May 8 2013
Matt Kuchar's RIFE putter paved the way to the 2012 PLAYERS Championship. (Getty Images)
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM Equipment Insider
Professional golfers will tell you every club in the bag plays an important role during a tournament.
But as we've seen over the years at THE PLAYERS Championship, there's usually one club in the bag — it could be a hot putter or pinpoint driver — that separates the winner from the rest of the field.
Here's a look back at the key club in the bag for the last five PLAYERS Championship winners.
2012 -- Matt Kuchar / RIFE Island Series Barbados belly putter: Holding a three-shot lead over with three holes to play, Kuchar watched from the fairway on the par-5 16th as Fowler rolled in his second straight birdie on the par-3 17th to cut the lead to two shots.
Needing a birdie putt to maintain his cushion, Kuchar hit his approach shot to 15 feet and calmly rolled in the putt with a RIFE Island Series Barbados belly putter he started working with at the beginning of the tournament.
“We made Matt a brand new Barbados with a special bend and bore angle that would fit his putting style better," said Jim Barfield, RIFE's V.P. of Tour Operations. “It has 5 degrees of loft and a 70 degree lie angle. I joked with Matt’s dad on Monday and said it was a “magic putter” that we put together for him.”
The putter certainly felt like a magic wand in Kuchar's hands. He finished the week second in strokes gained-putting, fifth in putts per round (27.5 avg.) and fifth in putts per GIR (1.642 avg.) with the new putter en route to the biggest victory of his professional career.
2011 -- K.J. Choi / TaylorMade R11 (9 degrees; Matrix Ozik XCON F6M2 shaft) driver: The 2011 PLAYERS Championship will be remembered for the putt David Toms missed on the first playoff hole, but that shouldn't take away from K.J. Choi's impressive driving display during the tournament.
Choi only recorded six bogeys (and one double bogey) and ranked T10 in driving accuracy en route to his only PLAYERS Championship title. Following the win, he donated the R11 to the tournament.
2010 -- Tim Clark / Cleveland CG14 (60 degrees) wedge: Three shots back with 10 holes to play, Clark reeled off four straight birdies to vault into the lead.
A long bunker shot on the par-5 11th was one of the most important during that stretch. Clark, who was trying to keep the momentum going at a critical juncture in the tournament, blasted the ball out with a 60-degree Cleveland CG14 wedge to five feet and made the birdie putt.
"I don't mind bunker shots," Clark said following his win, "so I was quite happy if it went over the back into that bunker. I knew I'd be playing back into the wind and would probably have enough green to play the shot.
The bunker shot was tame compared to some of the putts Clark rolled in late in the round, but it allowed the South African to keep his birdie streak alive.
2009 -- Henrik Stenson / Yes! putter (Donna model): Stenson's Donna model Yes! putter wasn't red-hot the entire week — he needed 33 putts and three-putted twice on the back nine during the third round — but when the Swede needed the putter most, it came through on Sunday afternoon.
Stenson posted a bogey-free 6-under 66 and didn't miss inside five feet during the final round of the 2009 PLAYERS Championship. The putter Stenson used that week was a 355-gram model that featured a stainless-steel body with an aircraft-grade-aluminum face.
2008 -- Sergio Garcia / TaylorMade Tour Burner (9 degrees) driver: Garcia never got the putter going during the 2008 PLAYERS Championship, finishing the week T69 in putts per round.
He was, however, nearly flawless off the tee. Garcia was first in driving accuracy and greens in regulation for the week and managed to defeat Paul Goydos on the first playoff hole.
Making putts at TPC Sawgrass is key, but as Sergio Garcia learned that week, keeping the ball in play on the tight layout is just as important. It shouldn't come as a surprise that Garcia donated his TaylorMade Tour Burner driver to the tournament following his victory.