The PGA Tour travels northeast from Orlando to Ponte Vedra Beach for the 47th edition of The PLAYERS Championship at famed TPC Sawgrass.
While The PLAYERS might not technically qualify as a major, that could not be deduced from the feel of the week, nor could it from more tangible aspects like the prodigiously strong field, first-place check ($2,700,000), FedEx Cup points (600), and World Ranking points (70).
The field teeing it up this week, along the northeast coast of Florida, will once again feature a super-stacked field, including 48 of the 50 top-ranked players in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Headlined by Dustin Johnson – the reigning Masters champion, and current world No. 1, the field also includes 28 of the top 30 in the current FedExCup standings.
With the 2020 edition of the PLAYERS cancelled (after round one), due to the covid outbreak, Rory McIlroy will look to defend his 2019 title again.
Trying to predict what will happen this weekend is a fool’s errand. The only thing we can say with certainty is that balls will go into the water on the signature 17th hole at the most inopportune times – at least for a few players.
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Tournament: The PLAYERS Championship
Dates: Mar 11-14, 2021
Where: Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Course: TPC Sawgrass, Stadium Course
Distance: Par 72/7189 yards
Architect: Pete & Alice Dye (1980)
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $2,700,000
Points: 600 (FedExCup), 70 (OWGR)
2019 Champion: Rory McIlroy
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TV, RADIO & STREAM
Rd 1: Thu 12-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fri 12-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sat 01-6:00 pm (NBC)
Rd 4: Sun 01-6:00 pm (NBC)
PGA TOUR LIVE
Rds 1-2, Thu-Fri
6:30 am-6 pm (Groups)
8:00 am-6 pm (Holes)
6:40 am-8 pm (Every Shot)
Rds 3-4, Sat-Sun
7:45 am-6 pm (Groups)
12:00 -6 pm (Holes)
7:50 am-8 pm (Every Shot)
Available via app – OTT and Mobile
PGA TOUR Radio
Rd 1: Thu 11 am-6 pm
Rd 2: Fri 11 am-6 pm
Rd 3: Sat 12 pm-6 pm
Rd 4: Sun 12 pm-6 pm
PGA TOUR Radio available on Sirius 208/XM 92.
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.
History: Tournament Names
1988-2019: The Players Championship
1974-1987: Tournament Players Championship
History: Recent Winners
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)
2012: Matt Kuchar (-13)
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 course has a capacity of 36,000.
It is known for its signature hole, the par-3 17th hole, known as the “Island Green” which measures just 137-yards.
THE COURSE: Scorecard
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
Avg Score (2019): 3.538 (-0.462)
Toughest: 5th Par-4 471 yards
Avg Score (2019): 4.235 (+0.235)
Toughest Stretch: Nos. 3-7
Scoring Stretch: Nos. 9-12
The PLAYERS Championship will feature one of the deepest and most talented fields of 2021, including major championships.
Headlined by reigning major winners Dustin Jonhson (Masters), Bryson DeChambeau (U.S. Open) and Collin Morikawa (PGA) – each ranked in the world top 6, the field will also include 48 of the top-50 ranked players in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Other top-10 ranked stars include Jon Rahm (2), Justin Thomas (3), Xander Schauffele (5), Tyrrell Hatton (7), Patrick Reed (8), Patrick Cantlay (9), and Webb Simpson (10).
Rory McIlroy (No. 11) will return to defend his 2019 title. Viktor Hovland (13), Tony Finau (14), and Daniel Berger (15) are some of the other top-20 ranked marquee names.
A resurgent Jordan Spieth, seeking his first win since 2017, will enter the PLAYERS in his best form since his early 2018 – posting four top-4s in his last five starts.
Ten former winners of the PLAYERS will tee it up including the aforementioned McIlroy (2019) and Simpson (2018). They will be joined by Si Woo Kim (2017), Jason Day (2016), Rickie Fowler (2015), Matt Kuchar (2012), Henrik Stenson (2009), Sergio Garcia (2008), Phil Mickelson (2007), and Adam Scott (2004).
Jerry Kelly will tee it up after winning the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS title last summer which punches a ticket to TPC Sawgrass.
Top-10 Betting Favorites
1. Dustin Johnson (11-1)
2. Bryson DeChambeau (12-1)
2. Rory McIlroy (12-1)
4. Jon Rahm (14-1)
5. Patrick Cantlay (18-1)
6. Collin Morikawa (20-1)
6. Justin Thomas (20-1)
6. Webb Simpson (20-1)
6. Xander Schauffele (20-1)
10. Jordan Spieth (25-1)
10. Tony Finau (25-1)
10. Viktor Hovland (25-1)
Joel Cook and Carey Hoffman contributed to this preview.
Credit: Getty Images, PGA TOUR Media, Bovada, OWGR, Wikipedia