|THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP - March 21, 2006
What: THE PLAYERS Championship (33rd annual)
Dates: March 23-26, 2006
Where: Tournament Players Club Sawgrass; Par: 36-36—72; Yardage; 7,093
Defending Champion: Fred Funk (65-71-71-71—279 (-9))
Television: ESPN on Thursday/Friday; NBC on Saturday/Sunday
2005 Purse: $8,000,000 *; Winner’s share: $1,440,000 *
* The 2006 purse for THE PLAYERS Championship will be announced the week of the event.
Briefly: In a rain-marred PLAYERS Championship that included 2.46 inches of rain and five major stoppages of play, Ponte Vedra Beach resident Fred Funk prevailed on the Monday finish with a round of 1-under-par 71 on a day when the scoring average was 76.512, the highest final-round scoring average of the 2005 season. Funk edged Tom Lehman, Luke Donald and Scott Verplank by one stroke while defending champion Adam Scott finished tied for eighth.
Fred Funk Update
Set to turn 50 in June with the opportunity to play both the PGA TOUR and the Champions Tour, defending champion Fred Funk is off to a slow start in 2006 – by his standards – with five made cuts in seven starts, but without a top-25 to this point. His last top-10 was a solo third at the 2005 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Fred Funk’s victory at the 2005 PLAYERS Championship came in his 523rd career PGA TOUR start at the age of 48 years, nine months, and 14 days.
Stats for the 2005 PLAYERS Championship winner Fred Funk
Category Totals Percentage Rank
Fairways Hit: 48 of 56 86% T1
Driving Distance: 253.4 -- 80th
GIR: 58 of 72 81% 1st
Sand Saves: 2 of 4 50% T41
Putts: 122 -- T69
Putts (GIR): 1.828 -- 60th
Defending champion Fred Funk will attempt to do what no other PLAYERS champion has managed – to repeat. While five players have also won this event multiple times, none has done it in consecutive years. Jack Nicklaus is the only three-time winner (1974, 1976 and 1978) while Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Hal Sutton (1983 and 2000), Fred Couples (1984 and 1996) and Davis Love III (1992 and 2003) have accomplished the feat twice.
With his PLAYERS win in his 15th start at the event, Fred Funk matched Tom Kite (1989) for most attempts before first PLAYERS victory with 15. Funk became the oldest winner in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship at the age of 48 years, nine months and 14 days. Hal Sutton (41 years, 10 months, 28 days) had been the oldest PLAYERS Champion, winning in 2000. In 2004, Adam Scott became the youngest-ever PLAYERS champion at 23.
2005 PLAYERS Championship winner Fred Funk became the fourth player in his forties to win THE PLAYERS Championship, joining Lee Trevino (1980), Calvin Peete (1985) and Hal Sutton (2000).
THE PLAYERS Championship News and Notes
Next week’s field is expected to be 145 players if there are no additions after the Bay Hill Invitational, including the 10 players that would qualify through the Official World Golf Ranking as follows:
No. 12 Colin Montgomerie
No. 14 David Howell
No. 17 Henrik Stenson
No. 22 Angel Cabrera
No. 23 Nick O'Hern
No. 29 Paul McGinley
No. 32 Thomas Bjorn
No. 42 Lee Westwood
No. 45 Shingo Katayama
No. 46 Miguel A. Jimenez
Possible Changes in PLAYERS Championship field
Top 50 in Official World Golf Ranking
No. 53 Richard Green -- not playing this week
No. 56 Niclas Fasth -- not playing this week
No. 57 Paul Casey -- defending title on European Tour at TCL Classic
Need Top-10 on PGA TOUR Money List (all three are playing Bay Hill)
No. 13 Camilo Villegas
No. 20 Nathan Green
No. 34 Bubba Watson
J.B. Holmes, winner of the 2006 FBR Open, is the lone PGA TOUR rookie in this year’s PLAYERS Championship field with the Bay Hill Invitational yet to be completed. He joins recent rookies to qualify for THE PLAYERS Championship including David Duval (1995), Tim Herron (1996), Garrett Willis (2001) and Todd Hamilton (2004). A former All-American at the University of Kentucky and last year’s Qualifying School medalist, Holmes overpowered the field at the FBR, averaging 308.0 yards off the tee during the week en route to a 7-stroke victory. On the year, Holmes is second on TOUR in Driving Distance at 313.3 yards.
Steve Jones’ first-round 8-under-par 64 was one stroke off the course record of 63 set by Fred Couples in 1992 and later matched by Greg Norman in 1994.
Brad Faxon extended his longest consecutive cut streak at THE PLAYERS Championship to 13, the best in tournament history. Faxon shared the record of 12 in a row with Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer – neither of which was a current streak. Tiger Woods owns the next-best current streak with 9 in a row.
Tim Herron tied the tournament record in 2005 with six birdies in a row in the second round. Herron is the sixth player in THE PLAYERS Championship history to run off six in a row and the first since Rocco Mediate birdied Nos. 13-18 in the final round back in 1996.
The 54-hole leader from 2005, Luke Donald of England was attempting to join Sandy Lyle (1987) of Scotland and become the second European to capture THE PLAYERS Championship. Donald finished T2 after a final-round 76.
The 2005 PLAYERS Championship assembled its strongest field since the Official World Golf Ranking began keeping strength-of-field records in 1993 – all 50 of the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking are on hand, as well as 82 of the Top 100. The last time all 50 of the world’s top 50 players played in a PGA TOUR event was the 2003 U.S. Open Championship. The only other time THE PLAYERS boasted all 50 of the world’s top 50 was 1997.
Only six players have followed up a PLAYERS Championship win with a top-10 the next year, including Adam Scott in 2005:
Player Year of PLAYERS Win Finish Following Year (Year)
Jack Nicklaus 1976 T5 (1977)
Mark McCumber 1988 T6 (1989)
Tom Kite 1989 T5 (1990)
Fred Couples 1996 T10 (1997)
Hal Sutton 2000 T5 (2001)
Adam Scott 2004 T8 (2005)
Fifty-one-year-old Jay Haas made his 28th start at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2005, tied for the most appearances with Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw. Haas has six top-10s, including four conducted at the Tournament Players Club Sawgrass (1986, 1996, 2003 and 2004). The oldest player to make the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship is Julius Boros, who made the cut in 1975 at the age of 55 years, five months, and 21 days.
Last year, Tom Lehman moved from T23 to a T2 finish with the best final round of the day, a 4-under-par 68 when the scoring average was 76.512. Lehman is this year’s Ryder Cup Captain and looks to become the first United States playing captain since Arnold Palmer did so in winning fashion in 1963.
Last year, Zach Johnson led a group of 17 first-time participants at THE PLAYERS Championship, finishing T8.
During last year’s completion of the third round that took place on Sunday, Bob Tway came into the par-3 17th island hole at 7-under par for the tournament. When he left, he had dropped from T10 to T72 and sat at 2-over par for the tournament. Tway knocked four balls into the water and finished the hole with the highest score in tournament history, a 12, unseating Robert Gamez from the distinction by a stroke. Gamez posted an 11 during the 1990 third round. There were a total of 70 balls that found a watery grave at the 2005 PLAYERS Championship, including 28 in the final round.
The scoring average of 3.780 on the par-3 17th hole during the final round of the 2005 PLAYERS Championship was the second-highest in tournament history. During the first round of the 1984 tournament, the hole averaged 3.853 for the round. The scoring average of 4.823 on the par-4 18th hole during the final round at THE PLAYERS Championship was the second-highest in tournament history. During the fourth round of the 1983 tournament, the hole averaged 4.848 for the round.
Overall for the week, two holes – Nos. 18 and 14 – ranked among the top-50 for toughest holes on the 2005 season. The par-4 18th hole averaged 4.344 to rank No. 27 on the year while the par-4 14th hole averaged 4.317 to rank No. 38.
The 12 by Bob Tway on the par-3 17th hole matched the highest score on a hole at the TPC Sawgrass in tournament history. Phillip Hancock posted a 12 on the par-4 fourth hole during the first round of the 1985 tournament.
Hal Sutton holds both the high and low average scores on the 17th hole for a champion over the four days, averaging 2.25 (three birdies and a par) in his 1983 winning effort and 4.0 (including one triple-bogey) in capturing the event in 2000.
In the tournament’s 24-year history at the TPC Sawgrass, Steve Elkington (1991) and Fred Funk (2005) are the only players to win after making bogey on the 17th hole during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship. After making a four on the 17th, Elkington birdied the 18th hole to defeat Fuzzy Zoeller by a single stroke, while Funk rebounded from a bogey on the 17th, earning a par from a greenside bunker to edge three players by a single stroke.
The scoring average of 76.512 for the final round in 2005 was the highest-scoring single round ever at THE PLAYERS Championship. The previous high of 76.194 came in the opening round in 2000. Overall, the scoring average on the week at 72.841 ranked No. 16 among toughest courses on the PGA TOUR.
The Big Five at THE PLAYERS Championship
Made Top-10/ Rounds in Scoring Low
Rank/Player Starts Cuts Wins the 60s Average Round Earnings
#1 Tiger Woods 9 9 3/1 6-36 71.39 66 (twice) $2,244,192
#2 Vijay Singh 13 11 2/0 9-48 72.62 67 (twice) $1,208,045
#3 Retief Goosen 7 2 0/0 2-18 73.21 69 (twice) $ 258,800
#4 Ernie Els 12 10 2/0 11-44 72.13 65 $ 625,128
#5 Phil Mickelson 12 8 2/0 7-40 72.54 64 (twice) $ 720,526
The current top five players in the world have combined to win just one PLAYERS Championship in 53 starts. By comparison, the five have combined for 20 major championships in 227 professional starts:
Rank/Player Wins Professional Major Starts
#1 Tiger Woods 10 46
#2 Vijay Singh 3 55
#3 Retief Goosen 2 34
#4 Ernie Els 3 53
#5 Phil Mickelson 2 49
Fourteen of 32 previous third-round leaders at THE PLAYERS Championship have gone on to win: Al Geiberger (three strokes) 1975; Jack Nicklaus (shared) 1976; Jack Nicklaus (one stroke) 1978; Lanny Wadkins (three strokes) 1979; Lee Trevino (one stroke) 1980; Fred Couples (two strokes) 1984; Mark McCumber (two strokes) 1988; Jodie Mudd (one stroke) 1990; Nick Price (one stroke) 1993; Greg Norman (four strokes) 1994; Steve Elkington (two strokes) 1997; David Duval (one stroke) 1999; Hal Sutton (one stroke) 2000; and Adam Scott (two strokes) 2004.
In 2002, Craig Perks was the first player to win his first PGA TOUR event at THE PLAYERS Championship, and the third to win in his first appearance, joining Jack Nicklaus (1974) and Hal Sutton (1983). Perks is one of six different international players to win THE PLAYERS Championship in its 31-year history. The others: Sandy Lyle (1987), Steve Elkington (1991 and 1997), Nick Price (1993), Greg Norman (1994) and Adam Scott (2004).