Since 1974, THE PLAYERS Championship has been a mainstay on the PGA TOUR’s calendar, the crown jewel you could say. THE PLAYERS has grown in stature and prestige year by year. The event has seen some incredible final-round dramatics, from Rickie Fowler’s brilliance down the stretch in 2015, to Craig Perks’ one-putt-in-three-holes finish in 2002.
Here, we examine the greatest final round moments in THE PLAYERS Championship history.
2008: Sergio Finally Delivers
Returning in 2008 as the previous years’ runner-up, Sergio Garcia exorcised the ghosts of yesteryear with the biggest win of his career. With winds of up to 40 mph, the Spaniards final-round 71 forced a playoff with veteran Paul Goydos. After an opening round of 66, Garcia struggled through Friday and Saturday, particularly on the green – taking 67 putts combined. However, from the get-go on Sunday, Garcia was on fire with the putter, converting from mid- and long-range. His 47-footer on the par-4 14th for birdie was the highlight of a round that included a nervy 3-foot save on 17 for par that would ultimately force a playoff.
Not to be outdone, Goydos was tuned in, too. A 50-foot birdie putt on 4 was followed by a pitch-in for another on the 10th, and looked to be destined for the title until a bogey on 18 gave us a playoff. On the first extra hole, his shot landed in the water on 17, which gave Garcia two putts from four feet to claim the victory.
2002: Craig Perks Leaves It Late
Miraculous. There is simply no other way to describe the greatest three-shot stretch in PLAYERS Championship history. Craig Perks entered the 2002 tournament as an unknown, and for the first 15 holes of the final round, it looked like he would leave the same way. Seven bogeys from the opening 15 holes suggested hope was minimal. However, entering the final three holes, he was incredibly still just one shot back. What transpired next had to be seen to be believed.
Narrowly missing the water on 16, the New Zealander chipped in from the edge of the green for eagle and a one-stroke lead. On TPC Sawgrass’ famous 17th, Perks found the middle of the Island Green. From 28 feet, he judged his putt to perfection for birdie. The drama wasn’t finished there. A loose tee shot found the woods on 18. After punching out onto the fairway, his third shot then missed the green. Facing the prospect of a playoff, Perks majestically chipped in to save part and give him the unlikeliest of victories. The win would be his only PGA TOUR victory.
1985: Hats Off To Peete
Prior to Tiger Woods’ arrival on the PGA TOUR, Calvin Peete was the most successful African-American to have played on tour with 12 wins. His biggest win came in THE PLAYERS Championship in 1985 (then the Tournament Players Championship). Despite having an impaired left arm, Peete was one of the most accurate drivers of a golf ball ever to play the game. Having broken par just twice in 22 previous rounds at THE PLAYERS Championship prior to that week, Peete made eight birdies in his final round to shoot a 66 – then a record for the lowest final round by a winner since the event moved to Ponte Vedra Beach – to beat D.A. Weibring for a check worth $162,000.
A 30-foot birdie steadied the ship following a bogey, and that birdie on 9 would be the first of five on the final 10 holes. An up-and-down par on 18 was met by huge cheers from the crowd as Peete claimed a hugely popular win.
"For a week, I played in the best field in golf, and emerged victorious," said the first African-American winner of THE PLAYERS. "And it was the first time my father had walked 18 holes and watched me win a tournament. It wasn't just my victory. It was also his."
2015: Rickie Fowler, Take A Bow
Birdie-par-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. Five shots back with six holes to play, Rickie Fowler was down, and 99 percent out. But he wasn’t done yet. A 12-foot birdie on the par-3 13 re-ignited his rally. The rest, as they say, is history. What made the finish to 2015’s tournament was not only Fowler’s brilliance, but also the ability of two other players: Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia, producing wonderful shots of their own down the stretch to force a three-hole aggregate playoff. With the format changed in 2014, players now went to a three-hole playoff, the first of its kind in the tournament’s history.
Kisner and Fowler both birdied 17, which ultimately eliminated Garcia who had parred all three playoff holes. The two remaining players went back to the 17 tee for the third time in a matter of hours. With darkness setting, the great shots kept coming. Kisner hit it within 12 feet, but his birdie missed on the low side. Fowler answered by taking on the right side of the green and sticking it just inside 5 feet, before slotting his birdie putt away to cap one of the most memorable final days in TPC Sawgrass history.
THE PLAYERS Championship 2017
THE PLAYERS Championship is the PGA TOUR’s most anticipated tournament and coveted title. Held at TPC Sawgrass, the “Stadium Course” give fans an unprecedented experience with on-site access you simply will not get anywhere else.
Watch the world’s best players battle it out for one of the year's biggest titles. By choosing THE PLAYERS Club, you’ll have access to the practice and tournament rounds of your choosing on individual days or for the full week. You’ll also be granted private access to the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse, as well as private suites overlooking the 18th Green and signature 17th tee!