Tournament review

Fifty years after The Players Championship made its debut on the PGA Tour, Scottie Scheffler has achieved what no other player in the event’s history has managed to do – he successfully defended his Players title.

Closing with a blemish-free round of eight-under-par 64 on the notoriously difficult TPC Sawgrass layout, Scheffler won by a shot over an impressive trio that included reigning US Open champion Wyndham Clark, reigning Open champion Brian Harman and reigning Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

On a course that is known to expose weaknesses in your game, Scheffler’s secret to success has been simple – have none.

The American recorded just four bogeys in 72 holes – the fewest of the field – as he plotted his way around TPC Sawgrass like he owned the place. Even Sawgrass’ notoriously treacherous closing three holes that offer as wide a collection of score spreaders as you can find in golf were no match for Scheffler.

With danger lurking at every turn, he made Dye’s nerve-wracking finishing holes look like a walk in the park. He birdied the par-five 16th every round, played the terrifying island-green 17th in one under for the week and finished the 18th in red numbers for the week, courtesy of three pars and a birdie.


Check out every water ball on the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

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The American recorded just four bogeys in 72 holes – the fewest of the field – as he plotted his way around TPC Sawgrass like he owned the place

And for the second year in succession, he pocketed the biggest cheque in golf – $4.5-million (or R86-million) for four days’ work.

Although it is not officially classed as a Major championship, 50 years on from its debut The Players has certainly achieved what it set out to do, which is to rival the biggest tournaments in the world.

You see, back in 1974, the four Major championships were owned by Augusta National Golf Club (The Masters), The R&A (The Open Championship), the USGA (the US Open) and the PGA of America (The PGA Championship), so the PGA Tour looked to launch its own tournament – one that could compete with the Majors.

Originally named the Tournament Players Championship and first played out of Atlanta Country Club, the Tour could not have asked for a more auspicious start, because the man holding the trophy after a weather-delayed Monday finish was none other than the great Jack Nicklaus.

It was Nicklaus’ first of three Players Championship titles, all at different courses, as the event moved around over its first five years.

By 1982, however, The Players had found a permanent home at the Pete Dye-designed Sawgrass Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, also the site of the headquarters of the PGA Tour.

The Tour was desperate for the event to be held in high esteem by its members, and even launched the term ‘The fifth Major’ to describe its flagship event.


Go behind the scenes at TPC Sawgrass after Scheffler makes history at The Players Championship, becoming the first to win back-to-back titles.

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Scheffler’s stats from his historic win.

  • First back-to-back champion in Players history.
  • First to win The Players the week after winning another PGA Tour event since 2001 (Tiger Woods).
  • Tied the largest final-round comeback to win in Players Championship history (five shots).
  • Best score to par (20 under) by a defending champion by 10 shots (Webb Simpson, 10 under in 2019).
  • Tied the lowest final round (64) by a Players champion.

While arguments have been made for and against it being recognised alongside the fours Majors, it seems unlikely the PGA Tour will get its wish. Yet for many, The Players Championship is considered to be the next best thing, particularly with a purse of $25-million (R474-million) – a massive amount even for the pampered pros on the PGA Tour.

Initially, the TPC Sawgrass course came as a bit of a shock to the professionals. Built on what was swampland, Dye moved millions of cubic metres of earth to create towering mounds around the golf holes, giving spectators and TV crews unprecedented views of the course and building something of a stadium-like atmosphere.

Not all professionals took a liking to the layout, however, and JC Snead once commented that Dye had “ruined a perfectly good swamp”. Long and firm, Sawgrass presents numerous challenges to its golfers, and not just physical ones.

“It's a golf course that can frustrate you,” said Rory McIlroy, a year before he got his first win at Sawgrass, in 2019. “I think that's what Pete Dye does so well. He can frustrate you by the design of his golf courses, and you feel like you're getting bad breaks, and that can get under your skin a little bit.”

Not so for Scottie Scheffler, who proved he has the physical and mental attributes to tame one of the toughest tests in golf – even with R86-million on the line.

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