Players Championship Preview – 2016

THE PLAYERS Championship

THE PLAYERS Championship Preview 2016
Dates: May 10-15, 2016
Where: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Course: Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
36-36—par 72/7,215 yards
Field size: 144
2015 champion: Rickie Fowler
Purse: $10,000,000 ($1,800,000/winner)
FedExCup: 600 points to the winner
Format: 72-hole stroke play
Twitter: @THEPLAYERSChamp

A look back at THE PLAYERS 2015

  • Final Leaderboard
    • Rickie Fowler 69-69-71-67—276 (-12)*
    • Kevin Kisner 73-67-67-69—276 (-12)
    • Sergio Garcia 69-72-67-68—276 (-12)
    • Ben Martin 68-71-68-70—277 (-11)
    • Bill Haas 72-67-68-70—277 (-11)
  • Rickie Fowler finished birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to shoot a final-round 67 and finish at 12-under par to enter a three hole aggregate playoff with Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia.
  • Fowler finished the three-hole playoff tied with Kisner at 1-under through those three holes with scores of par, birdie, par.
  • With Garcia eliminated (par-par-par), Fowler and Kisner advanced to sudden-death at the 17th hole where Fowler’s tee shot landed 4’ 8” from the hole.
  • Kisner’s par and Fowler’s birdie gave the 26-year-old his second career PGA TOUR win.
  • His first victory came at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship where he was also victorious in a three-man playoff over Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points.
  • Fowler played the 17th hole six times including the two playoff holes and recorded five birdies on those six attempts. He birdied No. 17 in rounds 1, 2 and 4 of regulation. Only one player, Paul Azinger in 1987, has birdied No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass all four rounds of a single tournament.
  • In regulation, Fowler played holes 15, 16, 17 and 18 in a 5-under-par total of 11 strokes. The four-hole score of 11 set a new low for the score on the final four holes at TPC Sawgrass in a single round in tournament history. Previously, seven players had finished with a score of 12 of the final four holes as shown below.
  • Best score, last four holes, one round (TPC Sawgrass):
    • 11, Rickie Fowler (birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, Final round), 2015
    • 12, Gary Koch (4 birdies, Final round), 1983
    • 12, Fred Wadsworth (4 birdies, 1st round), 1987
    • 12, Rocco Mediate (4 birdies, Final round), 1996
    • 12, Tommy Tolles (par, eagle, 2 birdies, 2nd round), 1997
    • 12, Padraig Harrington (birdie, eagle, par, birdie, Final round), 2004
    • 12, Vaughn Taylor (birdie, birdie, birdie, par, Final round), 2006
    • 12, Sergio Garcia (birdie, eagle, birdie, par, Final round), 2011
  • Fowler became the first winner on the PGA TOUR to play holes 15-18 in 5-under in the final round of any event since the PGA TOUR began tracking hole-by-hole scores in 1983.
  • In six starts at THE PLAYERS, Fowler has finished 1st (2015), T2 (2012), T77 (2014), and missed three cuts.
  • Fowler was the 29th player from the United States to win the event.

A look at the Field

  • Top 10 in current FedExCup standings and 48 of top 50.
  • Top 10 in Official World Golf Ranking and 29 of top 30.
  • 102 PGA TOUR winners for a total of 439 PGA TOUR victories
  •  All but one (Charl Schwartzel/Valspar Championship) of the 23 PGA TOUR winners in 2015-16 will be at TPC Sawgrass
  • Nine former PLAYERS winners: Rickie Fowler (2015), Martin Kaymer (2014), Matt Kuchar (2012), K.J. Choi (2011), Henrik Stenson (2009), Sergio Garcia (2008), Phil Mickelson (2007), Adam Scott (2004), Davis Love III (2003, 1992).
  • 22 major championship winners, accounting for 42 major championships, led by Phil Mickelson’s five.
  • A total of 25 first-time PLAYERS Championship participants.
  • The 144-player field includes players from a total of 24 countries: 91/USA, 8/England, 6/Australia, 5/South Africa and Sweden, 4/Canada and South Korea, 3/Germany. Two representatives each for Spain, Argentina, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland. One each for Thailand, Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Mexico, Fiji, Denmark, Venezuela, Colombia and Austria.
  • For the second consecutive year, Bernhard Langer (58) is the oldest player in the field after earning an exemption for winning the 2015 Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. This will be Langer’s 25th start in THE PLAYERS Championship. Mark O’Meara holds the best finish by a player who earned a spot via the PGA TOUR Champions victory, finishing 74th in 2011.
    • Langer has 25 birdies on the 17th hole in his career at THE PLAYERS, the most of any player all-time, and six more than second-place Hal Sutton.
  • Qualified for THE PLAYERS, but not competing are: Ryo Ishikawa, Tim Clark, Darren Clarke, Nick Watney, Pat Perez, Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Sangmoon Bae, Tiger Woods, John Peterson, Stewart Cink, Thongchai Jaidee and K.T. Kim.

The best field in golf comes to THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass

  • THE PLAYERS marks the 27th event of the PGA TOUR Season, with 16 tournaments remaining to qualify for the four-tournament FedExCup Playoffs, culminating at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in late September.
  • Leading the FedExCup standings is Adam Scott, a two-time winner in 2015-16, who claimed his first ever lead in the FedExCup standings after his victory at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship on the heels of his win at The Honda Classic.
  • Fellow Australian Jason Day has been reeling Scott in, also with consecutive wins this season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard and the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play. He continued to narrow the gap with a T10 at the Masters and a T5 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and now is 342 points behind Scott heading into THE PLAYERS where the winner will earn 600 FedExCup points.

First-time participants at THE PLAYERS

  • Six of this season’s PGA TOUR winners, Emiliano Grillo, Fabian Gomez, Jim Herman, Peter Malnati, Smylie Kaufman and Tony Finau, headline the group.
  • Several additional international players, including Andy Sullivan (England), Byeong-Hun An (South Korea), Carlos Ortiz (Mexico), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand), Matthew Fitzpatrick (England), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Spain) and Si Woo Kim (South Korea), will also make their first appearance at THE PLAYERS.
  • Others to visit TPC Sawgrass to compete for the first time include Andres Gonzales, Hudson Swafford, Jon Curran, Kyle Reifers, Patton Kizzire, Scott Pinckney, Steve Wheatcroft, Will Wilcox, Zac Blair, Jamie Lovemark, Harold Varner III and Patrick Rodgers.

Additional player notes

  • Jordan Spieth will make his first start on TOUR since the Masters where he led by five strokes with nine holes remaining and was overtaken by Danny Willett. After a T4 finish in his PLAYERS debut in 2014, Spieth missed the cut last year, the first Masters champion to miss THE PLAYERS cut since Mike Weir in 2004.
  • Reigning Masters champion Danny Willett is seeking to become the eighth player with a victory at both THE PLAYERS and the Masters Tournament. The others are Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Sandy Lyle, Fred Couples, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott.
  • Jason Day is seeking his third victory of the season having won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard and the World Golf Championships-Dell Match Play in back-to-back weeks earlier this year. In five previous appearances at THE PLAYERS, Day has posted 3-under 69 in the opening round three times (2011, 2013 and 2015). Last year, he followed the 69 with a second-round 81 to miss the cut. His best finish at TPC Sawgrass was T6 in 2011.
  • Adam Scott, the 2004 champion, was the last PLAYERS champion to post a top-10 finish (T8) while attempting to defend THE PLAYERS Championship. For the first time in his 15-year career, Scott heads into the championship with multiple victories in the season after winning The Honda Classic and the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship in consecutive weeks earlier this year.
  • Here’s a look at how past champions have performed while defending their title at TPC Sawgrass;
    • 2015 Rickie Fowler –
    • 2014 Martin Kaymer T56
    • 2013 Tiger Woods DNP
    • 2012 Matt Kuchar T48
    • 2011 K.J. Choi MC
    • 2010 Tim Clark WD
    • 2009 Henrik Stenson MC
    • 2008 Sergio Garcia T22
    • 2007 Phil Mickelson T21
    • 2006 Stephen Ames MC
    • 2005 Fred Funk T16
    • 2004 Adam Scott T8
  • Rory McIlroy, winless in nine starts this season, will make his seventh appearance at THE PLAYERS.
    • After missing the cut in his first three starts at TPC Sawgrass, McIlroy has posted three consecutive top-10s in his previous three starts (T8-2013, T6-2014, T8-2015). A T3 at the 2016 Cadillac Championship is his best showing this season, and he also finished T4 at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
  • World No. 4 Bubba Watson has missed the cut three times in eight previous starts, with a pair of T37s his best result at TPC Sawgrass (2009 and 2013). Watson, who won the Northern Trust Open for a second time earlier this season, finished T37 at the Masters, his last start on TOUR.
  • In 16 previous starts at THE PLAYERS, Sergio Garcia has a victory (2008) and five additional top-10 finishes in 2002 (T4), 2007 (2), 2013 (T8), 2014 (3) and 2015 (T2).
    • Garcia is seeking to become the seventh player to win THE PLAYERS more than once—Jack Nicklaus (3), Fred Couples (2), Davis Love III (2), Hal Sutton (2), Steve Elkington (2) and Tiger Woods (2).
    • With $5,229,798, Garcia leads the career earnings list at THE PLAYERS Championship with more than $5.2 million collected.
  • Smylie Kaufman will seek to win THE PLAYERS in just his 20th PGA TOUR start.
  • Two Englishman will also look to bring home the trophy with less than 20 starts on the PGA TOUR – Matthew Fitzpatrick in his 13th TOUR start and Andy Sullivan in his 14th TOUR start.
  • Adam Scott holds the record at 41 for fewest PGA TOUR starts by an eventual PLAYERS champion.
  • Brian Stuard held the lead/co-lead after each round of the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans and went on to win the rain-shortened event two weeks ago to earn one of the few remaining spots in THE PLAYERS field.
    • It will mark his fourth consecutive appearance at TPC Sawgrass. His T17 finish in 2014 is the only time he has advanced to the weekend.

Jacksonville area well represented

  • Local star and 2014 FedExCup champion Billy Horschel has pledged to donate $1,000 for each birdie and $5,000 for each eagle he makes during THE PLAYERS this year to help Feeding NE Florida with its #DriveOutHunger program.
    • Last year, Horschel helped raise $9,000 for the program by making birdies and eagles at THE PLAYERS.
    • He ranked No. 1 in total distance of putts made during last year’s championship, holing 399’ 11’ of putts.
    • With a victory at the Stadium Course, the Ponte Vedra Beach resident would join local PLAYERS champions Mark McCumber (1988), David Duval (1999) and Fred Funk (2005).
  • Fellow Ponte Vedra resident Jim Furyk, who returned to competition at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship (MC) after a wrist injury, will also tee it up near home this week, along with David Lingmerth (2015 Memorial Tournament winner), Russell Knox (2015 WGC-HSBC Champions winner), Vijay Singh (World Golf Hall of Fame member), Matt Every (two-time Arnold Palmer Invitational winner), and other area rising stars such as Harold Varner III, Jonas Blixt and Steve Wheatcroft.

Miscellaneous tournament stats

  • Sergio Garcia owns the longest active cuts made streak at THE PLAYERS with 12 in a row, dating to a T53 finish in 2004. Tom Kite holds the record for most cuts made at 23.
  • The best scoring average (8 rounds minimum) at TPC Sawgrass belongs to Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama with 70.63.
    • Earlier this year, Matsuyama defeated last year’s PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler in a playoff to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
  • In last year’s second round, Robert Streb eagled No. 18 with a 6-iron from 179 yards, marking the fifth eagle on No. 18 in tournament history.
  • Eagles on 18:
    • 2015 Robert Streb Second Round
    • 2013 Jason Dufner First Round
    • 2013 Marc Leishman Second Round
    • 2002 Carlos Franco Third Round
    • 1998 Glen Day First Round
  • There have been four wire-to-wire winners in PLAYERS history: Al Geiberger (1975), Greg Norman (1994), Steve Elkington (1997) and Hal Sutton (2000).
  • Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Davis Love III (2003, 1992), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Fred Couples (1984, 1996) and Jack Nicklaus (1974, 1976 and 1978) are players with multiple wins at THE PLAYERS Championship.
  • With a victory at THE PLAYERS this week, James Hahn would become the fourth player to win the week before and the week of THE PLAYERS Championship (Raymond Floyd – 1981 Doral-Eastern-Open, Tom Kite – 1989 Arnold Palmer Invitational and Tiger Woods – 2001 Arnold Palmer Invitational). Hahn won for the second time on the PGA TOUR by defeating Roberto Castro in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship.
  • No player has gone all four rounds without a bogey at THE PLAYERS Championship. Greg Norman came the closest in 1994 with a single bogey in the final round on No. 13. He posted the tournament 72-hole record that year, 24-under 264.
  • Martin Kaymer, THE PLAYERS Champion in 2014, shares the 18-hole course record (9-under 63) with Fred Couples, Greg Norman and Roberto Castro. However, Kaymer is the only player in tournament history to post sub-30 for nine holes, a 7-under 29 on the front nine in round one on his way to the 63 he shot in 2014.
  • Eight of the last 13 winners of THE PLAYERS Championship have ranked inside the top five for Greens in Regulation en route to victory. In the last 13 years, only the Masters has more champions inside the top five for Greens in Regulation than THE PLAYERS, the TOUR Championship by Coca Cola and the PGA Championship.
  • Americans have won THE PLAYERS Championship four times in the last 11 years: Rickie Fowler (2015), Tiger Woods (2013), Matt Kuchar (2012) and Fred Funk (2005). International players have won eight of the last 14 PLAYERS Championships.
  • A total of 13 international players have won THE PLAYERS Championship in the 40-year history of the event.
  • Adam Scott won the 2004 PLAYERS at 23 years, 8 months, 12 days, to become the youngest champion. The next year, Fred Funk, at 48 years, 9 months and 14 days, became the oldest to win THE PLAYERS.
  • Jerry Kelly will make his 21st consecutive start at THE PLAYERS Championship, the most active consecutive starts of anyone in the field. He finished T17 in 2015 after sharing the second-round lead at 8-under with Kevin Na. Kelly recorded his best showing in 2001 when he finished fourth.
  • The only players that have captured their first PGA TOUR win at THE PLAYERS Championship were Craig Perks (2002) and Tim Clark (2010).
  • Other than Jack Nicklaus, who won THE PLAYERS in its inaugural year in 1974, only Hal Sutton (1983) and Craig Perks (2002) have won the event in their first appearance.

The par-3 17th hole at the Stadium Course

  • There have been 22 total par-3s measuring less than 150 yards on the scorecard in the last 13 years on TOUR. With a scoring average of 3.12 the 17th hole at the Stadium Course is one of two par-3s under 150 yards on TOUR with an over-par scoring average.
  • The other is the 143-yard No. 12 at Whistling Straits, site of the 2015 PGA Championship, which averaged 3.04.
  • In 2015, the 17th hole witnessed the highest number of double bogeys (28) and others (4) combined (32) since 2008 when 47 was the combined total (41 doubles, 8 others).
  • Bernhard Langer and Davis Love III, both in the field at this year’s PLAYERS, will have the opportunity to improve their birdie counts at No. 17. Since 1983, Langer has the most birdies at the 17th with 25. Love requires one more birdie to break out of a group of players with 18 birdies and match Hal Sutton, who has 19.
  • Six aces have been scored on the 17th hole during THE PLAYERS, the most recent in the first round of 2002 by Miguel Angel Jimenez. Since his ace, 6,079 regulation play tee shots have been hit on No. 17.
  • The highest recorded score on No. 17 belongs to Bob Tway who posted a 12 in the third round in 2005.
  • Since 2003, Marc Leishman is the Greens in Regulation leader at the 17th hole, finding the surface 20 times in 20 attempts (minimum 8 attempts). At the other end of the scale in this same timeframe, Scott McCarron is at 35.7% with five shots in 14 rounds hitting the green.
  • Since 2003, there have been 598 balls in the water in 5,675 official rounds played on the 17th hole (10.5%). This works out to one ball in the water in every 10 attempts on the 17th hole.
  • After 46 consecutive rounds at TPC Sawgrass without hitting a tee shot in the water hazard on No. 17, Robert Allenby hit two in the water during last year’s third round, including one from the drop zone. Ryan Palmer has gone 24 rounds without hitting the water at No. 17, the longest active streak heading into this week’s PLAYERS. Since 2003, the player with the most balls in the water at the 17th is Aaron Baddeley, with 13.
  • Here’s a list of balls in the water on the famed 17th hole at Sawgrass since 2003:

Balls In The Water

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