PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – As if the TPC Sawgrass didn't have enough water at The Players Championship.
The biggest change to the Players Stadium Course for this year was the par-4 12th hole, which used to have trees on the right, huge mounds on the left and a flip wedge into a small green surrounded with bunkers.
For 35 years, it played at 358 yards and was the easiest par 4 on the course.
Now it's even shorter at 302 yards, making it easily reachable for most players in the field. Like most drivable par 4s, it comes with a severe risk. And like most holes at the TPC Sawgrass, that risk involves water.
"It was just kind of a plain-Jane kind of a whole where you just kind of hit it down the fairway with an iron and flick it on with a wedge," defending champion Jason Day said. "Now they still have that option of doing that, but you have the option of actually hitting a driver or 3-wood up there as well."
The hole features pot bunkers to the right, but the big problem is a pond to the left of the green.
Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Bernd Wiesberger approached the 12th on Wednesday and all hit 4- and 5-irons out to the fairway before giving it a shot with their drivers (McIlroy used a 3-wood). Branden Grace only hit driver.
What matters is how they played it when it counts, on Thursday, and much will depend on the pin position.
Jordan Spieth said he "lipped out for a 1" when he played it on Tuesday. His caddie, Michael Greller, had an interesting observation.
"Michael said that was the worst thing you could have done because now I believe I can do it each time," Spieth said. He said he would contemplate trying to drive the green except when the pin is to the right.
NUMBERS GAME: TaylorMade is known for having numbers beyond the traditional 1, 2, 3 and 4 on its golf balls. Players typically ask for something meaningful.
Sergio Garcia, for example, used to have "10" in honor of Real Madrid winning a Champions League title for the 10th time. Now he has "49" because that was the year his mother was born. He is asking TaylorMade to make the number in green paint to celebrate his Masters victory.
Justin Rose beat him to it. TaylorMade has painted his number — 99 because 9 is his wife's lucky number and he figured 99 would bring twice the luck — painted gold in honor of his victory in the Olympics last summer.
Dustin Johnson goes only with "1," and that was before he rose to No. 1 in the world.
"I used to have 32. But I didn't like looking at those numbers. I want to one-putt," Johnson said, and then he smiled and held up his index finger to show his ranking.
Rory McIlroy signed with TaylorMade on Tuesday, and he has 22 on his golf balls. Yes, there was meaning behind that one, too.
McIlroy did some research and found 22 to signify risk-and-reward and power.
"You know, all the qualities I have," he said with a laugh.
And that's it? Not quite.
"It's also the day I was married," said McIlroy, who married Erica Stoll on April 22. "So I won't be forgetting my anniversary."
SERGIO'S CADDIE: Sergio Garcia returns to competition as a Masters champion, and with a new caddie — but only temporarily.
Glen Murray's wife just had another baby, and Garcia told him to take the week off to help out at home. in his place is Jose Manuel Lara, and if the name sounds familiar to golf fans, it should.
Lara, whom Garcia has known since they were teenagers, played 15 years on the European Tour and won the Austrian Open and the Hong Kong Open.
"We've always had a great relationship, so I thought that what better to have on the bag than a good friend?" Garcia said. "I'm sure it's going to be a great experience for both of us, but hopefully it helps him a lot."
Lara played the Challenge Tour in Europe last year.
DIVOTS: Rickie Fowler made more noise on the island-green 17th hole on Wednesday by making a hole-in-one during a practice round. Fowler made three birdies in one day on the 17th when he won The Players Championship in a playoff two years ago. ... Jon Rahm not only has won at Torrey Pines, he had close calls in Mexico, the Match Play and last week in North Carolina. How long does it take him to go from disappointment to realizing he had a good week? He got some advice from Phil Mickelson, who told him it usually takes one day for a PGA Tour event, three days for a major. Phil would know.