A truly golden jubilee to mark 50 Years of THE PLAYERS -
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A truly golden jubilee to mark 50 Years of THE PLAYERS

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – MARCH 12: Scottie Scheffler poses with the tournament trophy after winning THE PLAYERS Championship at Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 12, 2023 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/PGA TOUR via Getty Images).

Khel Today Bureau 

Florida, US: This week the PGA Tour players come together for an event that is very aptly called THE PLAYERS. Yet, the players know it is much more than that. It is the flagship event of the world’s biggest and most coveted Tour.

All the game’s elite, barring a few names missing, will be at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for the 50th anniversary of the event from March 14-17.

The man trying to hold onto the lovely Trophy will be Scottie Scheffler, who won last week, and is very rightly so the World No. 1 in the world. Winner of eight PGA Tour titles, he has one each of the Masters Green Jacket and the PLAYERS Trophy. He wants more.

Last week Scheffler won the Cognizant Classic. It was his first regular PGA Tour win after a gap of 51 weeks. However, in between he did take the Hero World Challenge, an event hosted by Tiger Woods.

THE PLAYERS Championship will have  plenty of reasons to celebrate. Not only for the purse of US$25 million purse, or the strength of a field that will include a huge majority of the top 100 players in the world, or the rousing cheers of tens of thousands of fans. No, the celebration will also extend to memories that have built this championship into the sports spectacle that it is.

Go back, for instance, to the debut of THE PLAYERS at Atlanta Country Club in 1974. Could there have been any better way to introduce what you wanted to be a marquee event than to have Jack Nicklaus triumph? Oh, and to win it again in ’76 and ’78, as Nicklaus did, then to be followed in succession by Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino, and Raymond Floyd?

A proverbial march of Hall of Famers, those names. But such a trend has continued throughout a 50-year history that has done what the best tournaments do: Produce stalwart and legendary names, players who need no introduction.

To wit, when it comes to recent history, there is this with THE PLAYERS – six of the last 10 winners have at one time or another been world No. 1 and one could make a case for Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Scottie Scheffler – three of the last four winners – someday earning a World Golf Hall of Fame status.

Marvelous bookends, Nicklaus and Scheffler, winners of the first and most recent PLAYERS, respectively.

Nicklaus shot 272 in 1974, Scheffler totalled 271 a year ago, which indicates that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Except the course because whereas Nicklaus 50 years ago won at Atlanta Country Club, Scheffler triumphed a year ago at what is arguably among the most hallowed cathedrals in golf.

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in 1982 became the fifth course to host THE PLAYERS and there’s two generations of golf fans who would tell you that there are two courses they know intimately, thanks to televised golf – Augusta National and TPC Sawgrass.

What a beginning TPC Sawgrass had for itself. Considered a diabolical and penal challenge by famed architect Pete Dye, the course with the iconic island-green par-3 17th is such a daunting challenge that the 1982 winner, Jerry Pate, became obsessed with it.

“I wasn’t playing against Bruce (Lietzke) and Brad (Bryant). I kept telling my caddie, ‘We gotta beat Pete (Dye),” Pate recalled a few years ago. “We gotta beat the course, not the scoreboard.”

Closing with 67 for 8-under 280, Pate added a phenomenal win to a resume that already included a U.S. Open triumph and was promptly celebrated in a fitting style. He pushed Dye and then PGA TOUR Commissioner Deane Beman into a big pond that protects the left side of the 18th hole.

Fifty years later, TPC Sawgrass is as good as it gets – and if you need to check all the boxes, you sharpen your pencil when you sing the praises of The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass it’s a quick check list:

As for the unforgettable hole? It is the island-green 17th where Pate in 1982 played the hole in 2-2-2.

The famous roll call of winners includes Nicklaus, Wadkins, Floyd, Spieth, Thomas, and Scheffler, Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Davis Love, Hal Sutton, David Duval, K.J. Choi, Jason Day and Adam Scott, all have their names on the walls at TPC Sawgrass.

Consider that a sweep of what you have always been told you must have to be a championship course of historic lengths – history, quality winners, unforgettable list of winners – are in TPC Sawgrass’ corner.

From the very beginning, the island-green 17th stole the headlines. But it was written at the debut of TPC Sawgrass 50 years ago and is still true today, that “the 17th is only one jewel in the course Pete Dye designed for the Tournament Players Association,” according to Shav Glick of the Los Angeles Times.

But while TPC Sawgrass and its series of waste bunkers and low-hanging tree branches that ask you to shape your shots is prominent in the greatness of THE PLAYERS Championship, what remains the most significant ingredient is the field.

Year after year, THE PLAYERS bring you the class of professional golf, from the brightest young stars to the most savvy of polished veterans. Year after year, THE PLAYERS has represented the best in professional golf, a championship without a weakness.

“It is special to be able to win a championship like this,” said Woods back in 2001 when he was riding a wave of success like the game had never seen. All the heralded titles had fallen his way but this triumph at TPC Sawgrass was counted as special as any of them for a sound reason.

It’s a recipe that has stood the test of time and only gets better.

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