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THE PLAYERS staff compiled a list, with the help of the PGA TOUR's Vice President of Communications Tom Alter, which highlights the top 20 moments in THE PLAYERS history.
2003 – The final round of the ’03 PLAYERS was played in severe cold and windy conditions. Davis Love III responded with the round of his life. After hitting his tee shot into the trees on the 16th hole, Love capped off his brilliant play by hooking his approach shot out of the trees, over the water and onto the par 5 in two shots for an unlikely eagle en route to his second PLAYERS triumph.
2004 – Adam Scott seemed destined for greatness. At only 23 years of age, the Australian stood in the 18th fairway with a two-shot lead about to become THE PLAYERS’ youngest champion. But when he pulled a 3-iron into the pond left of the green and left his chip shot 10 feet short of the hole, he faced the most dramatic moment of his young career. And he delivered by pouring in his bogey putt to secure a one-shot victory.
1988 – Jacksonville’s hometown hero Mark McCumber enjoyed a victory lap at the Stadium Course. He posted rounds of 67-69 on the weekend for an easy four-shot victory, then breaks into tears as he walks up 18 when he sees a sign proclaiming him as “Jacksonville’s own.”
2008 – Sergio Garcia bounced back from a runner-up finish the year before at THE PLAYERS to join a sudden-death playoff with Paul Goydos. For the first time in tournament history, the playoff began at the fame No. 17. Goydos hit first – unfortunately, into the water. Instead of playing safe, Garcia hit to within 5 feet to claim the biggest win of his career.
1985 – Nobody ever hit the ball straighter than Calvin Peete. His precision paid off with five birdies over the final 10 holes, including a tap-in at No. 17 that opened a three-shot lead. When he walked up the fairway at No. 18, the first African-American to win THE PLAYERS doffed his cap to the cheering crowd; later, he said he was thinking, “I have reached the mountain top.”
2001 – Vijay Singh was making a final-round charge to catch Tiger Woods when his second shot at the par-5 16th came to rest against the collar of the green. He decided he couldn’t really putt it nor chip it. So he flipped his putter on its side and used the toe to nudge the ball toward the hole – and in for a remarkable eagle. He finished in second place, just one shot back.
1987 – Jeff Sluman sank a long birdie at the final hole to force the first sudden-death playoff at TPC Sawgrass. On the second extra hole (the par-3 17th), Sluman faced a short birdie putt to beat Sandy Lyle. But out of nowhere, a fan dove into the water surrounding the island green. A shaken Sluman backed away from the putt and then missed. Lyle won the title one hole later.
1993 – Nick Price was on cusp of becoming the No. 1 player in the world. A win at THE PLAYERS would go a long way to help that cause; however, on the short-but-demanding par-4 4th hole, Price’s tee shot came to rest on the lip of a fairway bunker. With one foot in the bunker, Price took a baseball swing and hit the ball within a foot for a tap-in birdie. He later described it as “the greatest shot of my life.” He won by five strokes.
2014 – When Martin Kaymer opened with a record-tying 63 and backed it up with solid rounds of 69 and 72, the 29-year-old German probably never imagined that he’d need to drain a bending, sidehill 28-foot putt for par at the famed 17th hole to hold onto the lead. But after a thunderstorm halted play late Sunday, Kaymer returned to the course and quickly made a double bogey at the 15th hole to see his comfortable lead drop to one stroke. Martin delivered one of the most clutch putts in championship history, and closed the deal in the darkening skies with another up and down at 18 to win. The following month, Kaymer became the first player in history to win THE PLAYERS and the U.S. Open in the same year.
1999 – Jacksonville’s own David Duval had a golden opportunity to win the biggest championship of his career, but his ball was bunkered near the 9th green and his lead was in jeopardy. Instead of losing the lead and perhaps the tournament, Duval holed the bunker shot, won THE PLAYERS and ascended to No. 1 in the world. And he was cheered on by his father Bob from his own winner’s press conference on the Champions Tour. Today, they remain the only father-son duo to win on the Champions Tour and PGA TOUR in the same week.
2013 – Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia – both former winners of THE PLAYERS – have been rivals for their entire careers. On Sunday, they were tied for the lead headed into the par-3 17th hole. Garcia watched from the tee while Woods made a routine par, but then Sergio dumped his tee shot into the water… twice. Tiger striped a drive on 18 to set up another clutch par en route to his second PLAYERS championship.
1999 – There have been six holes-in-one at No. 17 during THE PLAYERS and more than 9,000 pars on the island green in tournament history. But two-time winner Fred Couples combined the best of both worlds when, after dumping his tee shot in the water, he re-teed and holed his third shot on the fly for a hole-in-three, the most dramatic par in tournament history.
1994 – While together on a golf course design project, Greg Norman told Pete Dye that he was going to chew up TPC Sawgrass, and he didn’t disappoint. The Shark opened with a course-record 63 and followed with three straight rounds of 67 to shatter the tournament record at 24-under par. Before he tapped in to win, playing competitor Fuzzy Zoeller wiped the brow of the red-hot Norman with a towel.
Fuzzy Zoeller famously wipes the sweat from Norman's forehead before he tapped in to win the 1994 PLAYERS Championship and set the tournament record at 24-under par. (J.D. Cuban/Getty Images)
2015 - Rickie Fowler sets a PLAYERS record by playing the final four holes in 5-under par, needing only 11 strokes. Fowler was six shots behind as he stood on the 13th green facing a birdie putt. Fowler made the difficult putt and it sparked a comeback that saw Fowler force a playoff by going 6-under par on his final six holes. Fowler finished off arguably one of the greatest comebacks in PGA TOUR history by winning THE PLAYERS' first 3-hole aggregate playoff, in which he birdied the 17th hole twice more -- three times in less than two hours -- to win his first PLAYERS Championship.
2000 – Paired together for a Monday finish, Tiger Woods eagled the 16th hole to pull within one shot of Hal Sutton. Sutton held onto that slim margin as they headed to the demanding 18th hole. After a perfect drive, Sutton hit a 5-iron toward the final green, and implored: “Be the right club… be the right club today! YES!!” Woods acknowledged Sutton’s clutch shot with a thumbs up. Sutton held off Woods to win his second PLAYERS.
2002 – Not too many golf fans had heard of Craig Perks before the 2002 PLAYERS. Now, nobody will ever forget how Perks finished the tournament; looking for his first TOUR title, he chipped in for eagle at 16, sank a long birdie putt at 17 and then chipped in for a par at 18. Traditionally, the previous year’s PLAYERS winner hands the trophy to the next champion. An impressed Tiger Woods handed the trophy to Perks and said, “You’re unbelievable.”
2007 – In the third round, Phil Mickelson’s tee shot at the 10th hole found a fairway bunker. His only shot to the green was through a small gap in the trees. The leader couldn’t win the tournament with this one shot, but he could lose it. So “Phil the Thrill” threaded his approach shot through the trees and onto the green. Climbing out of the bunker, he said to his caddie Jim “Bones” McKay, “I didn’t want to tell you what I was doing.” Mickelson went on to win the first PLAYERS in May by two shots.
1998 – After much effort, a seagull picks up the ball of Brad Fabel from the 17th green. With the crowd cheering it on, the seagull flies off with the ball, but, like so many golfers, drops it into the water.
1982 – The Tournament Players Championship moves to its new, permanent home: TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course. The course is unique, beautiful, challenging and fan-friendly. Jerry Pate hit a fabulous 5-iron (with an orange ball) to within 3 feet to seal the victory. Then Pate enjoyed an extraordinary celebration; he threw then-PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman and course designer Pete Dye into the pond near the 18th green during the awards ceremony, and dove into the pond himself for an unprecedented victory lap.
2001 – Tiger Woods climbed into THE PLAYERS lead with an eagle and five birdies during the third round, but he faced a seemingly-impossible birdie try at the 17th green. Woods stalked his triple-breaking, downhill, lightning-fast putt that no other player had come close to making. As soon as he hit it, Gary Koch told the NBC audience around the world that Woods’ effort was “better than most.” Koch kept repeating the phrase…until the ball dropped in the hole and the crowd exploded. That one stroke – which turned out to be Woods’ margin of victory – was indeed “better than most!”
Let us know what you think of the list and make sure to witness history again in May when THE PLAYERS returns to the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
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