The 2018 Players Championship is being held May 10-13 at the famous TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Verde Beach, Florida. The field consists of 144 players with the first spots going to all PGA Tour event winners since the 2017 Players Championship, and the event is often considered the “fifth major” for its difficulty, large prize purse and prestige. The field is then rounded out by recent majors and WGC winners, past Players Championship winners, and the top 125 golfers from last season’s FedEx Cup points list.
The Players Championship was founded in 1974 as the Tournament Players Championship. It was created by then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman. In the early years, the tournament lacked a home course or even a home city, bouncing from the Atlanta Country Club to Fort Worth’s Colonial Country Club and then to South Florida’s Iverrary Country Club in its first 3 years. It would stay in Florida, moving North to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1977 to Sawgrass Country Club before moving across town to its current home at TPC Sawgrass in 1982.
There are several players who can claim multiple titles at the Players Championship. The Golden Bear Jack Nicklaus has the most championships with 3, winning all in the first 5 years of the tournament. Several other golfers have managed two wins, including Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Hal Sutton, Steve Elkington and Fred Couples. Other notable winners are Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler. Oddly, no one has ever repeated as champion in the history of the tournament, with nine defending champions being unable to even make the cut at next year’s event. One of the notable finishes include Raymond Floyd coming back from 6 strokes behind in the final round to win the 1981 Players Championship through a sudden death playoff. The record for lowest score goes to Greg Norman’s -24 that featured an outstanding -9 on his first round in 1994. The Players Championship has also seen 28 holes in one, but only Fred Couples has managed the feat twice: his first in 1997 and his second in 2006. The oldest winner was Fred Funk in 2005, winning just a few months before his 49th birthday.
2017 Champion Kim Si-woo
While Funk was the oldest winner at 48, the youngest winner is South Korean Kim Si-woo (sometimes written as Si Woo Kim), last year's champion, at just 21 years old. Kim had an early start to his career, becoming the youngest golfer to earn Tour status from the PGA Qualifying school at 17 (rules kept him from fully competing in PGA Tour events until he turned 18). After a disappointing rookie season, Kim spent a few season on the developmental Web.com Tour, winning back his PGA Tour status in 2015. On his return to the PGA Tour, Kim would win the 2016 Wyndham Championship before his record setting win at the 2017 Players Championship.
Kim began his final round of the 2017 Player Championship two strokes behind leaders Kyle Stanley and J.B. Holmes with 15-25 mph winds causing havoc on all the golfers. In those conditions, Kim only managed to hit 8 greens that round, a number that would sink most golfers. Instead, Kim’s short game allowed him to overtake the lead by shooting 69 for a final score of -10 that put him 3 strokes beyond the nearest golfer. This year, Kim looks to be the first repeat champion of the tournament.
2018 Players Championship Preview
The Players Championship is a tournament full of prestige and with a prize purse of $11 million, equal to that of the Masters, an incredible strong field has assembled in North Florida. In fact, all of the world’s top 50 ranked golfers are attending the tournament. It is considered one of, if not the, toughest fields in all of golf. With such a strong field, picking one favorite is impossible. World number 1 Dustin Johnson looks to contend, as does Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy. All eyes will be on the grouping of Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as three generation of greats kick off the tournament on Thursday. With so few multiple winners and no back-to-back champions, part of the appeal of the Players Championship is the unpredictable nature of the tournament. Whatever happens, it will be entertaining world-class golf. Fans can catch all the action with television coverage of the tournament from 1-7pm ET Thursday and Friday on the Golf Channel and Saturday and Sunday 2-7pm ET on NBC.