Guide To The Players Championship
The PGA Tour continues its month-long residence in Florida with the return of the Players Championship from 14th March. Golf’s ‘fifth Major’ is one of the most prestigious and eagerly awaited events in the calendar and has produced some of the most memorable moments in the game during its illustrious history.
TPC Sawgrass is the venue once more. The home of the iconic ‘island green’ is one of the most famous golf courses in the world and is set to stage its 37th edition of the Players Championship, a tournament which began in 1974.
The field for the Players Championship is arguably the strongest in professional golf. But the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a tough nut to crack and history suggests this is a layout which polarises between those who love it and those who hate it. Plenty of stars have struggled to get to grips with the place which means scouring the odds to pick a winner requires more than simply backing the big names.
A Brief History Of The Players Championship
The Players Championship was always intended to be a tournament which would rival golf’s Majors in terms of profile and prestige.
Luring the world’s best golfers with a huge prize purse certainly helped, but so too has the sheer drama which has unfolded down the years. But perhaps the event’s unofficial status as the ‘fifth Major’ owes as much to the domineering presence of the greatest golfer who ever lived early in its history.
When Jack Nicklaus lifted the inaugural trophy in 1974, he did so having already won 12 of his 18 career Major titles. The Golden Bear won the Players in every other year until 1978 and truly helped attract attention to this new tournament.
After a nomadic early life, the Players found a permanent home in 1982 at the newly constructed TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The showpiece Stadium Course was the first true golf course to be constructed with the spectator experience in mind as much as the technical aspects of the layout.
Unlike three of the four Majors which rotate around venues, much of the success of the Players has been down to the fact it stays in the same spot each year during Florida’s prime weather season. This year’s edition marks the end of a 12-year long switch to May, which never really seemed to go down well with anyone. From 2019, the Players is now back in its traditional March berth.
The Stadium Course
For many, their first introduction to TPC Sawgrass would have been as a kid playing the course on a video game console. The venue is visually stunning and combines plenty of water and sand with narrow fairways and small challenging greens.
Almost every adjective has been applied to TPC Sawgrass by players who’ve hacked, chipped and putted their way around its various tests. From ‘dramatic’ to ‘frightening’ to ‘aggravating’ and ‘thrilling’, Sawgrass poses a unique trial with no one type of golfer ever truly dominant. Yes, you need to be able to hit it far, but precision and nerve are equally as important.
The final six holes at Sawgrass guarantee that every round concludes to a climax. The famous ‘island green’ 17th ensures a nerve-jangling build-up to the tough-as-they-come 18th. No lead is every truly safe at the Players.
Who’s In The Field And Who To Back
The Players’ field consists of 144 players with qualification routes aplenty to ensure the very best are invited to Ponte Vedra Beach. The top 50 from the world rankings are included and winners of recent PGA Tour events qualify, as do the top 125 from the FedEx Cup points list. Add to them Major championship winners from the past five years, previous Players champions and World Golf Championship title holders and the organisers can ensure they’ve not missed anyone who’s at the top of their game.
The Players always throws up some interesting quirks which might sway your picks in the betting. Notably, 7 foreigners have won the Players since 2008. Of the top 22 finishers from last year, only 7 currently make up the world ranked top 20. In 2017 it was even more curious with just one of those occupying a top 24 spot managing a top 10 finish.
And big names don’t always do so well. Rory McIlroy didn’t manage to break par at TPC Sawgrass until his fourth Players appearance. The Northern Irishman has never managed a better than T12 finish. Dustin Johnson managed T17 at last year’s event but he’s only managed to break 70 five times in 34 rounds. Previous winners have patchy records too - there were 12 years between Tiger Woods’ two wins and players who make their debuts seem to be overawed by either the course or the occasion - or both.
One thing is sure, the Players Championship is great fun and one of the best golfing events in the season to browse the golf betting odds in a bid to pick a winner. Bet UK’s online sportsbook has the latest Players Championship betting odds, as well as odds for all PGA Tour Events.