Year after year, THE PLAYERS Championship builds its reputation as professional golf’s unofficial fifth major. And year after year, THE PLAYERS Championship tickets are the hottest ones in golf. Constructed specifically for THE PLAYERS, The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, offers unobstructed views unlike any other tournament. The crowds’ roars echo through the hills and reverberate through time.
THE PLAYERS boasts the largest purse in golf, and even the coolest competitors feel the pressure to perform. The best in the game sweat bullets over a straightforward 130-yard par-3. The tee shot on the 17th hole’s Island Green, though, is anything but simple. Championships are won are lost on this frightening tee shot annually, as elation turns to anguish in a splash.
First played in 1974 at Atlanta Country Club, THE PLAYERS Championship was the brain child of then-PGA TOUR commissioner Deane Beman. Fittingly, the first PLAYERS champion was Jack Nicklaus, who would go on to win a record three PLAYERS titles. After bouncing around the south in its infancy, THE PLAYERS Championship moved to its current host city of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, in 1977.
For its first five years in Ponte Vedra Beach, THE PLAYERS was contested at Sawgrass Country Club. Beman attempted to purchase Sawgrass CC as a home of the PGA TOUR, but met stiff resistance. He managed to purchase 415 acres of swampland across the street from Sawgrass CC for the kingly sum of $1, and employed course architect duo Pete and Alice Dye to design a new host course for THE PLAYERS.
The concept was simple, if ostentatious. The Dyes would construct large mounds throughout the course, which would serve as stadium seating for the fans in attendance. As work began, serendipity collided with frugality to produce one of the most famous signature holes in golf.
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass was never supposed to be so iconic. The original design called for a simple par-3 with a forced carry over a lake. In construction, though, a vein of base sand was uncovered, which was removed and put to work in other areas of the design. Alice Dye suggested the Island Green as a way to salvage what was left, and the rest is history.
The playing field at THE PLAYERS will be newly leveled in 2017. Veterans can throw away their old yardage books, as the 2017 PLAYERS Championship will feature newly resurfaced greens. Already a supreme test of mental toughness and intestinal fortitude, this year’s PLAYERS adds the excitement of original hole positions.
From Jack Nicklaus in 1974 to Jason Day in 2016, the names of past champions of THE PLAYERS Championship read like a laundry list of the greatest golfers of the last 40 years. Who will hoist the trophy (and cash the winner’s check) this year? With the toughest field in golf, on the toughest course in the game, the battle is sure to entertain.