The Fifth Major Starts This Week In Jacksonville – The Players Championship

By Ian John
April 8, 2022

We are heading towards the first Major of the new golf season in April, but before that we have arguably what is the ‘Fifth Major’ of the golfing year taking place at TPC Sawgrass near Jacksonville in Florida; The Players Championship.

This is the first event of a series of five huge tournaments that take place in the next five months. After the Players Championship this week, there is The Masters from Augusta in April, followed by the USPGA Championship in May and then the US Open in June.

Then we head to the United Kingdom to battle it out for The Open Championship in July.

The redesign of the golfing schedule a few years back, which saw The Players Championship move from later in the year back to March and the USPGA moved from September to May, has certainly given the calendar a more streamlined and exciting look, with one huge tournament contested over each of the next five months.

As always, bet365 Sport will be carrying a wide range of bets on the event and there are already early outright winner odds available on the event.

You can also keep right up to date with all the action on the course in real time by following the Bet365 Live Golf Tracker on the site, which also helps you if you are interested in Live In Play betting on the tournament.

And this year, bet365 Sport has confirmed it is offering each way payouts of 1/5 of the stated price on players finishing in the top eight (and ties) in the tournament.

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The Players Championship – A History

The very first Players Championship was held in 1974 in Atlanta and Jack Nicklaus was the inaugural winner of that event. For the first three years, the tournament was played at different venues before it moved to Sawgrass Country Club in 1977.

From then until 1981, Sawgrass CC hosted the event, but by 1982, a new course had been designed specifically for the tournament, The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass became the new home of the tournament and it has remained there every year since.

The most iconic hole at Sawgrass remains the 17th hole. A short par three but one that sees an island green that is surrounded by water. Pete Dye’s original design wasn’t for this to be the case, but the fact that the land was so sandy in this part of the course allowed him to alter the design to expand the lake (which was to cover one side of the green) to encircle it almost completely.

Nowadays, the hole is arguably one of the most famous in golf and if the wind blows, it can be one that decides the outcome of the tournament, even if it measures just 137 yards in length.

The tournament is also famous for being the largest in terms of prize money each year and 2022’s Players Championship will see the prize pool expanded further to a huge $20,000,000, of which $3,600,000 will go to the winner on Sunday.

Only one player, Jack Nicklaus, has won The Players Championship three times and it has never seen a champion player land back-to-back wins in the event.

It is because of how strong the field is, how difficult the tournament is to win and the huge prize money on offer that has led to this tournament becoming the unofficial ‘fifth Major’ on the tour.

The Players Championship – Multiple Winners

  • 3 Wins – Jack Nicklaus (1974, 1976, 1978)
  • 2 Wins – Fred Couples (1984, 1996), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Davis Love III (1992, 2003), Tiger Woods (2001, 2013)

The Players Championship – Factfile

The first non-American winner was Scotland’s Sandy Lyle, who won a playoff in 1987 against Jeff Sluman.

Only five European-based players have won the tournament, Lyle, plus Spaniard Sergio Garcia (2008), Swede Henrik Stenson (2009), German Martin Kaymer (2014) and most recently Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (2019).

There have been a number of winners from the rest of the world however with Kim Si Woo (S.Korea), Jason Day (Aus), KJ Choi (S.Korea), Tim Clarke (S.Af), Stephen Ames (Can), Adam Scott (Aus), Craig Perks (Aus), Steve Elkington (Aus), Greg Norman (Aus) and Nick Price (Zim) all landing victory in the event.

No English player has ever won the tournament, though Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter (twice), Luke Donald and Nick Faldo have all finished as runners up in the tournament.

He course record is 63, which has been scored by five players – Fred Couples (1992), Greg Norman (1994), Roberto Castro (2013), Martin Kaymer (2014) and Hideki Matsuyama in the first round of the cancelled 2020 tournament.

Greg Norman’s 24-under-par score in 1994 is the lowest score to win the tournament, however Steve Elkington’s seven-stroke victory in 1997 is the largest margin of victory in the tournament’s history.

Justin Thomas is the defending champion having beaten Lee Westwood by one stroke in the 2021 Players Championship.

In the 2007 tournament, during the opening round, gusting winds made playing the island 17th hole incredibly difficult and of the 144 players, 50 saw their tee-shots land in the water, setting a new record for the most balls in the water in a single round in the tournament (surpassing the 45 that was set in 2000).

In 1998, Brad Fabel’s tee shot at the 17th found the green, but after his ball came to rest a seagull picked it up and flew off with it before dropping it into the lake. Fabel could replace the ball without penalty.

In 1982, the new Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was heavily criticised by players for being unplayable. Ben Crenshaw called it a “Star Wars golf course designed by Darth Vader) and JC Snead called the course “90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck”.

However, Pete Dye tweaked the course in readiness for the 1983 event after which Ben Crenshaw approved of the improvements stating “Now it’s a darn good golf course.”

Around 100,000 balls are retrieved from the water around the 17th Green every year, according to estimations from the course, from both professionals and amateur golfers.

Who Will Win This Year’s Event?

A look at the betting with bet365 reveals that three players are joint-favourites for the event, with Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa all rated as 14/1 chances to win it.

There are just six more players rated as 30/1 chances or better in the field and they are Rory McIlroy (18/1), Viktor Hovland (20/1), Patrick Cantlay (22/1), Scottie Scheffler (25/1), Xander Schauffele (28/1) and Hideki Matsuyama (30/1).

However, I feel Brooks Koepke is overdue a good tournament showing and at 40/1, the American would be my pick here along with the super-consistent Collin Morikawa at 14/1.

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