In a dynamic conclusion to five days of bad weather and high drama, Smith one-putted eight of his last nine holes with his pure stroke and delivered one of the gutsiest shots of his career for the cushion he needed to win.
Simpson’s record-setting streak continued on moving day, where he fired a 68 to tie the 54-hole scoring record and extend his lead to seven strokes, the largest 54-hole lead in THE PLAYERS history. Simpson had not only conquered the Stadium Course; he had outplayed the best field in the game.
When THE PLAYERS folklore is circulated, Fowler at the island-green 17th will resonate loudly. He birdied it in regulation, then again in the playoff (as did Kisner). Now a sudden death back at 17, Fowler for a third time in less than an hour stuffed his shot within 7 feet, made his third birdie, and prevailed when Kisner missed. (For the week, Fowler birdied 17 five out of six times.)
When one final par putt fell, a slippery 3 ½-footer on 18, Kaymer with a 71 was done at 13-under 275, one better than hard-charging Jim Furyk (66).
It was Woods’ 78th career win, but more notable was this: He became just the sixth player with at least two wins in THE PLAYERS.
With water everywhere at 16-17-18, Kuchar needed the “What, Me Worry?” persona like never before. And he delivered: A birdie at 16 put him back up by three, a bogey at 17 hardly crushed his chances, a par at 18 for a round of 70 and at 13-under 275 he won by two over a foursome of talented names (Fowler, Laird, Ben Curtis and Zach Johnson).
Choi, 40, and Toms, 44, each shot 2-under 70, but the closing swings of momentum were memorable — a bogey for Toms at 16, a birdie for Choi at 17, a birdie for Toms at 18. The three-putt bogey by Toms at the island-green 17th in the playoff provided the clinching drama.
Clark had piled up massive amounts of prize money without winning, making him sort of a trivia answer. But thanks to a perfect storm — third-round leader Lee Westwood shot a closing 74 and his closest pursuers, Robert Allenby and Lucas Glover had 70s — Clark put on a mid-round blitz of five birdies in six holes, shot 67, and claimed the $1.71 million prize.
Few have risen to the occasion at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass quite like the Swede did that day. He made six birdies and recorded the only bogey-free fourth round, matched the low score of the day, and made a five-stroke deficit evaporate.
Warm and blustery winds moved wildly and indiscriminately throughout THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, but that was nothing compared to the haphazard dash made by thousands of fans after the final hole of regulation at THE PLAYERS Championship 2008.
Doubt Lefty at your peril, because he’s a fascinating study in determination and he proved that again at the 34th edition of this showcase event on the PGA TOUR. Every world-class player was in attendance, but it was Mickelson who shined brightest as he overtook 26-year-old Sean O’Hair in the final round, the highlight to his three-win season.
His third back-nine 33 of the week gave him the best score of the day, a 5-under 67, and at 14-under 274 he whipped Retief Goosen (69) by six in the 25th go-round for the championship at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
Funk’s fourth-round 71 came on a day when the field average was 76.512. He birdied the par-5 16th to seize the lead, then made a 5-foot putt to save par at 18 and secure a one-stroke win over Luke Donald (76), Scott Verplank (70) and Tom Lehman (66).
A wedge to 10 feet set up his putt for 70 and 12-under 276, good for a one-stroke win. The youngest winner of THE PLAYERS, Scott did it in his debut, no less.
Love was determined to answer critics who felt he had underachieved, despite 15 wins. So, while there was quantity (a $1,170,000 prize), Love embraced quality — golf’s best field and purest test in the 30th anniversary of the showcase event on the PGA TOUR.
Consider March 24, 2004, the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship when Craig Perks left everyone giddy, though speechless and stunned at the same time.
Woods stormed back with a third-round 66 punctuated by a 60-foot birdie putt at the island-green 17th that rode two tiers and broke three times before falling. “Better than most,” was the iconic call by NBC’s Gary Koch, and indeed it might have been as good as anything fans had ever seen.
Consider the closing moments to THE PLAYERS Championship 2000 when Hal Sutton coached his ball toward the final green. “Be the right club,” Sutton said as his 6-iron shot from 179 yards tracked the flagstick. “Be the right club today.”
THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was firm, fast and tough — conditions that suited Duval’s focused personality. He was a kid from Jacksonville Beach. Just a few hours down the Florida coast, Duval’s father, Bob, was in contention at a PGA TOUR Champions tournament.
There were wild cheers for Leonard’s brilliance — with a fourth-round, 5-under 67 to finish at 10-under 278, he won for the third time in nine months, each time overcoming a final-round deficit.
With rounds of 66-69-68-69, Elkington finished at 16-under 272 to establish THE PLAYERS record for margin of victory, seven strokes over Scott Hoch, who stumbled home with a closing 74.
As for Couples, who finished at 18-under 270 to join select company with two wins in THE PLAYERS, this was life at the other end of the golf spectrum: “It was a pretty easy 64.”
Up by two, Janzen showed his heralded grit with up-and-downs from a bunker at the island-green 17th and greenside rough at 18 for 1-under 71 and 5-under 283, one clear of Langer.
A $250,000 purse in 1974 was now $2.5 million and with Norman’s victory, it meant that of the 21 championships played during Beman’s tenure, a future Hall of Famer had won 12 times.
When Price scratched out a win in 1991 and two more in 1992, he felt relieved. But when he put on a clinic at THE PLAYERS Championship 1993, the Zimbabwean knew he had arrived.
Fred Couples had set a course-record 63 Saturday to get within one of Love, but never got closer. This time, THE PLAYERS was truly a Love story.
The Australian was the second foreign-born winner of The PGA TOUR’s showcase event in five years and for a third straight time at THE PLAYERS, the margin of victory was one.
Birdies early (Nos. 2 and 3) and late (island-green 17th) were instrumental for Mudd, then in the midst of his best season. He would also win the TOUR Championship in the fall and finish fifth on the money list in 1990. Six years later, however, Mudd walked away from the game at the age of 36.
Everything about the bottom line to THE PLAYERS Championship 1989 had a consistency to it that made sense. The deepest and toughest field of the year was won by the season’s best player, Tom Kite, leading money-winner ($1.395 million) and Player of the Year.
McCumber had every reason to be emotional after a brilliant performance (65-72-67-69 for 15-under 273) to establish a new 72-hole scoring mark at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
The first playoff at the Stadium Course and the first $1 million purse at THE PLAYERS ended at the next hole with mixed results on putts for par – Jeff Sluman missed his 12-footer, Lyle made his 8-footer. “I have a fairly low heartbeat in those situations,” Lyle said.
Anything can happen over those closing holes; unfortunately for Larry Mize it was all negative, bogeys at 15, 16 and 18 allowing Mahaffey to storm into the winner’s circle by one at 13-under 275.
No one who studied the landscape would have called it a surprise, not with Peete’s uncanny driving ability. It was Peete’s ninth PGA TOUR win since 1982, and no one had won more in that time frame.
What was for Couples, whose syrupy swing authored trips of 71-64-71-71 for 11-under 277 and for the second straight year a 24-year-old earned the game’s richest prize against the best field in golf.
Considered to have been Rookie of the Year in 1982, Sutton used his win at THE PLAYERS to top the money list in 1983 ($426,668) and win Player of the Year honors.
The perfection reached a crescendo at THE PLAYERS Championship 1982 when Pate authored an unforgettable script to usher this showcase event into a new era.
Not only did he take THE PLAYERS prize of $72,000, but Floyd — a winner the week before — earned a $200,000 bonus for having won two straight on the Florida swing.
Coming home in 2-under 70 for a 10-under 278 total, Trevino outshined Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, both of whom shot 73.
In Round 4, conditions were again demanding, but Lanny Wadkins was at his ball-striking best, a closing 72 eclipsed only by Tom Watson’s 71. At 5-under 283, Wadkins beat Tom Watson by five as Lee Trevino faded to a share of fifth with a 79.
Nothing scintillating about his round, Nicklaus conceded, but his smile confirmed that there was everything to like about winning THE PLAYERS for the third time in five years.
Six behind after the first day, the then 27-year-old Hayes, a two-time winner in 1976, shot a second-round 74 in 40 mph winds. Weekend scores of 71-72 left Hayes at 1-over 289, the only over-par score that won a PGA TOUR tournament that season.
The final-round 65 for 19-under 269 quieted the doubters. It also accounted for Nicklaus’ 60th career win and was a fitting way to usher THE PLAYERS into its new home base, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The only man to break 70 each day, Geiberger won for the second time in 1975 and it was the seventh of his 11 career wins.
THE PLAYERS was launched fittingly: The best player won the TOUR’s best tournament against the strongest field.