We pick out our five favourite grandstand moments from The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass…
With a golf course purposely designed for excitement, it’s no coincidence that TPC Sawgrass has served up a host of epic grandstand moments over the years…
Howard Clark – 2000
Clark had never played in The Players or at TPC Sawgrass when he filmed a preview piece for Sky over the famous closing stretch. Using clubs borrowed from Darren Clarke he set about showing everyone what a daunting prospect the 17th tee shot was… by holing it with his second attempt with an 8-iron. The first warm-up shot without the cameras rolling had safely found the green. Darren never got his ball back!
Craig Perks – 2002
One of golf’s most extraordinary finishes ever! Okay, not as many under par down the stretch as Rickie last year (see below), but probably more momentous given who Perks was in world golf. The New Zealander won his PGA Tour card for the 2000 season, and between then and 2007 would win just once in 202 starts… but it was in The 2002 Players Championship following a truly mind-blowing final three holes!
He led by two going in Sunday, but had lost the lead by the time he reached 16, with his aggressive approach leaving him five inches from the water in snaggly rough. He chipped in to regain the lead! Then he found the heart of the 17th green, and rolled that in too from 30ft for birdie. Finally, having found trouble off the 18th tee, he found himself through the back of the green in three in more snaggly rough. He then played the most exquisite of flop shots which also found the cup, Perks raising his wedge in celebration with the ball still four feet out.
After making just one cut in 2006 and 2007, Perks announced his retirement that winter.
Rickie Fowler – 2015
A truly astonishing finish from Rickie last year saw him play the final six holes in six-under to force a play-off with Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner. A 15-footer for birdie on 13 was followed by a 10-footer on 15 and then a huge stroke of good fortune on 16 where he pushed his approach, only for it to not only stagger over the water, but get an extraordinary kick left to leave him stone-dead for eagle.
His five-footer for birdie on 17 caught just enough of the left edge to drop, before another 20-footer found its way home on 18. Not content with that, he then birdied 17 twice more in the play-off, incredibly striking his final tee-shot into the tiny space between flag and water on the right. Brave and very impressive.
Tiger Woods – 2001
Tiger delivered something extra special on 17 in 2001’s third round. After barely avoiding the water, he found himself on the fringe 60ft away facing a monstrously difficult putt. After studying it carefully, Tiger sent it on its way. The ball moved first right to left, then broke hard to the right as it came over the crest, with commentator, Gary Koch, exclaiming it was “better than most” as it turned down the slope.
It was indeed “better than most”. It grabbed the right half of the cup and dropped to tumultuous applause. Fellow-competitor, Phil Mickelson, couldn’t keep it within 6ft from a quarter of the distance. Tiger would go on to claim the first of his two Sawgrass victories in a Monday finish that year.
Hal Sutton – 2000
“Be the right club… today!” A resurgent Hal Sutton, battling it out for the 2000 Players Championship with the mighty Tiger, held a one-shot lead playing the 72nd hole. He split the fairway with his drive then flushed a 6-iron from 179 yards, uttering the immortal words, “Be the right club,” and then after a slight pause and with renewed aggression, “Be the right club… today! Yes!”
It was, and although he didn’t seal his victory by holing the resulting 12-footer, it was good enough to show the world that Tiger wasn’t invincible in a head-to-head encounter down the stretch.