TPC Sawgrass 2013: Breaking Down What Makes Players Championship Venue Unique

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIMay 9, 2013

Luke Donald tees off during a practice round on the par-four, 10th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Photo Credit: Golf Channel on Instagram (golfchannel)
Luke Donald tees off during a practice round on the par-four, 10th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Photo Credit: Golf Channel on Instagram (golfchannel)

The Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass hosts the annual Players Championship, which is widely considered the most significant professional golf event in the world outside of the four majors.

Some of the venue's highlights include the daunting par-three No. 17 with its island green, the lightning-fast putting surfaces and the generally demanding visual landscape that puts a premium on shot-making.

There's little doubt designer Pete Dye knew that his unique vision would translate to a rigorous, demanding test of golf for those who would play his course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Striking it high and soft to the hard, tabletop greens is optimum, and Nike Golf knows that its most prized ambassador, Tiger Woods, can pull that off with the best of them:

Some players' games translate better to this track than others, but consistent success is extremely difficult to come by. Jack Nicklaus won the event three times, which is unmatched, but he nor anyone else since ever repeated as Players champion.

That is partially due to the depth of the elite field that defines this tournament every year—and also because no certain type of player routinely wins this event. Even the most dominant all-around players like Woods and Phil Mickelson have triumphed one time, as superstar Rory McIlroy points out:

McIlroy mentions that even layup shots are difficult to play, which gives players zero rest on this course. Rickie Fowler captures the tee shot at the par-four No. 6. A seemingly open hole is totally obstructed by an overhanging tree:

Though it's an obstacle managed easily by the majority of these talented golfers, that tree is one of the many minor tests that the competitors have to pass.

At 7,215 yards, TPC Sawgrass won't intimidate with its length, but the precision it requires is extremely dangerous.

The closing stretch at this venue is also easily among the most exciting in golf. Specifically, the last three holes provide for plenty of theatrics.

The par-five, 16th hole is a short, 527-yard dogleg left, and the powerful players can hit a towering draw over the treeline that guards the left to cut the corner and set up a shot at the green in two. Unfortunately, a massive water hazard lurks with any missed shot to the right—and even over the green.

Anything not in the center of the green to the left or obviously at the flagstick risks turning a nearly guaranteed birdie into a big number—all thanks to the promise of an eagle.

Then, the aforementioned 17th. Unfathomably short at just 137 yards, it's typically some kind of wedge for tour pros. However, adrenaline, wind and the fact that it's such a small target completely flanked by water makes it one of the most daunting shots ever.

For example, check out this defining moment at that very hole in 2008. Sergio Garcia stuffed it close in a playoff with Paul Goydos in 2008 to key his victory:

It can easily go the other way, too. Plenty of contenders vying for a win have dunked it in the water, and it's among the most pressure-packed tee shots in all of golf.

That same body of water lines the par-four closing hole down the left side of the fairway, and trees to the right provide an unclear approach shot to a heavily undulated green.

After dunking his approach in the water, a 23-year-old Adam Scott had to wedge up and make a 15-foot putt to avoid a playoff. He did so, becoming the youngest winner in Players Championship history:

Plenty of drama awaits in Ponte Vedra Beach, where a major-esque atmosphere is palpable. A surprise champion is likely to emerge from this merited collection of golfers, and the course itself fosters one of the most captivating spectacles in all of golf.