The Players Championship has been played since 1974 when it was played at Atlanta Country Club in the dog days of summer in Atlanta, Georgia.  During that rainy weekend in August causing a couple of rain delays during the opening day, a young golfer by the name of Jack Nicklaus shot a 66 then weathering three rain delays on the final day overcame a 3-shot lead by J.C. Snead to win the inaugural PLAYERS Championship.  Maybe this Champion is why THE PLAYERS Championship is considered the fifth major in the golf world.  Having won THE PLAYERS 3 times, a record that still stands today, Jack set the bar for how difficult this tournament is to win.

The TPC Stadium course was the dream of Deanne Beman who wanted to create a course that allowed the spectators to see more of the golf being played on the golf course rather than the back of the head of the spectator in front of them.  The stadium course means you do not have to rush through the gates when the open and place a chair in a spot to ensure you get to watch the final holes, the exciting finishes which THE PLAYERS provide year after year.  The event has traveled to different locations on the tour schedule since the first event in August, more than the players that play travel during a season.  In 2019 the event will be played early in the schedule being played in March placing the event ahead of the “MAJOR” schedule.  Although the event may never become an official major event the field is always the strongest field of the season with this year being no exception.  The 2019 season has provided different winners in more events than seems usual, with new faces hoisting the winners’ trophy nearly every Sunday.  The Champion Golfer of the year, Francesco Molinari coming off of his win at The King’s Bay Hill Invitational, will try to win back to back events early in the season.  Webb Simpson will try to defend his title which has never been accomplished.  Jack Nicklaus won every other year from 1974 to 1978 but not at the TPC Sawgrass venue, in fact, he did so at 3 different venues.  Since the tournament found a home at the Stadium Course only 5 golfers have won twice with Steve Elkington’s victories in 1991 and 1997 being the shortest span between wins.  History shows that the defending Champion, at best, finishes in a tie for fifth place which even the great Jack Nicklaus was only able to do once in 1977 the other 2 times were 1990 and 2001.

The Stadium Course, being played in March, will present conditions that most have not played the course in so experience may not help this year which it really doesn’t anyway.  It seems like the course may get in the golfers head more so than most courses as the trend seems to be that it is feast or famine any given year.  Many golfers either play well or play horrible from year to year making predicting the winner of THE PLAYERS extremely difficult.  But history says that Webb Simpson should not win along with the winners within the last 6 years, Kimm Si-Woo, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, and Tiger Woods.  Tiger seems to be making his comeback in typical Tiger fashion so winning this year would not only be the shortest span at the Stadium course but would also tie him with Jack with 3 and the ONLY reason for Tiger comeback, to hold every record in golf!

The conditions of the Stadium Course in March may be more familiar to the pros familiar with European tour conditions.  Look for Ian Poulter, Tommy Fleetwood and seasoned veterans Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk to be in the talk this weekend.  Matt Kuchar has some rebuilding of his image to do so maybe he will try to this weekend.  The Winner’s Trophy will be hoisted by Rory McIlroy this season as he begins a season that will be one to remember.

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