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history of the players championship

50 years and counting! A brief history of The Players Championship

The Players Championship was born in 1974 and through 50 years of history, there have been countless memorable moments to look back on…

 

Jack Nicklaus cannot only claim to have won the first-ever Players Championship but to also have won it at three different golf courses.

This, one of many Golden Bear accolades, shows you how different The Players is now, compared to its embryonic stage in the mid-1970s.

Much like the Masters and Augusta, The Players and TPC Sawgrass are inseparable to us as 21st-century golf fans.

But it all began in Georgia, and the Atlanta Country Club to be precise in 1974. After visiting Colonial Country Club in Texas and Inverrary Country Club in Florida, the tournament settled in Ponte Vedra at Sawgrass Country Club in 1977.

By the time Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass took ownership of the tournament in 1982, Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino and Raymond Floyd had all raised the trophy in their legendary hands, and this role of honour set the tone for years to come.

If you can’t win a major, make sure you win a Players at Ponte Vedra Beach. The company you’ll share is identical.

Jerry Pate certainly left his mark on the place. Not only did he win during the year of Sawgrass’s debut, but he also celebrated by launching Dye, PGA Tour chief Deane Beman, and himself, into the lake by the 18th green.

Many of the best moments in The Players’ storied 50-year lifetime involve the final three holes where we’ve seen lung-bursting celebrations and tear-jerking agony from all angles.

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history of the players championship

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History of The Players Championship: Woods, Sergio, and Freddie are all there

The 17th. Where else can you begin? Tiger Woods’ ‘Better than most’ putt from 60 feet in 2001 is a good place. Perhaps the most famous shot of his career when not donning the Sunday red?

This helped Woods win the first of his two Players Championships, but it was only one year later when he was on the wrong end of some stunning heroics courtesy of Craig Perks.

‘You’re unbelievable”, Woods told the man from New Zealand having watched him chip in for eagle on 16, roll in a beauty on 17 and chip in again on 18 to seal victory.

The golf course offers itself to magic, and the tournament’s hallowed half-century is littered with moments to prove this.

From Sergio gratefully finding dry land on 17 in 2008 and watching his ball almost trickle to the bottom of the cup, to fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello bouncing in a stunning albatross on the 16th hole in 2017.

Hal Sutton chose the right club that day on 18 in 2000 and David Duval’s sensational sand play in 1999 was a sight to behold.

Madness walks hand in hand with the magic. Before Duval came Fred Couples’ ‘hole-in-one that wasn’t’ in the first round, when he crashed his tee shot into the hole on 17 for a par – but only after having dunked his first shot in the water.

One year earlier, a seagull stole the show when it picked up American journeyman Brad Fabel’s ball from the famous island green and disposed of it in the drink.

Eventually, the cream doesn’t just rise to the top at The Players – it spills over the edges and flows free. Each of the last five renewals has been won by a major champion.

TPC Sawgrass is one of golf’s greatest arenas and the Players Championship still builds aura and excitement 50 years on from its birth.

It is part of the PGA Tour furniture yet looks like a shiny, new addition to the property every year it comes around.

NOW READ: Check out the complete list of Players Championship winners

NOW READ: Which golfer appears on the Players Championship trophy?

What is your favourite moment in Players Championship history? Tell us on X/Twitter!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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