THE PLAYERS 1981: Raymond Floyd
There was a glistening new home awaiting THE PLAYERS Championship just across A1A, but something old and proven, Raymond Floyd, was committed to giving a rousing send-off to five intriguing years at Sawgrass Country Club.
Not that Floyd, 38, started the final round with thoughts of winning. He was six behind the leader, Barry Jaeckel, and had only returned scores of 72-74-71 at the demanding oceanfront course. Floyd knew he would need something special and also get some help from Jaeckel.
Both scenarios unfolded, Floyd closing with 68 and Jaeckel stumbling home in 74.
But given the space between their tee times, there was an awkward moment for Floyd in the TV booth with the commentators as Jaeckel lined up a 7-foot birdie try to win at the 72nd green.
“It was difficult to be objective,” Floyd conceded.
Jaeckel’s miss putt Curtis Strange and Floyd into the three-way playoff between those at 3-under 285, but the steely-eyed veteran didn’t find it difficult to re-focus. All three missed the green at the playoff hole, the par-3 15th, but only Floyd got it up-and-down.
Career win No. 14 and the first of three Floyd would record in 1981 produced a wave of riches. 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.
Big numbers for a championship that was getting bigger as it headed across the street.