Security has been heavily increased for The Players Championship, the game's "fifth major" and the biggest tournament since last year's attacks of 11 September. As well as more searches for items that are usually prohibited such as mobile phones, pagers and cameras, spectators have been banned from bringing in bags, coolers, signs or banners.
"We want people to feel comfortable," said the tournament director, Brian Goin, "but we aren't going to sacrifice anything when it comes to their safety or that of the players.
"There's a fine line between people looking around and saying to themselves, 'This is good, I feel safe', and, 'Oh God, this is like a police state'. The things we are doing now I never thought we would be doing." Goin said a higher percentage of the security personnel at the tournament would be "professional law enforcement", rather than provided by private firms, with over 100 armed officers on the site.
There would also be more plain clothes officers mingling with the gallery, which will be a comfort to Colin Montgomerie. Monty is making his first appearance in the States since the World Matchplay at La Costa, where he again suffered abuse from a few spectators and then threatened never to play in the States again.
Montgomerie later recanted, but tournament officials were waiting until he arrived to discuss what extra precautions he might want. Goin is particularly concerned about the way players are treated.
"The players are here as our guests and it's important that nothing affects the athletes' performance," he said. "Heckling is a big issue with me." The gallery around the infamous 17th hole – the par-three with an island green – on the Stadium course at the TPC of Sawgrass can get pretty loud late in the afternoon, but at least the draw for the first two days was kind to the Scot. He will tee off at 7.10am tomorrow and will start his late round on Friday from the 10th tee and so should be through the 17th around two o'clock.
By not flying out from home until yesterday, after playing in Qatar last week, Montgomerie has left himself at the disadvantage of playing only one practice round. David Duval, the Open champion, went further and suggested it was useful to play last week at Bay Hill. "I don't see how the greens here can be any harder than Bay Hill," Duval said. "These greens are going to feel receptive by comparison. Last week certainly got you in the mindset of having to bounce the ball into the flags."
Duval, who grew up in Jacksonville and now lives nearby, won the Players in 1999, a win he considers his "first major". Having missed last year's tournament due to a wrist injury, Duval has struggled early this season after breaking up with his fiancée.
"My season so far has been a complete train wreck," he said. "I have not been able to play as much as I would like and when I have there has been no rhythm to it. But I know my game is not far away and I'm excited about that."
Sergio Garcia dismissed the notion that the defending champion, Tiger Woods, can use tournaments such as this and last week's Bay Hill, which he has won for the last three years, to play shots that he will use at Augusta during the Masters next month. "I don't think he can do that," Garcia said. "When you are over the ball at Bay Hill or here you are only thinking about winning that tournament and the shots you need to hit, not the 16th at Augusta. If you want to play that shot, just go to Augusta."Reuse content