Quick, somebody let the alligators loose. Turn on the fan. Put the pins in the traps. Make the cup-digger smaller. Heeeelp!
Revenge came to the Tournament Players Championship today.
The course created to humiliate the best golfers in the world was tied to the mast and lashed all day as five men shot 66, 28 broke 70 and an amazing 94 (out of 144) equaled or bettered par.
Coleaders Tony Sills, Bob Tway, Larry Mize, Ken Green and Keith Fergus (just the sort of humble fellows who have usually left these acres in tears) were so giddy it was all they could do not to crow, "Let's play two."
Yes, the great layouts certainly bring the cream to the top.
If you didn't shoot lights out this day, you can start packing your duffle. Defending champion Calvin Peete can probably forget a re-Peete. His 73 means 108 players are with him or ahead of him. Unless PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman gets out his big black motorcycle and does wheelies on the greens, there's not much that can be done to toughen up what is, right now, a tabby-cat track. More bluebird weather is predicted.
As a rule, the leaders today were not the Tour's famous folk but the rank and file who rediscover their courage under easy conditions. True, Ray Floyd and Lanny Wadkins were tied for sixth with Willie Woods and David Edwards at 67. Lee Trevino was part of a six-way logjam at 68. Tom Kite and Jim Thorpe lurked at 69. Also, Tom Watson, Bernhard Langer and Corey Pavin were among two dozen men who shot nondescript 70s.
Mostly, however, this was the round when all the players who have "built a snowman" (shot 80 or higher) here over the years got to "shoot zero."
"Man, has this course changed in two years. The last first-round score I posted here was 85. So, I improved 19 shots," said Green with a laugh this evening.
By evening, everybody was either laughing at the Players Club or gloating over its misery. Ever since Pete Dye's chamber of horrors opened in '82, the pros have been begging for remedial changes to soften this punitive layout. Wider fairways, bigger and flatter greens, thicker sand, predictable bent grass greens rather than slick Bermuda. Everything but caddies empowered to kick the ball out of the jungle.
They got all their Christmas wishes.
What they also got this particular day was a temperature of 75 degrees, almost no wind, easy pin placements and soft, medium-speed greens that held shots like arrows. Freewheel it, sweet mama. Think? Why bother. Aim at the pin.
Those who came here full of trepidation suddenly found themselves in the red. Green, who hadn't played at all recently with a bad wrist, just expected "a stroll in the park," taking what comes. He started birdie-eagle and "was in a state of shock." Trevino had played three rounds in seven weeks and said, "I shot 68 and never had to make a putt over four feet. Today, I stole the cookies."
The most eloquent defender of this day's birdie shenanigans was Floyd. Almost every leader echoed his thoughts: "This course has been improved each year. It's easier, but it's playable now. A good shot's rewarded. Right now, it's as good as any course you'd ever want to play. We're all tickled to death with what we have here. I also think this is what the fans want to see. I get my biggest applause for birdies, not pars or bogeys.
"I think I speak for my fellow pros -- the consensus -- when I say that it's only the U.S. Open that uses trickery to create high scores," added Floyd. "Do they throw rocks on the infield at the World Series? Do they make the field longer at the Super Bowl? Do they raise the basket at the Final Four? Why does artificially making a sport harder make it better? We all like to see people perform at their best."
That was certainly true today.
Sills, 11th on the money list, never made a bogey, chipped in once and made three long birdie putts. "I feel great right now," said the inspirational 30-year-old. Sills has overcome excruciating stomach problems that once caused his adult weight to drop under 100 pounds and forced him to undergo an ileostomy -- having a surgical hole the size of a dime placed in his abdomen through which he must insert a seven-inch tube each day to relieve himself. "No question the difference is the weightlifting I did last winter. I'm 15 yards longer."
In time, this day will probably be viewed as an aberration. "We switched from Bermuda to bent grass since last year and we have to leave the greens soft, long and watered so the grass won't die," explained Beman. "But, when the root system is completely in, these greens will be hard, fast and small. Then, it will play like a different course. And, when the wind blows, like it usually does, you won't see scores anything like this."
By next year, the Players Club may have its defenses back in working order. For now, the best we can do is offer the prisoner a blindfold and cigarette.