| THE PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship Pre­view

No am­a­teurs, no qual­i­fiers, no spon­sor ex­emp­tions and no club pro­fes­sion­als, just the very best golfers on the planet go­ing toe-to-toe. Chuah Choo Chi­ang gives his pre­view of THE PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship.

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Chuah Choo Chi­ang

No am­a­teurs, no qual­i­fiers, no spon­sor ex­emp­tions and no club pro­fes­sion­als, just the very best golfers on the planet go­ing toe-to-toe.

The il­lus­tri­ous list of cham­pi­ons is sec­ond to none and in­cludes golf­ing giants such as Jack Nick­laus, Greg Nor­man, Tiger Woods, Fred Cou­ples, Adam Scott, Nick Price, Phil Mick­el­son, Ser­gio Gar­cia, Ja­son Day and Rickie Fowler. Throw in one of the rich­est prize purses in the world of golf at US$10.5 mil­lion, this show­piece event on the PGA TOUR glit­ters amongst the rest where its home venue at TPC Saw­grass of­fers what play­ers be­lieve to be the truest test in the game.

And to top it all, it show­cases the strong­est field as­sem­bled any­where around the world where there are no am­a­teurs, no qual­i­fiers, no spon­sor ex­emp­tions and no club pro­fes­sion­als, just the very best golfers on the planet go­ing toe-to-toe to bat­tle for the right to be known as THE PLAY­ERS cham­pi­ons.

Wel­come to THE PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship, the PGA TOUR’s flag­ship tour­na­ment.

Ex­em­pli­fy­ing ex­cel­lence, ev­ery facet rep­re­sent­ing THE PLAY­ERS has a touch of pres­tige and class as it an­nu­ally pro­vides the stage for drama, golf­ing his­tory and ex­cite­ment to un­fold at the Sta­dium course at TPC Saw­grass.

Such has been its grow­ing stature since its in­au­gu­ra­tion in 1974, com­men­ta­tors and golfers have la­belled it as the un­of­fi­cial ‘fifth ma­jor’ in the men’s game. But in re­al­ity, THE PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship should prob­a­bly be best known sim­ply as THE PLAY­ERS, where the event’s name is stylised in caps for one rea­son that it stands above the rest.

The who’s who in men’s golf will gather at TPC Saw­grass from May 10 to 13, know­ing that vic­tory will come with a cham­pion’s cheque of US$1.89 mil­lion plus other perks in­clud­ing a five-year ex­emp­tion on the PGA TOUR. And oh, it comes with brag­ging rights to be known as THE PLAY­ERS cham­pion.

Rickie Fowler, the 2016 cham­pion, said: “It’s one of the tough­est cour­ses we play all year. Prob­a­bly the tough­est field that we play all year. So, you got to be - I mean who­ever is winning is tak­ing care of busi­ness, beat­ing the best play­ers at the time and con­quer­ing one of the tough­est cour­ses that we play.”

“The field is as strong as any field in the game of golf,” pro­fessed Adam Scott, THE PLAY­ERS cham­pion in 2004. “The tour­na­ment has gained stature through­out the years.”

When 14-time ma­jor win­ner Tiger Woods

claimed the first of his two PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship in 2001, he was over the moon. “It is spe­cial to be able to win a cham­pi­onship like this, on an ex­tremely de­mand­ing golf course, with prob­a­bly the best field as­sem­bled in all of golf - all of golf for the en­tire year. It is ex­tremely re­ward­ing to do that. And like every­body is say­ing, it’s prob­a­bly the fifth ma­jor,” said Woods.

Those yet to have their names en­shrined in the Roll of Hon­our are driven to do so as it pro­vides the gloss to their CV. Jor­dan Spi­eth, a four-time Ma­jor win­ner and the FedExCup cham­pion in 2015, is amongst those gun­ning for suc­cess this May. “It is the tough­est tour­na­ment to win in golf, and recog­nis­ing that makes you know who you’re play­ing against, and at this stage, and this is a ma­jor cham­pi­onship,” said Spi­eth.

Its depth is prob­a­bly the rea­son why no player has suc­ceeded in de­fend­ing his ti­tle. South Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who stunned the field last year to emerge as the youngest PLAY­ERS cham­pion, will take an­other stab at his­tory. “I would like to change that,” he said.

Aside from con­tend­ing against the crème de la crème, play­ers have to ne­go­ti­ate the Sta­dium Course, which some merely says messes with golfers’ heads. David Du­val, cham­pion in 1999 and now a TV pun­dit, warned: “It tests ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing from a me­chan­i­cal and hit­ting stand­point, as well as to a men­tal ap­proach. This golf course is tough. You’ve got to have all facets of your game work­ing if you want to con­tend around here.”

One of the key fea­tures of the Pete Dye-de­signed Sta­dium course is the fact that it was cre­ated with the fan ex­pe­ri­ence built into its DNA. This fan friend­li­ness spreads through­out the tour­na­ment ex­pe­ri­ence in­clud­ing all the mod­ern ameni­ties and tech­nol­ogy that to­day’s fans ex­pect, but the high­light by far is the views of golf which are un­like any other tour­na­ment in the world. The clos­ing stretch of holes in­clud­ing the fa­mous is­land-green par 3, 17th hole has be­come as fa­mil­iar as any on the golf cal­en­dar.

Food, fun, char­ity and junior golf ini­tia­tives, golf mer­chan­dise, kids’ zone, ded­i­cated au­to­graph zones, re­cy­cling ef­forts and even a church chapel ser­vice form the many ac­tiv­i­ties and ser­vices sur­round­ing THE PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship. More than 200,000 fans have come through the turn­stiles an­nu­ally.

PGA TOUR Com­mis­sioner Jay Mon­a­han has of­ten been asked how he would de­fine the sta­tus of THE PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship. “It’s our show­case of ex­cel­lence. We con­tinue to do ev­ery­thing we can to en­hance ev­ery facet of this event. And we do that so that you all and our fans can talk about its sig­nif­i­cance. This is one of the great­est cham­pi­onships in the world, and we’re ex­cited about it.

“Our fo­cus is mak­ing it the best cham­pi­onship it can pos­si­bly be, the best cham­pi­onship in the world, and how peo­ple as­sess it, how the me­dia as­sess it, how our play­ers, what their per­spec­tive on it, that’s part of the pub­lic dis­course. But we think we’re go­ing to com­pete like heck to con­tinue to do ev­ery­thing we can to raise the pro­file of this great cham­pi­onship.”

Fan ex­pe­ri­ence is built into the DNA of the Pete Dye-de­signed TPC Saw­grass Sta­dium course

Tiger Woods was over the moon when claimed the first of his two PLAY­ERS Cham­pi­onship in 2001

South Korea’s Si Woo Kim stunned the field last year to emerge as the youngest PLAY­ERS cham­pion

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