-golfers but it was a big change for me to be able to do that.”

As for TPC Sawgrass course architect, the late Pete Dye, and his assertion that the Stadium Course looks hard but plays easy, Herbert sees the merit in the first of the statement.

“I don’t know about it playing easy. It definitely looks hard, though,” Herbert added.

Another Aussie who has been largely confounded by Dye’s devilish design is Herbert’s fellow Victorian, Marc Leishman.

In 12 starts Leishman owns just one top-10 finish (2013) and in 35 rounds has gone sub-70 just five times.

Given the variety of shots the course demands of players it is a set-up that should play to Leishman’s strengths but admits his love for the layout has not been reciprocated.

“It’s a challenge for me every time I come here. You just have to play good. There’s no pretending around this golf course,” said Leishman.

“I finished eighth here once but apart from that it’s been a lot of forgettable results for me.

“You need every shot. You need draws, fades, high, low and it looks like this week we’ll be dealing with the elements a bit too.

“Even though I haven’t done that great around it that’s why I love it.”

All told there are seven Australians in action at THE PLAYERS Championship this week including Cameron Smith, who uses TPC Sawgrass as his regular practice facility, and Adam Scott and Jason Day, both of whom are former champions.

There are four Aussies contesting the LPGA Tour’s Honda LPGA Classic in Thailand with Scott Hend, Jason Scrivener and Maverick Antcliff in South Africa for the DP World Tour’s MyGolfLife Open.

Round 1 tee times AEDT

PGA TOUR THE PLAYERS Championship TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida 11.29pm             Matt Jones, Cameron Champ, Francesco Molinari 11.29pm*           Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen 11.40pm*           Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama 4.23am Jason Day, Ryan Brehm, Kevin Kisner 4.34am*             Cam Davis, Branden Grace, Carlos Ortiz 4.56am*             Lucas Herbert, Brendon Todd, Chez Reavie 5.18am Marc Leishman, J.T. Poston, Zach Johnson 5.29am*             Danny Lee, Brice Garnett, Adam Hadwin

Defending champion: Justin Thomas Past Aussie winners: Steve Elkington (1991, ‘97), Greg Norman (1994), Adam Scott (2004), Jason Day (2016) Top Aussie prediction: Cameron Smith TV times: Live 4am-10am Friday, Saturday; Live 5am-10am Sunday; Live 4am-9am Monday on Fox Sports 503

DP World Tour MyGolfLife Open Pecanwood G&CC, Hartbeespoort, South Africa 4.40pm Scott Hend, Hennie Du Plessis, Francesco Laporta 8.30pm*             Maverick Antcliff, Lukas Nemecz, Matthieu Pavon 9.30pm*             Jason Scrivener, Louis De Jager, Edoardo Molinari

Defending champion: Inaugural event Past Aussie winners: Nil Top Aussie prediction: Scott Hend

LPGA Tour Honda LPGA Thailand Siam Country Club (Pattaya Old Cse), Chonburi, Thailand 12.48pm*           Sarah Kemp, Perrine Delacour, Stacy Lewis 1.12pm Hannah Green, So Yeon Ryu, Hinako Shibuno 1.36pm*             Su Oh, Nanna Koerstz Madsen, Jeongeun Lee 2pm      Minjee Lee, Brooke M. Henderson, Ariya Jutanugarn

Defending champion: Ariya Jutanugarn Past Aussie winners: Nil Top Aussie prediction: Minjee Lee TV times: Live 2pm-7pm Thursday, Friday on Fox Sports 505; Live 1.30pm-6.30pm Saturday; Live 1pm-6.30pm Sunday on Fox Sports 506

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