The Players Has Arrived

Posted: May 10, 2012 in Players Championship
Tags: , , ,

The Players on the Stadium Course turns 30 this year and it’s never looked better.  And what’s even better than that: the players finally appreciate The Players.

To understand how far this tournament has come you need to know how unpromising it looked back in 1982 when former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman gave birth to what he called the 5th major championship.

Most of the players hated it. The media mocked it. The fans were indifferent.


The original Stadium Course design by Pete Dye was criticized by the pro golfers as being Goofy Golf and unfair. They all but promised to boycott the tournament and few gave it any respect much less thinking of it as a 5th major. Beman kept screaming it was the Tour’s biggest tournament, its richest tournament and it was played on the Tour’s home course. “It is YOUR championship” felt on deaf ears.

Now, 30 years later, few even bring up the “5th major” topic, but they talk about the tournament and the course with reverence. The course has been reworked extensively and is now considered one of the best tests of golf on the planet. The players talk about how fair it is. They talk about how it requires using nearly every club in the bag instead of being a rip-and-grip layout. They call it a thinking man’s course.

They understand The Players is the epitome of what a PGA Tour tournament is supposed to be.

Many of the golfers in this year’s tournament weren’t even born when Jerry Pate, using an orange ball, won the tournament in 1982. What they do know about the first year is that Pate, Beman and Dye all took a dive into the alligator-infested lake that borders the left side of the 18th hole. That is now a well known part of golf lore.

Today’s players respect the list of past champions and appreciate how varied the list is, ranging from superstars such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to the longest of longshots, Craig Perks; from sluggers such as Greg Norman, Fred Couples and Davis Love to shotmakers such as Calvin Peete, Fred Funk and K.J. Choi; ranging from youngsters such as Adam Scott to old-timers such as Funk. I didn’t talk to or hear one player in this year’s field offer anything but glowing comments about The Players, a remarkable fact considering how Tour players are known to whine about everything from the color of their courtesy car to the free food in the locker room.

The Players has come a long way. Will it ever be the 5th major? Probably not. Golf is a sport that fights change and loves tradition. But it has arrived to the point where calling it The Players is an appropriate and accepted name by all.


  1. Steve D says:

    Wasn’t the original players played at Sawgrass? Or was it called something else then?

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