The PLAYERS Championship tees off on Thursday from TPC Sawgrass with Rory McIlroy seeking to defend his 2019 title against the some of the biggest names in the game.
Dating back to 1974 when Jack Nicklaus won at Atlanta Country Club in Marietta, Georgia, THE PLAYERS has enjoyed a long and storied history.
Here are 10 interesting numbers/statistics – 1 through 10, from past PLAYERS’ tournaments to kickoff seven consecutive months of major league golf, culminating in September with the Ryder Cup.
1 – And Only PGA Tour Win
In 2002, 35-year old journeyman, Craig Perks, was the surprise winner of The PLAYERS Championship. It was Perks’ first and only win on the PGA Tour.
Trailing by one shot, Perks chipped in for eagle from 20 feet on the 16th hole. On the par-3 17th, Perks holed a 30-foot birdie putt. On the 18th, he chipped in for par from 30 feet behind the green.
The New Zealander earned a five-year exemption but by 2006 and 2007 he was no longer competitive (and at one point had made just a single cut in two seasons). When his exemption ended, Perks announced his retirement from golf. He was hired by the Golf Channel as an on-course commentator.
Perks is the only PLAYERS Champion with a single Tour win.
2 – Albatrosses
Only two albatrosses (-3, basically a hole-out on the second shot of a par-5, or a hole-out tee ball on a par-4) have been recorded in the history of THE PLAYERS, and they came in back-to-back rounds.
In 2007, Hunter Mahan made a 2 at the par-5 11th hole in round two before Peter Lonard duplicated the feat at the second hole the next day.
The person in charge of setting up the course and pin locations was most likely fired.
3 – Enter Off Wins and Leave a Winner
Only three (3) golfers have won PLAYERS titles after entering the tournament off a PGA Tour victory the prior week. The first was Raymond Floyd, who won the 1981 Doral Eastern Open and followed it up with a win at TPC Sawgrass, where he edged Barry Jaeckel and Curtis Strange in a sudden-death playoff.
Eight years later, in 1989, Tom Kite became the second player to pull off the double win, first taking the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and then finishing one clear of Chip Beck to claim the PLAYERS.
It took another 12 years, but in 2001, Tiger Woods went back to back at Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass to join Floyd and Kite in the history books.
Woods would go on to win the Masters the next month, as well as the Memorial and the WGC-NEC later that summer, en route to his third PGA Tour MVP trophy.
With a win this week at TPC Sawgrass, Bryson DeChambeau, who won last week’s Arnold Palmer, would become the fourth.
4 – Sub-30 Nine-Hole Scores
Prior to the 2016 tournament, no player had recorded a sub-30 score on either nines at THE PLAYERS’ TPC Stadium Course. Yet in 2016 alone, four (4) players achieved the feat: Shane Lowry (first round), Rory McIlroy (second round) and Kevin Chappell (second round) posted 29s on the back, while Martin Kaymer, with a 7-under 29, carded the only sub-30 score on the front nine (first round).
Those four scores still stand. And like in 2007, we’re guessing, the guy/gal who set up the course was promptly fired.
5 – Wire-to-Wire Winners
There have been five (5) wire-to-wire (no ties) winners in PLAYERS history. The first came in 1975 when Al Geiberger opened with a 66 – one-shot clear of Bob Dickson, Hale Irwin and Jack Nicklaus, and never looked back. He led by two after 36 holes, and eventually claimed a three-shot victory over Dave Stockton.
It took nearly 20 years for another wire-to-wire winner but following Greg Norman’s record-setting win in 1994, the floodgates opened as Steve Elkington (1997), and Hal Sutton (2000) followed the Shark, and gave the tournament a trio of wire winners in just a seven-year span.
Some 16 editions later, then world No. 1 Jason Day went the full 72 holes as the tournament’s top dog, in what was the final victory of his magical 2015-16 run where the Aussie won eight times in a 15-month stretch (just 28 starts).
6 – Multiple Winners
There are six (6) players who have won golf’s fifth major multiple times, including Jack Nicklaus, who owns the most PLAYERS titles with three (1974, 1976 and 1978).
Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Davis Love III (2003, 1992), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), and Fred Couples (1984, 1996) also each won THE PLAYERS Championship twice.
7 – The Largest Margin of Victory
Steve Elkington won the 1997 PLAYERS by seven (7) strokes over Scott Hoch. This seven-shot romp still stands as largest margin of victory at TPC Sawgrass.
Interestingly, Elkington, who opened 66-69, only led by a shot after 36 holes in what was a crowded leaderboard at the halfway point. Larry Mize was one back, while David Edwards and Tommy Tolles were just two off the pace. And one shot further back at 6 under par was a four-player logjam of Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Craig Parry and Brian Watts.
But a third-day 68 put some separation between the Aussie and much of the field, other than Scott Hoch who shot 65 and trailed by just two.
Paired together in the final round, Elkington posted his fourth straight sub-70 round (68) and pulled away from Hoch who struggled to a 74.
8 – Highest Scores at No. 17
Eight (8) players in history have made at least a 6-over 9 on the par-3 17th hole, including Bob Tway who carded a record 9-over 12 on the famous island green during the third round of the 2005 PLAYERS Championship.
The others are Robert Gamez (11, 3rd, 1990), Phil Blackmar (10, 2nd, 1990), Rex Caldwell (9, 2nd, 1983), Roger Maltbie (9, 2nd, 1990), Angel Cabrera (9, 1st, 2012), Russell Knox (9, 3rd, 2016), and Zac Blair (9, 2nd, 2017).
9 – Top 10 Finishes
Nick Price and Tom Watson share the record for the most top-10 finishes in tournament history with nine (9).
Incredibly, Watson, a five-time British Open Champion, never won a PLAYERS despite being in the hunt so often. In fact he never really came close. In his two runner-up finishes (1979, 1992) he was edged by five and four strokes, respectively. And in a third-place result in 1980, he was four back of overnight leader Lee Trevino to start the day, and never really threatened the Merry Mex, who went on to win. A late birdie moved Watson into a backdoor top 3.
10 – Winners Who Have Also Won the U.S. Open
There are 10 golfers who own career wins in both the PLAYERS Championship and U.S. Open. They are Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Martin Kaymer, Raymond Floyd, Tom Kite, Lee Janzen, Webb Simpson, and Rory McIlroy.
There are also 10 who’ve won both PLAYERS and British Open: Trevino, Nicklaus, Woods, McIlroy, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman, Justin Leonard, Nick Price, David Duval, and Henrik Stenson.
Bonus: 0 – Bogey-Free Tournaments
No (0) 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.
Source: PGA Tour PLAYERS’ Media Guide