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The greatest moments in Players Championship history

Profile Picture: Josh Powell

March 8th, 2021

The Players Championship is the "unofficial" fifth Major on the PGA Tour, and has all the ingredients of a thrilling golf tournament every year. A huge prize fund of $15 million, the world’s best players, an iconic golf course in TPC Sawgrass with its legendary par-3 17th hole, and the stadium-style concept of fans packed into stands – although capacity this year is, of course, only 20%.

As we get excited for another 72 holes in Florida, let's look back at the most memorable moments from Players Championship history.

5. A Seagull pinches Brad Fabel’s ball in ‘98

Brad Fabel didn’t make the cut in the 1998 Players Championship, but that is through no fault of the pesky seagull that pinched his ball on the 17th hole. The Island Green is one of the trickiest par threes in golf, with more than 100,000 balls fished out of the water every year if rumours be believed, but one hazard you would not expect is a seagull.

Fortunately Rule 18-1 in the golfing handbook classes birds as "an outside agent" and therefore Fabel was able to replace the ball on the green and play on.

Incredibly, 22 years earlier, Fabel had been the first PGA Tour player ever to make a hole in one on the Island Green. But nobody ever remembers that. They just remember the seagull!

4. Sluman and the swimming fan in ‘87

In March 1987, Jeff Sluman stood over a 6-foot birdie putt to win the Players Championship, in what would have been his first win on the PGA Tour. It was the 17th green, the second extra hole for Sluman and Sandy Lyle who were tied on -14 after both carding birdies on the 72nd hole.

Just as Sluman was about to take his back swing, an overzealous fan jumped into the water hazard causing Sluman to step away. The fan was removed by security and Sluman came back to miss the putt. The play-off went to another hole and Lyle sank his 7-foot-par putt for the win.

Sluman would win the PGA Championship the following year, but who is to say what would have happened had the fan not gone into the drink?

3. Fred Couples’ 1999 hole in "one"

When is a hole in one not a hole in one? When it’s a hole in three.

We are back again on the infamous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, and in the first round in 1999 Fred Couples was up against it and potentially in line to miss the cut. He needed a strong finish to maintain any kind of momentum, but found the water from his tee shot on 17.

He teed up again for what is technically his third shot, and nailed a hole in one – officially carded of course as a par.

It kept Couples in with a chance of making the weekend, and not only did he do just that he finished fourth, carding a remarkable 68 on the Sunday.

2. Perks’ incredible final three holes in 2002

New Zealand’s Craig Perks was ranked 203rd in the world when he won the Players Championship in 2002, and rather than just one moment of magic, he had three.

After starting the final round one shot off the lead, Perks found himself two back with just three holes to go. He made seven bogeys and four birdies in the first 15 holes to give Stephen Ames the advantage.

However, Perks then had the most incredible three holes of his career. On the par-5 16th he chipped the ball in from 21 feet for an eagle after narrowly missing the water. On the infamous 17th he made a 28-foot birdie putt to give himself a remarkable two-shot lead. He made a mess of the 18th off the tee, but again chipped in from 28 feet to save par and cap the most incredible final three holes of any round he’ll likely ever play.

Perks won by two shots and it would be his first - and so far only - win on Tour.

1. That "Better Than Most" Tiger putt in 2001

Tiger rolled into the Players Championship in 2001 having won the previous three Majors in 2000, and a fortnight after it he would win The Masters – completing the Tiger Slam.

The fact that he was able to add this, the PGA’s unofficial fifth Major, to his CV as well is in no small part down to one of the best putts you’ll ever see. On the 17th hole in his third round, Tiger was in a tie for second three shots behind leader Jerry Kelly. With a packed grandstand watching him, he rolled in an incredible 60-foot, triple-breaking birdie putt that sent the crowd wild. He went on to win by a single stroke.

If this ever pops up in a pub quiz don’t forget – it technically wasn’t even counted as a putt since Tiger played his shot from the fringe.

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