Requirements to Play in the Players Championship

By M.L. Rose
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus won the first Tournament Players Championship in 1974. He also won the event in 1976 and 1978.
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus won the first Tournament Players Championship in 1974. He also won the event in 1976 and 1978.

The Players Championship began in 1974 and was originally called the Tournament Players Championship. Unlike typical PGA Tour events, which are run by local organizations, The Players Championship is run by the PGA Tour and the players themselves. The tournament, also called simply The Players, has been played at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida since 1982. It has been played in May the past several years.

'The Fifth Major'

The Players Championship is a desirable event for golfers around the world for many reasons. The event, sometimes referred to as “the fifth major,” is prestigious because of its deep, talented field. It also offers the biggest purse of any PGA Tour event. In 2012, for example, The Players Championship purse totals $9.5 million, $1 million more than any other official PGA Tour tournament. K.J. Choi, the 2011 Players Championship winner, took home a first prize of $1.71 million.

Be a PGA Tour Member

With few exceptions, you must be a PGA Tour player to compete in The Players Championship. Any non-PGA Tour players who qualify for the event likely were Tour players in the recent past or have played well in at least some Tour events. The most likely non-PGA Tour player to compete in The Players Championship is the previous year’s Senior Players Championship winner, who earns an automatic invitation.

Win a Big Event

Among those automatically eligible to participate in The Players Championship are major tournament winners (Masters, U.S. Open, PGA, British Open) from the previous five years; winners of The Players Championship during the previous five years; winners of a World Golf Championships event (Bridgestone Invitational, Accenture Match Play Championship, Cadillac Championship or HSBC Champions) during the previous three years, provided the winner was a PGA Tour member at the time of his victory; and winners of official PGA Tour events since the previous year’s Players Championship.

Play Consistently Well

The top 125 players in PGA Tour earnings from the previous full season – regardless of whether they won a tournament – automatically qualify for The Players Championship, along with the top 50 players in the current year's Official World Golf Ranking, the top 30 players from the previous full season’s PGA Tour FedEx Cup point standings and the top 10 players on the current season’s FedEx Cup points list.

Don’t be Afraid of Water

The Stadium Course's signature hole is the 17th, with its famed “island green.” The par-3 hole sounds fairly routine on paper. Although the green is smaller than average at 3,912 square feet, it’s only 121 yards from the middle of the championship tee area to the front of the green and 146 yards to the back of the green. But most of the green is surrounded by a large pond, with only a thin walkway providing access.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

Photo Credits

  • Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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