TPC Sawgrass – The Ultimate Spectator Course
After 12 years in May, The Players Championship returned in 2019 to its original March roots. The results were spectacular, with Rory McIlroy securing his first win at TPC Sawgrass on St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the Northern Irishman and world number one, returns to the event looking to become the first player to successfully defend the title. With a huge lineup of the world’s best golfers preparing to tee off tomorrow, including Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka and more, we’re taking a look at what makes TPC Sawgrass one of the PGA Tour’s best tournament spots.
In the late 1970s then commissioner of the PGA Tour, Deane Beman, began searching for the perfect permanent home for The Players Championship. When the owners of the Sawgrass Country Club declined to sell, Beman took his vision elsewhere and bought 417 acres of swampland from property developers Paul and Jerome Fletcher for just $1.
“The first time I saw this piece of property, you went in at your own peril,” Beman recalled to Golf.com in 2008.
But with the help of legendary course designers Pete and Alice Dye, Beman’s vision of a Tournament Players Club soon came to fruition. The first of now more than 30 TPC courses to be built, Sawgrass is an absolute vision of perfection for anyone who loves the game.
The spectator was given top billing during the design process, with the Dye’s paying particular attention to giving fans the best possible views of the golf course. Sawgrass was the first “stadium course” design, boasting strategically placed viewing areas around different tees and greens plus the capacity to host an astounding 36,000 fans.
Beyond the spectator angle, the vision for TPC Sawgrass was a balanced course that didn’t favour one particular player or style of play. No two consecutive holes play in the same direction, making it a true challenge for even the most seasoned of golfers.
The first Players Championship tournament was held at TPC Sawgrass in 1982 and many players were less than complimentary about its unique design. The world’s top players at the time, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Lee Trevino all missed the cut. J.C. Snead reckoned the course was “90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck.” By the next year, Dye had tweaked some features of the course, making the greens less severe and redesigning a few of the bunkers. Leading Ben Crenshaw to declare, “Now it’s a darn good course.”
Ahead of this week’s tournament McIlroy compared a Pete Dye golf course to a beer.
Today, the world’s best players still find TPC Sawgrass a difficult yet amazing golf course to play. As the “unofficial fifth major” on the PGA Tour schedule, The Players is a week both the pros and golf fans look forward to. Although the pros might also fear it just a little bit!
The Real Star of The Players - #17
Perhaps the most recognised hole in all of golf, the par-3 number 17 at TPC Sawgrass has given way to some amazing wins, as well as a few of the most disastrous endings, just ask Sean O’Hair and Sergio Garcia!
The brainchild of Alice Dye, number 17 is surrounded by water on three sides with spectators lining the outer edges. With nothing more than a 78-foot long green with a tiny bunker in front, this is the weekend’s make or break hole. Leading many to observe you don’t win on 17, you lose on it. Or as Luke Donald once put it, “It’s do-or-die.”
With golf being a game of precision, the 17th lends its way to being possibly the most unforgiving hole there is. Hit it too long, water, hit it too short, water, too far to the right, water, too far to the left- you get the picture.
We expect to see a lot of this happening in the next few days:
TPC Sawgrass is the ultimate mind game for even the most seasoned golfer. With a whooping $2.7 million being awarded to the 2020 winner this coming Sunday, you can bet the pressure is on as the players tee off tomorrow. We can’t wait to see how they fare this year on the 17th!