History lesson

Players 2022: The 40 best moments from 40 years at TPC Sawgrass


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March 10, 2022

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — This year marks the 40-year anniversary of the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass playing host to the Players Championship. Since 1982, Pete and Alice Dye's design has welcomed the best players on the PGA Tour, yielding iconic shots, memorable calls and infamous moments. To celebrate, take a trip down memory lane and relive the 40 best moments from 40 years at TPC Sawgrass, listed in chronological order below.

Jerry Pate dives into water (1982): After winning at the inaugural Players at TPC Sawgrass, Jerry Pate decided to celebrate by pushing PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and course architect Pete Dye into the water surrounding the 18th green. Pate then jumped into the water himself and created one of the most memorable celebrations in tour history.


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Calvin Peete’s final-round charge (1985): Calvin Peete took advantage of his famed accuracy off the tee. His closing 66 was highlighted by birdieing the first two holes and four holes down the stretch, pulling away from the rest of the field and winning by three shots.

The Sawgrass swimmer (1987): One of the most infamous incidents in Players history occurred during the second playoff hole between Jeff Sluman and Sandy Lyle. As Sluman stood over a five-foot birdie putt with the chance to win the championship, a fan jumped into the pond surrounding the 17th green. It took some time to gather the fan from the water, and when Sluman finally had the chance to putt, he missed. He ultimately bogeyed the 18th hole, losing to Lyle’s par.

Local golfer makes good (1988): Jacksonville native Mark McCumber was a popular champ in 1988 after his rousing victory over Mike Reid. Cheered on by his fellow Floridians, McCumber remains the only Jacksonville local to win the event.

Nick Price’s best shot of career (1993): During his march to victory in 1993, Nick Price hit what he would later describe as “probably the greatest shot of my life.” On the fourth hole, from a deep grass bunker, Price took a sand wedge and barely cleared the water. The shot dropped perfectly and rolled to four feet from the pin.

Greg Norman finishes with a record-low score (1994): Greg Norman made history when he shot 63-67-67-67 for a 24-under 264 and a four-shot win over Fuzzy Zoeller. To this day, it stands as the low score for the tournament.


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Fred Couples’ clutch 2-iron (1996): In pursuit of his second Players title, Fred Couples hit his shot of the week on the 16th hole. His 225-yard 2-iron set up a clutch eagle putt and propelled him to a four-shot victory over Colin Montgomerie and Tommy Tolles. He later admitted that he thought his approach shot was headed for the water.

Fred Couples birdies the 17th with long putt (1996): Fresh off of his dramatic eagle on 16, Couples then drained a 30-foot birdie putt that sent the fans wild. He described the 64 he shot on Sunday as “pretty easy.”

Steve Elkington pulls away from the field (1997): No one was going to keep Steve Elkington from capturing his second Players title in 1997. That year, he finished seven strokes better than Scott Hoch in second place. It remains the biggest margin of victory in the tournament’s history.

Seagull steals Brad Fabel’s golf ball (1998): A seagull stole the show after Brad Fabel hit his ball into the middle of the 17th green. When the ball came to rest, a seagull began walking toward it. The bird took a few attempts to secure it in its beak before finally getting a good grip on it and flying away, only to drop it a few moments later into the water. Fabel was able to place a ball where his shot originally landed and ended up three-putting for bogey.

Freddie Couples’ hole in three (1999): During the first round, Fred Couples hit his tee shot on 17 into the water. He decided to re-tee and flew his next shot into the cup on the fly for the most unbelievable par in Players history.

The Duvals’ special day (1999): For the first (and only) time in PGA Tour history, a father-son duo won on the same day in tour-sanctioned events. A few hours after Bob Duval won the Emerald Coast Classic on the Senior PGA Tour, his son David captured the Players, vaulting him to World No. 1.

Hal Sutton’s ‘Be the right club today’ (2000): While attempting to hold off Tiger Woods’ charge, Hal Sutton hit a 6-iron on the 72nd hole of the tournament from 178 yards. After the ball left the clubface, he famously uttered the words, “Be the right club today!” His approach landed eight feet from the pin leading to a comfortable two-putt par to solidify his victory.

Tiger’s “Better Than Most” Putt (2001): En route to his first Players Championship victory in 2001, Tiger Woods stepped up on Saturday and made one of the most iconic shots in tournament history. Gary Koch famously called Tiger’s 60-foot putt on 17, repeatedly answering Johnny Miller’s question, “How’s that look?” with “Better than most!” until the putt dropped.

Vijay Singh’s chip-in with his putter (2001): There are some unique lies around the 16th green at TPC Sawgrass, and in 2001, Vijay Singh found himself in a tough spot around the iconic par 5. With his ball sitting against the collar of the rough running up against the planks of wood, Singh decided to chip the ball with the toe of his putter. Miraculously, the ball came out on the perfect line, at the perfect speed and dropped in for an eagle.

Craig Perks’ closing kick (2002): Ranked 203rd in the world, Craig Perks became the most unlikely Players winner, chipping in for an eagle 3 on 16, making a long birdie putt on 17, and chipping in from off the green to save par on 18. Prior to the two-shot victory over Stephen Ames, the 35-year-old New Zealander had missed 37 of 65 cuts since his PGA Tour debut in 2000.

Davis Love III’s pinestraw approach (2003): Davis Love III entered the final round two strokes back and ended up winning by six over Jay Haas and Padraig Harrington. Shots like the one on 16 from the pinestraw helped: His 6-iron second shot ended up on the green and led to an important eagle. After the round, his playing partner, Fred Couples, said that it was the best round of golf he had ever seen played.

Ian Poulter’s all-wet par (2004): One of the most bizarre incidents in tournament history occurred when Ian Poulter went to mark his ball on the fourth hole. In disgust over his birdie attempt, he placed his coin behind the ball and swiped at it, only to accidentally toss the ball into the pond behind him. His physical therapist jumped in the water, found the ball and gave it back to Poulter, who subsequently and incredibly made his putt for par.

Fred Funk’s wins one for the old guys (2005): Fred Funk’s impressive week was made even more historic when he claimed victory as the oldest champion in Players Championship history. At 48 years old, Funk was able to stave off Tom Lehman, Luke Donald and Scott Verplank, and secured his victory with a savvy up and down on the 72nd hole.

Phil Mickelson’s fairway bunker shot (2007): En route to victory, Phil Mickelson hit one of the most iconic shots of his career. On the dogleg 10th hole, Mickelson’s drive ended up in a fairway bunker short of the corner where the hole turns left, seemingly blocked out from the green by a thick group of trees. In classic Phil fashion, he took a 7-iron and somehow found the tiniest of gaps in the trees and saw his ball end 30-feet away from the pin.

Sergio’s playoff win (2008): Blustery winds were the story in 2008, but the poor weather proved no match for Sergio Garcia capturing one of the biggest wins of his career. Paul Goydos’ bogey on the 72nd hole of the championship set up a sudden-death playoff with Garcia on the 17th hole. After Goydos’ ball found the water, Sergio took advantage of the situation and hit a solid shot, ultimately winning with a par.

Tim Clark breaks through (2010): South African Tim Clark finally broke through after 206 PGA Tour starts and won the Players.

Sergio’s quad on 17 (2013): Sergio Garcia held the lead over Tiger Woods in a titanic showdown going into the 71st hole. But at the menacing island green, Garcia rinced two shots into the water and ultimately quadruple-bogeyed the par 3. His double bogey on the par-4 18th solidified his collapse as Tiger ended up with the victory.

Tiger Woods’ second victory (2013): In his 300th start on the PGA Tour, Tiger Woods was able to capture his 78th victory after a riveting Sunday showdown with Sergio Garcia. Garcia famously hit two balls into the water on 17 while Tiger parred, which ultimately gave Tiger enough cushion to win by two.

Martin Kaymer’s 17th-hole par save (2014): In order to maintain his lead during the final round in 2014, Martin Kaymer made a critical 30-foot par putt on Sunday at 17. After barely making the front edge of the island green, Kaymer’s chip came up woefully short. With Jim Furyk close behind him, Kaymer made one of the most clutch putts of the week and went on to win the event.

Richard Lee tops his wedge and putt (2014): On the 17th hole, Richard Lee’s tee shot found the fringe near the collar of rough. Attempting to belly a wedge and maneuver around the awkward lie, Lee topped his first attempt, advancing it only an inch or two. He then tried to use his putter and topped his shot again. He double-bogeyed the hole.

Matt Kuchar’s one-handed shot (2015): Matt Kuchar’s tee shot on 17 ended up over the green and miraculously missed the water. Without the ability to take a stance as a right-handed player, Kuchar took a wedge, turned his back to the hole and swung the club with just his right hand. The chip ended up on the front of the green, leading to a bogey.

Rickie Fowler goes six under in his final six holes (2015): In 2015, Rickie made a mad dash to vault himself into a playoff with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner. With six holes to play in the final round, Rickie went birdie-par-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie. Rickie’s final stretch cemented the tournament as one of the most thrilling finishes in history. He birdied the 17th hole in the first three-hole aggregate playoff, and then in sudden death, he birdied the 17th again to win.

Rickie’s clutch shot on 17 (2015): In one of the most thrilling editions of the Players Championship, Rickie Fowler faced down Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a playoff on his way to victory. After Sergio was eliminated in the initial three-hole playoff, Kisner and Fowler returned to 17. Fowler hit a gutsy tee shot five feet to the right of the pin and made the birdie putt, which bettered Kisner’s par and gave Rickie the biggest win of his career.

Jason Day goes wire-to-wire (2016): In one of the most impressive weeks in Players Championship history, Jason Day blitzed the field and went wire-to-wire for a dominant victory.

Si Woo Kim becomes youngest winner (2017): At only 21, Si Woo Kim became the youngest champ in Player history. He started the final round two strokes back of the lead and finished three strokes ahead of Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen.

Brooks makes an albatross (2018): It’s special when you hit the 16th green in two at TPC Sawgrass, but in 2018, Brooks Koepka did one better by making an albatross during the final round. It remains only the second-ever double eagle on 16 (Rafa Cabrera Bello) and helped Koepka post a course-record-tying 63.

Tiger’s stinger on 18 (2018): He would finish T-11, and yet still hit one of the more memorable shots of the 2018 Players. On the tee at the 18th hole, Tiger’s tee shot drew hard from right to left and ended up 254 yards down the fairway. All golf purests could do was drool.

Rickie Fowler dunks it (2019): On the par-5 2nd, Rickie hit his approach shot from 80 yards directly into the hole for eagle.

Tiger Woods imitates Kevin Na (2019): Kevin Na has made walking in putts his thing—so much so that Tiger Woods decided to imitate him on the 17th in 2019. Tiger was only two feet away from the hole for birdie, and almost immediately after he struck his putt, he reached down to grab his ball out of the hole.

Jhonattan Vegas’ record putt on 17 (2019): Having a 70-foot putt on the 17th hole is a challenge (the green just isn’t that big). Making one is almost hard to imagine. But Jhonattan Vegas did just that, recording the longest birdie putt on the hole since ShotLink stats were measured in 2004.

Rory flashing his gold shoes (2019): The Players Championship unveiled a new gold trophy and the week of the tournament, and Rory McIlroy sported a limited-edition shoe featuring a Players logo on the heel and a gold chrome outsole. After Rory won the event, he was photographed cradling the gold trophy while lifting his foot to reveal the unique golden match.


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Bryson tops his tee shot (2021): In the final pairing a year ago, Bryson DeChambeau came to the tee on the shot par-4 fourth with a fairway wood looking to find the fairway. Instead, he cold topped it, which led to a double bogey on the hole.

JT hits it to inches on 16 (2021): On Saturday, Justin Thomas made the decision to go for the green in two on 16. From 204 yards out, Thomas landed an iron just short of the green and saw it run up 7 inches from the hole. He tapped in for eagle on his way to a third-round 64.

Justin Thomas works the ball off the tee (2021): Justin Thomas hit some of the most iconic tee shots in tournament history hang on to the 2021 title. Perhaps inspired by Tiger’s stinger on 18 just a few years earlier, Thomas worked the ball hard from right to left. His shot shaping became one of the most memorable aspects of his signature victory.