The distinct challenges that THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass presents for THE PLAYERS Championship are all-conquering; every error seems to be punished tenfold. Since its inception in 1974, THE PLAYERS Championship has been the flagship tournament on the PGA Tour’s calendar. The perks; 600 FedExCup points, equal to the four major championships, a similar amount of Official World Golf Ranking points to the majors and a five-year exemption on the PGA TOUR. A prize fund of $10.5 million for 2016 - the highest prize fund of any tournament in golf - was further endorsed by the sheer level of competition in the field. To categorize such a prize, the $1.89 million winner’s fund usurps that of Arnold Palmer’s entire career earnings.
For PGA TOUR players, this is an event that is ear-marked from the beginning of the season. Over the last twenty years or so, the event has grown both in stature and as a spectator experience. THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass tests every aspect of a players’ game. The hole, often referred to as the “Island Green” is the course’s signature hole, and one of the most iconic and recognizable holes in the world.
The “Fifth Major” as it is so often referred to, is the PGA TOUR’s major. It brings the best of the best out, but also presents a course which can crucify you in a heartbeat (see; Bob Tway’s third round 12 on 17 in 2005). Patience really is a virtue here.
“It’s one of the toughest courses we play all year,” said 2015 champion Rickie Fowler. “Probably the toughest field that we play all year. So, I mean, whoever is winning is taking care of business, beating the best players at the time and conquering one of the toughest courses that we play.”
From its inauguration in 1974, THE PLAYERS has seen it all. From Greg Norman’s wizardry in 1994, where he shot a course record 264, to Steve Lowery finding dry land on 17th in 1998, only for a seagull to take it upon himself to dunk it into the lake, the history of this prestigious event is illustrious.
Each Friday for the next 42 weeks, QuintEvents, in association with THE PLAYERS, will recount the story of each of the previous 42 winners. Beginning with Jack Nicklaus’ maiden victory at the Atlanta Country Club right up to Jason Day's triumph in 2016, we'll tell their tales of success leading us all the way up to 2017’s event!
Fred Couples, 1996
A winner of the event some twelve years previously, Fred Couples found himself one shot apart from Tommy Tolles with three holes to play.
In a week that seemed upside down; rain was called for all week but never came, how a streak of first-time winners would end considering the strength of the field (Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Paul Azinger, Curtis Strange and Tom Kite all missed the cut), the names of Duval and Bradley appeared atop of the leaderboard alongside Couples and Tolles come Sunday morning; this was a fitting end.
Two clear beginning the final round, Tolles later stated of his nerves, “I was kind of in a fog, just watching myself playing stupid." Couples, four back, took a laissez-faire approach. The less you worry, the more you succeed, or so it goes.
With a pair of two terrific approach shots on 5 and 8 that got within three and two feet respectively, a front-nine 32 put Couples well in contention.
One behind the leaders Tolles and Colin Montgomerie, Couples took his two iron out on the par-5 16th. He was going for eagle. Short, right and looking for all the world to be wet, the ball hit a bank, the bounded left away from the water and within 25-feet of the pin. Couples stepped up and made an eagle 3, and took a one-stroke lead.
A monstrous 30-foot birdie on the Island Green seem to ruffle the feathers of Tolles and Montgomerie, both finishing the final four holes +2. A final round 64 for Couples saw him collect a check for $630,000, and becoming just the second man since Jack Nicklaus in 1976 to win the tournament for a second time.
The 2017 PLAYERS® Championship
Beginning May 9, 2017, THE PLAYERS Championship is the PGA TOUR’s most anticipated tournament and coveted title. Held at TPC Sawgrass, the “Stadium Course” gives fans and unprecedented experience with on-site access you simply will not get anywhere else.
Watch the world’s best players battle it out at the purest test in golf. 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!