History of the Players Championship

History of the Players Championship

History of the Players Championship

It is interesting to note that of the four “majors” in professional golf, the PGA Tour owns exactly none of them. The US Open belongs to the USGA; The Open Championship to the R&A; the Masters to Augusta National; and the PGA Championship to the PGA (which is a separate entity from the PGA Tour).

That is presumably why the Tour started the Tournament Players Championship in 1974—and why they have spent so much time and treasure promoting it as the “Fifth Major.”

The purse for the Players Championship is $10.5 million in 201, making it the richest regular event. The tournament also counts for as much as the traditional four Majors in the FedEx Cup points standings. It is worth 40 points in the World Golf Rankings, only ten less than the big four. The winner receives $1.89 million of that.

The winner of the tournament receives a five year exemption on the PGA Tour, a three year invitation to the Masters, US Open and Open Championship and a free pass to the next three PGA Championships.

Consequently, the Players attracts one of the strongest fields in golf, bringing in all but a handful of the top ranked players. It arguably has a stronger field than any of the other majors, for there are no amateurs or club professionals invited; every player there is a professional tournament player.

The inaugural Players Championship was held in 1974 at the Atlanta Country Club and was won by Jack Nicklaus. The event was held over Labor Day Weekend.

It moved to the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth for an August 1975 tournament. After that, The Players moved to the Inverrary Country Club in Ft. Lauderdale, where the tournament was played in February 1976.

In 1977, The Players Championship found something of a permanent home in Ponte Verda Beach, Florida. It was held at the Sawgrass Contry Club’s Oceanside Course until 1982, when it was moved across the road to the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass.

The 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Photo by Craig O’Neal [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]

The TPC at Sawgrass has given the Players an identity in part because that course boasts what is arguably the most famous hole in golf—the island green par 3 seventeenth.

For the first thirty-three years of its existence, the Players Championship was held in March. With the PGA Tour’s 2007 restructuring surrounding the FedEx Cup championship, the Players was moved to May. In 2019, however, the Players Championship will move back to March. That is the result of several factors, including the TOUR’s intention of ending the season by Labor Day weekend. The wrap-around, no-break season experiment is coming to an effective end.

The PGA Championship will then move into the Players position in May, clearing space for the PGA TOUR’s playoffs and the quadrennial Olympics.

Nicklaus won three times: 1974, 1976, and 1978, Other multiple winners have been Tiger Woods, (2001, 2013), Fred Couples (1984 and 1996), Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Davis Love III (1992 and 2003) and Hal Sutton (1983 and 2000).

Greg Norman holds the tournament record, with an aggregate score of 264, -24 to par.

No player has ever won back-to-back at The Players.

The field consists of 144 players consisting of the following criteria:

  1. Winners of PGA Tour events since last Players
  2. Top 125 from previous season’s FedEx Cup points list
  3. Top 125 (medical)
  4. Major champions from the past five years
  5. Players Championship winners from the past five years
  6. The Tour Championship winners from the past three years
  7. World Golf Championship winners from the past three years
  8. Memorial Tournament and Arnold Palmer Invitational winners since 2015
  9. Top 50 from the Official World Golf Ranking
  10. Senior Players champion from prior year
  11. Web.com Tour money leader from prior season
  12. Money leader during the Web.com Tour Finals, if not the regular-season money leader
  13. Top 10 current year FedEx Cup points leaders
  14. Remaining positions and alternates filled through current year FedEx Cup standings
YearPlayerScoreTo parMargin
The Players Championship
2021Justin Thomas274-141 stroke
2020Cancelled after 1st round due to COVID 19
2019Rory McIlroy272-161 stroke
2018Webb Simpson270−184 strokes
2017Kim Si-woo278−103 strokes
2016Jason Day273−154 strokes
2015Rickie Fowler276−12Playoff
2014Martin Kaymer275−131 stroke
2013Tiger Woods (2)275−132 strokes
2012Matt Kuchar275−132 strokes
2011K. J. Choi275−13Playoff
2010Tim Clark272−161 stroke
2009Henrik Stenson276−124 strokes
2008Sergio García283−5Playoff
2007Phil Mickelson277−112 strokes
2006Stephen Ames274−146 strokes
2005Fred Funk279−91 stroke
2004Adam Scott276−121 stroke
2003Davis Love III (2)271−176 strokes
2002Craig Perks280−82 strokes
2001Tiger Woods274−141 stroke
2000Hal Sutton (2)278−101 stroke
1999David Duval285−32 strokes
1998Justin Leonard278−102 strokes
1997Steve Elkington (2)272−167 strokes
1996Fred Couples (2)270−184 strokes
1995Lee Janzen283−51 stroke
1994Greg Norman264−244 strokes
1993Nick Price270−185 strokes
1992Davis Love III273−154 strokes
1991Steve Elkington276−121 stroke
1990Jodie Mudd278−101 stroke
1989Tom Kite279−91 stroke
1988Mark McCumber273−154 strokes
Tournament Players Championship
1987Sandy Lyle274−14Playoff
1986John Mahaffey275−131 stroke
1985Calvin Peete274−143 strokes
1984Fred Couples277−111 stroke
1983Hal Sutton283−51 stroke
1982Jerry Pate280−82 strokes
1981Raymond Floyd285−3Playoff
1980Lee Trevino278−101 stroke
1979Lanny Wadkins283−55 strokes
1978Jack Nicklaus (3)28911 stroke
1977Mark Hayes28912 strokes
1976Jack Nicklaus (2)269−193 strokes
1975Al Geiberger270−103 strokes
1974Jack Nicklaus272−162 strokes

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