Players Championship 2021: A closer look at the equipment used by the past 10 Players champions
No matter who wins this year's Players Championship, one thing is almost a certainty: A crucial shot or series of shots will have a decided impact on the outcome, as it often does at this Pete Dye design. As we look forward to returning to TPC Sawgrass for this year’s Players, we take a moment to look back at the key shots—and the clubs used to hit them—from the previous 10 Players winners.
2010: Tim Clark
Club: Odyssey White Hot Two-Ball Long
Before the ban on anchored strokes, Tim Clark used an Odyssey White Hot 2-Ball long putter—a club he first put in the bag in 2004—to carve out a pretty nice career on the PGA Tour. The highlight was winning the 2010 Players where Clark made five birdies in a six-hole stretch on Sunday, including a 10-footer at No. 7, and 18-footers on Nos. 9 and 12. A seven-footer for par at the last got him in the clubhouse with the lead after a bogey-free 67 and he would go on to win by one shot over Robert Allenby for his first win in 206 starts on the PGA Tour. For the week Clark ranked first in strokes gained/putting at 2.328.
2011: K.J. Choi
Club: Odyssey Tri Hot 2 putter
After K.J. Choi won the 2011 Players, equipment geeks chose to focus on his Miura irons (and yes, he hit a dandy pitching wedge on the 71st hole to set up a critical birdie). But it was Choi’s trusty Odyssey Tri Hot 2 putter that proved to be the difference-maker. For the week Choi ranked second in strokes gained/putting at 1.999 and first in putting from outside 10 feet, making 13 of 40 for 32.50 percent. Three of those came Sunday when Choi rolled in a 30-footer for birdie at the first; a 15-footer for a deuce at the par-3 13th and a 10-footer for birdie at the island-green, par-3 17th that helped forge a tie with David Toms, who Choi beat in a playoff for the title.
Watch the below video for the eight most crucial clubs in Players Championship history:
2012: Matt Kuchar
Club: Rife Barbados belly putter
Kuchar emerged from a packed leader board with a pair of crucial back-nine birdie putts: a 15-footer at the 12th and a 16-footer on 16 that came shortly after Rickie Fowler had knocked in a birdie putt. “I was pretty excited to stick it right back to Rickie,” said Kuchar. “That was pretty awesome.” Kuchar’s putter that week was a Rife Barbados belly putter with 5 degrees loft that he put in at the start of the week. In addition to the clutch putts, Kuchar ranked second in strokes gained/putting at 2.064 and first in putting outside 10 feet at 29.55 percent (13 of 44).
2013: Tiger Woods
Club: Nike VR Pro blade irons
Perhaps Woods’ biggest win since the 2008 U.S. Open, the 2013 Players saw Woods play solid tee-to-green golf, resulting in him hitting 55 of 72 greens (76.39 percent) to rank T-3 for the week with his Nike VR Pro blade irons with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts. Woods would go on to win by two shots over Kevin Streelman, David Lingmerth and Jeff Maggert.
2014: Martin Kaymer
Club: Ping Karsten Anser 2 putter
Kevin C. Cox
Martin Kaymer was leaking some serious oil as he tried to close out the 2014 Players. A double-bogey 6 on 15 and a par on the gettable par-5 16th narrowed Kaymer’s lead over Jim Furyk. On the 17th, Kaymer faced a 28-foot putt for par and buried it, a crucial stroke in what turned out to be a one-shot victory. Kaymer won $1.8 million for the effort, but did so with a putter that sold for $90 (even brand-spanking new) when it was introduced in 2009, Ping’s Karsten Anser 2. The putter, which was 35.5 inches in length with 3 degrees loft, had a history of making big putts as Kaymer used it in winning the 2010 PGA Championship and as he holed the seven-foot putt that won the 2012 Ryder Cup for Europe.
2015: Rickie Fowler
Club: Cobra Tour Trusty wedge
When you use the same club to birdie the par-3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass three times on a Sunday to win the Players, it’s easy to make the call on which club was the key one for the week. That club was a 52-degree (bent to 51 degrees) Cobra Tour Trusty wedge—a club with a notch in the center of the sole to assist with heel and toe relief for better turf interaction. Said Fowler of his play on No. 17: “It was just a choke gap wedge and it started to play a little longer during the playoff than it did in regulation, but still the same club and I hit three great shots in there.”
2016: Jason Day
Club: TaylorMade Limited Itsy Bitsy Spider putter
Day’s dominant four-shot win at the 2016 Players came as the result of a timely putter change as Day returned to the TaylorMade Limited Itsy Bitsy Spider red putter he first put in play at the RBC Heritage. The putter did not have a sightline on top (at Day’s request), but he had no trouble being on target. On Sunday he made a 15-footer for par at the seventh hole and 17-footers for birdies on 10 and 12. For the week, Day gained 1.455 strokes putting to rank eighth and converted 12 putts over 10 feet with a pair over 30 feet during the 72 holes.
2017: Si Woo Kim
Club: TaylorMade M1 460 ’17 driver
OK, we’re succumbing to the 'cool factor' here. Kim’s Scotty Cameron by Titleist 009M putter probably deserves the nod (he rolled in more than 100 feet of putts on Sunday), but the shot we remember is the driver off the deck from the rough on the par-4 14th hole Saturday. From 268 yards out, Kim hauled out his 8.5-degree TaylorMade M1 460 ’17 driver with a Mitsubishi Tensei Blue 70TX shaft and launched a laser (prompting a club twirl from Kim) that finished on the front of the green. “I’m really comfortable with that shot,” said Kim. “The lie was good and it was a hurting wind, uphill. Everything was comfortable, just hit it. I hit it good.”
2018: Webb Simpson
Club: Odyssey Tank Cruiser V-Line Long putter
Simpson won by four shots over three players by picking up more than nine strokes on the field for the week in strokes gained/putting. Using an arm-lock style at TPC Sawgrass. Simpson used an Odyssey Tank Cruiser V-Line Long (40.5 inches) putter with 7 degrees of loft to accommodate the forward press of the arm-lock method he employed. The head is 385 grams and features a White Hot Pro insert while the shaft features a single-bend into the hosel.
2019: Rory McIlroy
Club: TaylorMade M5 driver
When it’s working there are few better with the driver than McIlroy, who ranked third in strokes gained/off the tee and first in strokes gained/tee to green for the week at the 2019 Players. McIlroy’s driver that week was a 9-degree TaylorMade M5 with a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70 shaft. McIlroy took advantage of the adjustable aspects of the club by setting the hosel in a slightly lower loft setting and positioning the movable weights in the rear of the center track and in the heel of the track that runs along the perimeter, which promotes a slight draw bias.