'Big egos will go for it on new hole, but it's not worth risk'
|Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida Dates: 11-14 May|
|Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website on Saturday and Sunday|
England’s Luke Donald is a former world number one who is playing this week’s Players Championship for the 15th time. He was runner-up in 2005, fourth in 2011 and sixth the following year. The golfer is compiling an exclusive diary for BBC Sport from his week at Sawgrass and here is his first entry.
The Players is such an important tournament. It is certainly a step above our regular Tour events, probably not quite to the major status, but it certainly fits right in just behind the majors.
It’s one of the best fields, we play on a very iconic golf course and it is a tournament everyone wants on their resume for sure. I’ve come close in the past and would dearly love to win out here.
Preparing this week has involved accommodating the course changes, which include the new short par-four 12th. The course being slightly altered and renovated brings a freshness to the place that we haven’t seen.
So we are relearning some of it because the past knowledge that we had is not quite the same. It is a course that demands a lot out of your game, the Championship produces great winners and you can’t argue with that.
I saw the new 12th hole for the first time and it is an interesting driveable par-four. I feel like a lot of people will still lay up but some will definitely go for it.
A lot of golfers out here have a big ego and they feel like they can take it on, which is a good design feature. But it’s a reasonably simple lay-up and simple pitch to a somewhat flat green.
You will pretty much have a plan before playing the hole. I will talk to my caddie and figure it out, but I have to play to my strengths – and they are not hitting 300-yard straight drives. That’s just a reality that I have to come to terms with.
My strengths are 100 yards and in, so if I can put myself in a good position from there I’m going to create birdie chances. The risk of going for it for me isn’t worth it, so it is likely I will lay up every day.
I’ve been working on my swing to control my ball flight a little bit better off the tee. If I get it in play then I can let my irons and my short game do the work. That’s the preparation I’ve been doing leading up to this week.
There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the tournament moving back to its original March date with August’s PGA Championship fitting into this May week.
I remember the Players course played more difficult in March. There was more rough and certainly more wind. Wind and firmness are the two factors that make golf courses more difficult.
This time of year the course is a little firmer compared with March but you get a lot less wind and more favourable weather conditions.
March would probably be a good slot for this tournament. You might have more weather issues but it would make the course more difficult if that’s what their goal is.
It would affect the rhythm of the golfing year if it moved back to March and the PGA Championship took the May slot. It would feel strange at first but after a few years we would get into the mode of that being the case.
It would be a bit weird having the Open Championship as the last major in July and then have to wait eight months until the Masters in April for the next major.
It would condense the schedule a little bit and people would have to play a bit more in the middle of the season.
We just have to be very grateful for the tournaments and the prize money and everything that we get to play for. If the calendar is in a different order I don’t think it will make too much of a difference.
The only thing with the PGA moving to May would be eliminating some really good North East golf courses in America because the weather conditions probably aren’t good enough to get those courses in good enough shape to stage a major.
Coming into this week, my form and confidence are a mixed bag. I’ve had some good weeks and my game is close.
I am still working very hard on aspects of my golf swing that I’ve been working on for a couple of years. I keep slipping back and it is very hard with such a busy season to get those changes cemented in, but I’m making progress.
Last month, at the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head – where I was second again – was a good week. It’s always a good week for me there. That’s given me confidence.
My short game that week was as good as it has ever been, my putting was very solid and that’s how I build my game.
If I can keep that strong and continually improve some of the little weaknesses in my swing and long game then expect to see me rising up those rankings again.
Luke Donald was speaking to BBC Sport’s golf correspondent Iain Carter.