Jeremy Harris: Golf’s fifth ‘Major’ turns 40
The 2014 Players Championship teed off on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. This tournament first began in 1974 and so celebrates 40 years of great golf action steeped in history and rich heritage. Past winners of the ilk of Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott will give you some sense of the calibre of players who've played in and won here before.
The tournament has also become known as golf's unofficial fifth Major, and adds to its massive drawcard status by dangling the biggest prize purse in world golf - a hard-to-ignore $10-million, with the winner taking home almost $2-million!
South Africa has not done that well here in the history of the event and has only delivered one winner - Tim Clark playing near flawless golf on his way to a tournament score of 16 under par and a one-stroke win over Robert Allenby in 2010.
At the time of writing this article, the first round had already started and so while hindsight is a perfect science, my five hot picks for the winner's cheque are:
- Jordan Spieth (after his Masters performance, I dare not ignore his claims again!)
- Sergio Garcia (what can I tell you, I'm a Sergio fan and he's won here before and likes the Sawgrass layout)
- Ernie Els (is always my top SA pick although has never done well here at TPC Sawgrass)
- Matt Kuchar (also a previous winner and my vote as the form player for 2014, he is set to take over as world number one on Sunday and winning The Players will cement that massive honour)
- Rory McIlroy (the former world number one is showing good form, seems to have found good personal balance and surely won't be denied for too much longer)
The field assembled is 145-strong and includes the current top 50 players in the world. In addition, Major winners from the last five years are also invited to do battle over the next four days. These credentials are impressive and gives you another clue as to why this event is tagged the 'fifth Major'.
The course at TPC Sawgrass (like any other golf course) poses a challenge over all 18 holes, almost like 18 questions all with different levels of tolerance in how you choose to answer them.
However, the 17th hole is by far the most famous and is the best example of how this course is very specifically designed with the fans in mind. Its imposing island green is just a short 125 metres away… and yet this hole, all sweet and unassuming, surrounded almost entirely by water, is a silent killer!
It has laid waste to an estimated 1378 professional golf balls (and counting!) since the tournament moved to Sawgrass in 1982.
Sunday's winner will have successfully navigated all the water on the course and showed a high degree of accuracy and composure.
And in closing, hands up anyone who noticed that Tiger wasn't playing this weekend? Yes, I thought so…
_Jeremy Harris is the sports anchor at 94.5 Kfm on its award-winning Breakfast Show. He is a keen golfer and plays off a 6 at his home club, Arabella. You can follow him on _ Twitter: @jeremyharris55