The Players Championship is Always a Major Topic of Conversation
I first set foot on this iconic piece of grass 39 years ago, the year Freddy Couples beat Lee Trevino by a shot to win the Players Championship. Then and each year, the passionate debate continues as to whether the PGA TOUR’s premier regular season event should be considered golf’s 5th major event.
Last year’s U.S. Open winner Jon Rahm holds the No. 1 position in the FedExCup standings and the Official World Golf Ranking. He finished tied for 9th here one year ago and has not missed the cut in five previous starts in Ponte Vedra.
This event has long been known for the deepest field in golf, and Rahm, already a 3-time winner this season, does not expect that to change despite the new era the PGA TOUR is ushering in.
“People may think of opting out of some of those designated events, but nobody’s going to opt out of this one. I think there is a difference between strictly World Ranking points, money and FedExCup points and then the legacy that a tournament has. I mean, winning this event is a big step forward to a Hall-of-Fame career. You are The Players Champion. Arguably as close as you can get to being a major champion without officially being one,” said Rahm.
The Players is the first of five events during the 2022-23 season, offering 600 FedExCup points to the winner, along with the four major championships. The field includes 44 of the top 50 players in the Official World.
Now in its 49th year and 41st since the tournament moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982. The purse is $25 million with a winner’s share of $4.5 million – the largest in PGA TOUR history.
Justin Thomas, a two-time Major winner and 2021 Players Champion, was also asked if this tournament is in any way diminished with new designated, elevated events.
“That’s a good question. I don’t think it does. It’s harder to win the Masters than it is this tournament. But this field is stronger than the Masters. But it’s because of the Masters and it’s because of the history it has. I do think that this tournament is harder to win than last week (Bay Hill) because of the way that the courses are set up,” said Thomas.
Thomas holds a scoring average of 70.48 here, the lowest of any player with a minimum of 15 rounds played on record (1983-present). With a win, Thomas would become the seventh player to win multiple titles at The Players and the first to accomplish the feat since Tiger Woods in 2013.
Many fans enjoy the Players even more than some established majors due to the unpredictable outcomes on the island green 17th hole.
Jack Nicklaus won three Players’ trophies during the tournaments’ formative years and before its move here 40 years ago. If it were ever deemed a major like the PGA Championship, Masters Tournament, U.S. and (British) Open Championships, there would be a lot of history to rewrite.
For example, the record books would have to acknowledge Calvin Peete, Jodie Mudd, and Stephen. Ames, K.J. Choi, and many more as major tournament winners.
This long-standing discussion will not be resolved in one direction or another today, so for now, let’s call it what it is. An enormously entertaining, created for television golf tournament that awards a lot of money.
“I think that the magnitude of the event and the golf course that comes with it, when you come down the stretch and you play those final, what is it, we can include 13, depending upon pin position, but 14 through 18 are no joke,” added Rahm. “If you can get through that and become the champion, it’s a very unique tournament and a very unique championship. It is our championship. So, I think that’s what makes it different to some of the other events.”
Australian Cameron Smith was best of the best in winning last year’s Players Championship but is not eligible to defend the title as he opted to leave for the rival LIV Golf Tour soon after his major victory in the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews last summer.
The Players Championship Telecast Schedule: (all times Eastern)
Thursday and Friday
6:45 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on ESPN+
12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on Golf Channel
Saturday and Sunday
7:45 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. on ESPN+
1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on NBC
For more information, please visit: theplayers.com