All jokes about being golf’s fifth major aside, the Players Championship has a knack for delivering each year.
Turnover is the main theme, seeing as no player has ever defended their title at the PGA Tour’s flagship event, which has been held annually at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, since 1982.
In fact, over the last 20 editions of the Players Championship, 20 different winners have hoisted the trophy. Eight past champions are in the field this week with the aim of joining the short, distinguished list of six players who have won the tournament more than once, including Jack Nicklaus, the lone three-time winner.
Jack Nicklaus — 1974, 1976, 1978
Jack Nicklaus won just about everything in the 1970s, including three of the first five Players Championships in 1974, 1976 and 1978.
Not only that, he won all three at three different courses. His first came at the inaugural event at Atlanta Country Club, then he won two years later at Inverrary Country Club’s East Course in Lauderhill, Florida. His third and final Players title came at Sawgrass Country Club near TPC Sawgrass, where the event was held from 1977-1981.
Jack Nicklaus in 1974. (Photo: Paul Vathis/AP)
Fred Couples — 1984, 1996
Boom Boom Couples became the first player to win the TPC Sawgrass double in 1996, 12 years after his first players win in 1984 by just one stroke over Lee Trevino.
Fred Couples holds the trophy after the final round of the 1996 Players Championship at TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Steve Elkington — 1991, 1997
A year after Couples, Elkington became the third player to win the flagship event more than once with his win in 1997, where he finished a tournament-record seven shots clear of the field.
The six years between Elkington’s titles is also the shortest time span between wins since the event moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982.
Steve Elkington hits the ball during the Players’ Championship at the TPC at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo: Andy Lyons/Allsport)
Hal Sutton — 1983, 2000
Five words: Be the right club today. This clip never gets old.
Sutton’s 17-year gap between Players titles is the longest span between wins among the six players.
Davis Love III — 1992, 2003
Davis Love III put in some efficient work at TPC Sawgrass with his two wins.
In 1992, Love was four shots clear of the runners-up Phil Blackmar, Ian Baker-Finch, Nick Faldo and Tom Watson (ever heard of them?). He won by four once again in 2003 over Jay Haas and Padraig Harrington (how about them?).
Davis Love III and fans celebrate when Love’s ball drops into the hole after he chipped from the gallery behind the eighth green for birdie and the lead during the final day of The Players Championship in 1992. He would go on to win with a final-round 67. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)
Tiger Woods — 2001, 2013
Three words this time: Better than most.
With his eyes on major championships these days, golf fans may never see Woods play at TPC Sawgrass ever again, but his iconic putt on the island green is sure to be replayed year after year.