PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLA. — Steve Marino finished play Saturday at The Players Championship having completed 16 holes of the third round before play was stopped because of darkness, so his first shot on Sunday was the tee shot at the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass — the hole surrounded on all sides by water. When play resumed at 7:45 a.m. Sunday, Marino hit the first shot of the day — a wedge that he said was “so weird.”
“I mis-hit it so bad, it was like a low skank,” Marino said. The result, though, was just fine. The ball hit near the hole, scurried up a hill behind it, but then rolled back down and Marino, a Fairfax native and University of Virginia grad, made a 6-footer for birdie. That got him to 6 under for the tournament, and might have been enough to get him in the mix had he not hit his tee shot at 18 into the right rough by perhaps two feet.
“That rough just turned the club over,” he said, “and I hit it in the water.”
The result of Marino’s week, then, was a finish at 7 under and a tie for 19th — likely good enough to nudge him up a bit from his current ranking of 62nd in the world, but not enough to get him in the top 50. In order to avoid playing in sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open next month at Congressional Country Club, Marino must either win a tournament or be in the top 50 of the world rankings on either May 23 or June 13. He is signed up to play in a 36-hole sectional qualifier June 6 in Columbus, Ohio.
“It was just one of those things this week where I just couldn’t maintain the momentum,” Marino said. “I’m playing great, but I just didn’t make any putts.”
Though any dramatic shifts in the PGA Tour schedule likely won’t occur until 2013 — when the tour will have negotiated new television contracts — Commissioner Tim Finchem left open the possibility that there will be some movement next year. That could, potentially, affect the AT&T National, which is due to return to Congressional in 2012 after a two-year hiatus at Aronimink Golf Club outside Philadelphia.
“It’s possible,” Finchem said. “We haven’t actually finalized things for next year, so there may be some movement.”
The AT&T National, hosted by Tiger Woods and benefiting the Tiger Woods Foundation, is currently held over the Fourth of July weekend, and while organizers have been pleased with attendance and the obvious tie-ins between military appreciation — one of Woods’s passions — and the nation’s capital, the date is a difficult one for many top players. It comes two weeks after the U.S. Open and two weeks before the British Open. Most of the top European players have headed back across the Atlantic by then, and some top Americans take the week off to spend with family.
Tournament organizers are open to another date that might lure a better field. The tournament, which went to Aronimink in 20010-11 so Congressional could re-do its greens and then host next month’s U.S. Open, has a contract to be played at the Bethesda club from 2012-14. After the 2013 event, the club’s membership will vote on a three-year option that could bring the event back from 2015-17.
When Lucas Glover got to the tee at the par-5 16th in the third round Sunday morning, he was 11-under par and right in the thick of the tournament. But he hit his approach shot on the easiest hole on the course into the water in front of the green and made double bogey. That led to a precipitous drop-off that took last week’s winner at Charlotte from potential back-to-back wins to 1-under 287 and a tie for 50th.
Glover triple-bogeyed the 18th to complete his morning round of 74, then put two shots in the water on the par-4 fourth hole in the final round, made 8 there en route to a front-side 40. He finished tied for 50th.