HISTORY OF THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP

by Josh Cassap, Golf Manager

Of the four ‘majors’ in professional golf, the PGA Tour owns 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 was $9.5 million in 2010, 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 10 less than the big four.

The winner of the tournament receives a five year exemption on the PGA Tour, a three year invitation to the Masters, a three year exemption to the Open Championship, and same year invitations to the US Open and PGA.

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, as 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. It moved to the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth in 1975, and then to the Inverrary Country Club in Ft. Lauderdale in 1976.

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

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

For the first 33 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. This gives professional golf (and television) a signature event in each month running from April to August.

Nicklaus has won three times: 1974, 1976, and 1978. Other multiple winners have been Tiger Woods (2001 and 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.

Who tuned in to watch the best players in the world doing battle?

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