One thing about the golf fan that watches tournaments each week during the season is that we certainly have our favorite events to watch.
For me, The Masters tops my list each season and if you have read my Masters stories, you know why. Others throughout the year I must watch are the U.S. Open, the AT&T, the Waste Management, the Open Championship, and the Memorial.
But there is one for me that trails just the Masters – The Players Championship.
The tournament that takes place this week has often been called the 5th major and truth be told it generates more excitement than the PGA each year. It’s the richest tournament of the PGA Tour season, setting a record this year with a purse of $15 million, with $2.7 million going to the winner.
In fact, the third-place finisher will make more than $1 million. Last year The Masters had a $11.5 million purse with $2.07 million going to the winner.
That’s crazy money and it’s gets even crazier when it all comes down to the final three holes on Sunday. It’s said the players nerves get a little more intense when playing the final holes on a relative mundane course compared to the final three at The Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
I have no problem anointing the final three at Sawgrass as the toughest three finishing holes on the PGA Tour.
The run starts at No. 16, a 523-yard, par 5. It’s a short par 5 and does afford the players the chance to go for the green in two, but a dynamic shot is required to get home.
A fairway wood or long iron will be required for the second shot, which must carry a large lateral water hazard, a maintained bunker and a bulkhead. All these obstacles are to the right of the hole and start 150 yards from the green. To the left, a cluster of oak trees blocks a clear path to the green.
As dicey as that sounds, laying up is an equally as hard shot, as with a cluster of oak trees guarding the front of the green, it makes the landing area extremely narrow.
The slope of the green goes towards the water as another task to handle.
The 17th hole is arguably the most well-known golf hole on the Tour. The 137-yard, par 3 features the legendary island green that has made or broken many a player throughout the years.
The crowd around the hole seems to grow each year – and become rowdier, not at the level at No.16 at the Waste Management, but still impressive. There is a small bunker on the right front of the green, which is a welcomed landing spot compared to the water.
If your nerves were not frayed enough on No. 17, stepping to the tee on the closing hole surely will do it. Reminiscent of the 18th a Pebble Beach, the 18th has water running the length of the hole on the left.
It is a 462-yard, par 4 that has the water to the left and spectator mounds and trees to the right. On the approach, players must contend with a series of grass bunkers to the right, as well as sand and the water to the left.
Watching those three holes throughout the first three days of the tournament is sensational, with Sunday an almost emotional experience.
As you can imagine with the money and prestige involved, the field is loaded. Here are some of the groupings I figure to be entertaining for the first two days! Listings are for the first round, with tee times being EDT.
10th tee: 8:13 a.m. Sungjae Im, Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau; 8:24 a.m. Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama; 8:35 a.m. Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson.
1st tee: 1:29 p.m. Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia; 1:40 p.m. Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffle; 1:51 p.m. Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm; 2:02 p.m. Brandt Snedeker, Jim Furyk, Tommy Fleetwood.
I highly recommend going to www.Theplayers.com for more information. It’s a quality web site befitting the magnitude of the tournament.
By Dennis Miller