13 Things You Didn’t Know About The Players

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1. Five-Course Meal: The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass has been the venue for the Players Championship since 1982, but four other courses were previous hosts: Atlanta Country Club in 1974, Colonial (Texas) Country Club in 1975, Inverrary Country Club’s East course (Lauderhill, Fla.) in 1976 and Sawgrass Country Club’s East/West nines (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) from 1977-1981.
2 of 13 Courtesy of Ponte Vedra Inn & Club
2. Birth of an Island: The most dramatic, controversial hole ever is TPC Sawgrass’ island-green par-3 17th. While the precise design expression is a Dye original, Pete credits another hole just up the road for planting the seeds. He and wife Alice played Herbert Strong’s Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in 1946, which featured an island green at the par-3 9th. Had the 1939 Ryder Cup been played there, as it was scheduled, more would know of this hole, but the event was cancelled due to the onset of World War II.
3 of 13 Michael O'Bryon / Sports Illustrated
3. Tiger’s TPC Triple: Defending champion Tiger Woods took more than a decade to win his second Players Championship, following his initial victory in 2001. He can claim one more big win at the TPC Sawgrass, however. Tiger edged Oklahoma State Junior Trip Kuehne 1 up to capture the 1994 U.S. Amateur played here in August, after being five holes down with 12 to play.
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4. May Day, May Day: Some critics feel that moving the Players Championship from late March to May, initially done for better playing conditions and for less competition with the men’s NCAA hoops tourney, has removed some of its major-like aura. In 1974, however, the event concluded in early September, in 1975, August and in 1976, it finished on March 1, so mid- to late March was hardly carved in stone.
5 of 13 Tony Triolo
5. Jack’s Non-TPC Triple: Jack Nicklaus is the only three-time winner of the Players Championship. He won the event on three different courses, but not once at the TPC Sawgrass. The Golden Bear’s victories took place at Atlanta Country Club in 1974, Inverrary in 1976 and Sawgrass Country Club in 1978.
6 of 13 Courtesy of Sawgrass Country Club
6. Sawgrass Strong: Do you think TPC Sawgrass is tough? Consider its predecessor, Sawgrass Country Club. Winning scores for the five years the event was held there were 289, 289, 283, 278 and 285. None of the top 10 finishers in the ’77, ’78 and ’79 events broke 70 in the final round.
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7. Beman’s Dream: As a young player on the PGA Tour, Deane Beman first discussed the concept of “stadium golf” in the early 1960s with then-USGA czar (and future Tour Commissioner) Joe Dey. When Beman became Commissioner in 1974, he sought to establish a home course for the Tour pros, as well as a tournament to stand alongside the traditional four majors. Beman chose Pete Dye to execute his vision, because he had liked what Dye had accomplished on similarly flat, marshy land at Harbour Town.
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8. O, Canada: To hone the “stadium golf” concept, Pete Dye and wife Alice traveled up to Toronto to see Glen Abbey, site of the Canadian Open. Jack Nicklaus, Dye’s design consultant at Harbour Town, created Glen Abbey in 1976 and it was the first course to have specially constructed spectator mounds.
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9. Wallowing in the Muck: The huge mounds at TPC Sawgrass weren’t planned, they simply evolved, says Dye. “The more muck I dug up, the higher the mounds became, but to our pleasant surprise, they looked great. We planned on ten- to twelve-foot-high mounds, but soon they approached thirty to forty feet and provided an amphitheater effect that really embellished the course.”
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10. What’s in a Name?: The Players Championship event was known as the Tournament Players Championship from 1974 until 1988. The original name was a holdover from the days where Tour players and PGA Club pros were lumped together in one organization. The host facility was known as TPC at Sawgrass until 2007, when it dropped the “at.” Around the same time, the Stadium course morphed to the PLAYERS Stadium course.
11 of 13 David Walberg / Sports Illustrated
11. Numbers Game: The scariest hole in golf, the par-3 17th, is nowhere near the toughest on the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium course. According to the scorecard, the 442-yard, par-4 7th is the Number 1 handicap hole. For the PGA Tour pros, the 462-yard, par-4 18th (pictured) played toughest in 2013, with a stroke average of 4.393.
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12. Jerry Pate’s Second Splash: Most PGA Tour fans know that when Jerry Pate captured the inaugural Players Championship contested at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, he celebrated by plunging into the greenside lake at 18, dragging architect Pete Dye and Commissioner Deane Beman in with him. This stunt wasn’t new; Pate had celebrated breaking a three-year victory drought the year before at Memphis by diving into the water.
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13. One George Washington: Commissioner Deane Beman’s idea for establishing a permanent home for the PGA Tour and its flagship Players Championship met resistance every step of the way. Eventually, brothers Paul and Jerome Fletcher bought into the dream, believing that the PGA Tour presence would enhance their coastal land holdings. They sold the 415-acre property that became the TPC Sawgrass to Beman and the PGA Tour -- for $1.