The Players Championship, often referred to as simply the Players, is considered by many golfers and fans as the 5th major due to its prestige and difficulty. It was first played in 1974 at the Atlanta Country Club as the Tournament Players Championship. The tournament moved to Florida in 1976, finally moving to its current home at the TPC Sawgrass in 1982. The TPC Sawgrass was the first TPC course to be built and also houses the PGA Tour headquarters. The Stadium Course, which hosts the tournament, can accommodate 36,000 spectators. The course is best known for the par-3 17th hole known as the “Island Green” for its small green surrounded by water. The hole is notoriously difficult, once seeing 50 balls lost to the water in a single round in 2007.
Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann
The event attract one of the strongest fields of golf, and involves all PGA Tour winners since the last Players Championship as well as the top-50 golfers in the world regardless of whether they have won on the PGA Tour in the past year. Only major championships award more points in the Official World Golf Rankings than the Players Championship, reflecting the importance and prestige of the event. The tournament also has the largest purse in golf with $15 million on the line, with $2.7 million alone going to the winner. In addition, the winner gets a 5 year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 3 year exemption for the U.S. Open and Open Championship, as well as a 3 year invitation to the Masters.
The tournament has seen numerous notable winners thanks to its high profile and challenging course. Some past champions include Lee Trevino, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia. Tiger Woods can count 2 titles to his name, while the “Golden Bear” Jack Nicklaus is the only 3-time winner. 2017 winner Kim Si-Woo became the tournament's youngest winner at 21, while Steve Elkington holds the scoring record with -24 shot in 1997. 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 tournament’s most comical event happened in 1998, when Brad Fabel’s shot onto the 17th Island Green only to be picked up by a seagull and dropped into the water. Luckily, the bird was considered an “outside agent” and Fabel was allowed to replace his ball where it came to rest on the green.
Jack Nicklaus ater winning the 1978 Players Championship. Photo courtesy the PGA Tour