The PGA Tour travels northeast, from Orlando to Ponte Vedra Beach, for the 49th edition of The PLAYERS Championship at famed TPC Sawgrass.
The PLAYERS was once considered golf’s fifth major, but due to its banning of LIV Golf players, particularly its defending champion Cam Smith, it no longer can hang that banner. Still, it will deliver a stout field with a record $25 million purse.
Those teeing it up this week, along the northeast coast of Florida, include 43 of the top-50 ranked players in the PGA Tour-controlled ‘Official World Golf Rankings.’
Headlined by nine of these top-10 ranked players, including No. 1 Jon Rahm and recent PLAYERS champions Justin Thomas (2021) and Rory McIlroy (2019).
As we do each week, let’s take a look at the history, field, stats and other factoids as we prepare for what should be an exciting week of tour golf in northeast Florida.
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The PLAYERS Championship
Dates: Mar. 9-12, 2023
PGA Tour Debut: 1974
PGA TOUR Week: 19th (of 43)
Course: TPC Sawgrass Stadium
Where: Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Distance: Par 72/7189 yards
Architect: Pete & Alice Dye (1980)
Field: 144 players
Format: Stroke, 72-holes
Cut: 36 holes
Winning Share: $4,500,000
FedExCup Pts: 600
OWGR Pts: 80
2022 Champion: Cameron Smith
How to Follow The PLAYERS
TV: Thu-Fri: 12-6 p.m. (GOLF); Sat-Sun: 1-6 p.m. (NBC)
PGA TOUR LIVE (ESPN+): Thu-Fri: 6:45 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 7:45 a.m.-6 p.m.
RADIO: Thu-Fri: 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat-Sun: 12-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM)
All times Eastern
History of The PLAYERS
First teeing off in 1974, THE PLAYERS Championship might not have the longest history on Tour, but the history it does have is undeniably rich. The tournament is the brainchild of former PGA Commissioner Deane Beman, who earned a reputation for being a capacious dreamer.
It helped Beman’s vision that the inaugural event, held at Atlanta Country Club in Marietta, Georgia was won by Jack Nicklaus, the biggest name in golf.
The PLAYERS bounced around between several Southern locales in the 70s, with Nicklaus also taking the 1976 and the 1978 tournaments. The tournament was drawing big names and high-level drama, but something was missing, something that would eventually turn THE PLAYERS into one of the best shows in professional sports.
Beman knew for The PLAYERS to really take off, it would need a permanent location for fans to associate it with. He teamed up with legendary course designer Pete Dye, and in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, built the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which would almost instantly become one of the most iconic locations in the game.
It was important to Beman that the course demand a complete arsenal of shots, something that Dye smashed out of the park.
The list of winners has been diverse, with the course not favoring any specific kind of golf. With TPC Sawgrass becoming the regular venue in 1982, winners have included such stars as Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle, Tom Kite, Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson.
Nicklaus is the only three-time winner of the event, although all three championships occurred in the pre-Sawgrass days. Couples, Love III, and Woods, in addition to Hal Sutton and Steve Elkington comprise the list of two-time TPC Sawgrass champions.
Cameron Smith, the 2022 winner, is the first champion to be banned from defending his title.
History: Tournament Names
1988-2019: The PLAYERS Championship
1974-1987: Tournament Players Championship
History: Recent Winners
2022: Cameron Smith (-13)*
2021: Justin Thomas (-14)
2019: Rory McIlroy (-16)
2018: Webb Simpson (-18)
2017: Si Woo Kim (-10)
2016: Jason Day (-15)
2015: Rickie Fowler (-12)
2014: Martin Kaymer (-13)*
2013: Tiger Woods (-13)
* Banned for playing on LIV tour.
264 (-24) Greg Norman, 1994
3 – Jack Nicklaus (1974, 1976, 1978)
The Course: TPC Sawgrass
The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass (TPC Sawgrass) is located in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, southeast of Jacksonville.
Opened in the fall of 1980, TPC Sawgrass was the first of several TPC facilities constructed in the world, and is home to the PGA Tour, annually hosting The Players Championship – its flagship event.
Situated in the Ponte Vedra Beach’s Sawgrass development, TPC Sawgrass includes two championship golf tracks – the Stadium and Valley courses.
The famous Stadium course was designed by architects Pete and Alice Dye and is considered to be one of the most difficult golf courses in the world. It was constructed specifically to host The Players Championship and employs a distinctive “stadium” concept where fans sit in “stands” made of raised mounds of grass. The “stadium” at TPC Sawgrass Stadium has a capacity of 36,000.
It is known for its signature hole, the par-3 17th, nicknamed the “Island Green.” It measures just 137 yards but has ruined the rounds of many over the years.
The Course: By the Numbers
Front Yds: 3651
Back Yds: 3538
Tot. Yards: 7189
Signature Hole: 17th “Island Green”
Easiest: 12th Par-4 302 yards
Toughest: 5th Par-4 471 yards
Toughest Stretch: Nos. 3-7
Scoring Stretch: Nos. 9-12
The PLAYERS Championship will feature a deep, talented field similar to the tour’s other “elevated” events.
Headlined by the tour’s top-ranked player in Jon Rahm as well as stars such as Scottie Scheffler (2), Rory McIlroy (3) – the 2019 PLAYERS champion, Patrick Cantlay (4), Xander Schauffele (6), Max Homa (7), Will Zalatoris (8), Justin Thomas (9) – the 2021 PLAYERS champion, and Collin Morikawa (10).
Other top-ranked stars include Viktor Hovland (11), Matt Fitzpatrick (12), Tony Finau (13) and Jordan Spieth (15).
Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Shane Lowry and Hideki Matsuyama are some of the other top-ranked marquee names.
While the defending champion Smith has been banned, there are seven former winners of the PLAYERS who will tee it up this week, including the aforementioned Thomas (2021) and McIlroy (2019). They will be joined by Webb Simpson (2018), Si Woo Kim (2017), Jason Day (2016), Matt Kuchar (2012) and Adam Scott (2004).
Top-10 Betting Favorites
1. Jon Rahm (9-1)
1. Rory McIlroy (9-1)
3. Scottie Scheffler (10-1)
4. Patrick Cantlay (16-1)
5. Max Homa (18-1)
6. Justin Thomas (20-1)
7. Collin Morikawa (25-1)
7. Will Zalatoris (25-1)
7. Xander Schauffele (25-1)
10. Jordan Spieth (28-1)
10. Tony Finau (28-1)
10. Viktor Hovland (28-1)
Full Field: Odds To Win
TPC Sawgrass | Ponte Vedra Beach, FL | Mar 9-12, 2023
Joel Cook and Carey Hoffman contributed to this preview.
Sources: Getty Images, PGA TOUR Media, Bovada, OWGR, Wikipedia