This week, the PGA Tour’s THE PLAYERS Championship takes place in Ponte Vedra Beach. The event is one of the biggest in golf, and also routinely captures the attention of the Jacksonville area when it comes to town.
While the event tends to dominate local headlines each year, there may still be some of us who are less familiar with the event, or planning to watch for the first time this year. In honor of the event teeing off tomorrow, here are five things you should definitely know about this year’s tournament.
TPC @ PVB
The tournament has been held in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach since 1977.
For its first few years here, TPC was held at the prestigious Sawgrass Country Club. Once it became clear that the Ponte Vedra area would be the permanent location of the tournament, a course was constructed adjacent to the club for the specific purpose of hosting the tournament each year.
Opening in 1980 and first hosting the tournament in 1982, the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass also acts as the host of the PGA Tour’s headquarters. It features two courses, with the Stadium Course acting as the official TPC venue. The course is considered among the most challenging in the world.
The presence of the tour has led to the southeastern First Coast area becoming a mecca for the golfing world. The World Golf Village, featuring the World Golf Hall of Fame, resides between Jacksonville and St. Augustine in St. Johns County. It also features a restaurant owned by actor Bill Murray and his brothers.
The Defending Champ
Last year’s champion, 27-year-old Jupiter, FL resident Rickie Fowler, will return this year in an attempt to defend his title. The historical odds will be stacked against him, though, as no one has ever won TPC two years in a row.
Fowler won the tournament last year in exciting fashion as a result of a sudden-death playoff round with Kevin Kisner. Fowler trailed late in the tournament but made an improbable comeback on the final few holes. He has three career PGA Tour wins, including TPC.
Fowler is known for bucking the “country club” stereotype of golfers; his outfits are often flashy, and he has two visible tattoos. This in combination with his often-exciting play has made him among the more interesting golfers to follow in recent years.
A Big Payday
TPC is noted for usually having the largest prize pool in all of golf. In recent years other major tournaments have bumped up their purses in an attempt to catch up; TPC is now tied with the PGA Championship for the largest purse.
For the past two years, the purse has been valued at $10 million. For his victory last year, Rickie Fowler took home $1.8 million. The two runners-up, Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia, won $880,000 each. German golfer Martin Kaymer won the same amount as Fowler for his 2014 victory.
This year, the purse will grow to $10.5 million. The winner is expected to take home $1.89 million.
Anything Can Happen
One of the most exciting aspects of TPC is its unpredictability. As mentioned, no one has won the tournament twice in a row, meaning a new winner is more than likely each year. Additionally, three of the previous ten tournaments have ended in a playoff. In the tournament’s 42-year history, it has been decided by a playoff 5 times, and by just one stroke 15 times.
The winner is usually near-impossible to predict. The winners list features a mix of big names (Woods, Nicklaus, Mickelson) and relative unknowns.
The tournament has produced its share of memorable moments over the years. In the tournament’s first year at the Stadium Course, winner Jerry Pate celebrated by throwing the course architect and the PGA Tour commissioner into the nearby pond, then jumping in himself. Back in 1998, a seagull came onto the green and stole a ball from the 17th hole, accidentally dropping it into the water as it took off. Just the other day, Greg Owen stripped down to his underwear and dove into the water to save a baby bird from drowning.
As such, perhaps the only thing that can be said for sure about TPC is that nothing can really be said for sure. You’ll just have to tune in, or show up, to see what happens.