He remains the only South African to have won it, and Tim Clark finds himself in the thinking of many pundits again this year ahead of tomorrow’s Players Championship.
That the 2010 triumph brought him his maiden title on the US PGA Tour added to the lustre of that victory, and his game has been showing every sign of being good enough to step back into that winner’s circle – even in the face of some seriously in-form opposition.
In each of the majors except the PGA Championship, South Africa has produced multiple winners, but only Clark has won the Players: the event offers the highest prize fund of any tournament in golf ($9.5 million since 2008), and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Fifth Major’, but it does not have official major status.
The field makes the tournament feel like a major: For starters, it has all of the world’s top 20 players, and 10 of those have won majors.
Of course, the field is headed by Tiger Woods, with 14 majors to his credit. Strangely, however, he has won the Players Championship only once, back in 2001 – and that speaks to the difficulties he seems to have with the course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Of course, the ‘island green’ on 17 – which is actually a peninsula – is the most renowned part of TPC Sawgrass, but it plays as tough as nails when stretched to its full 7,215 yards for the Players Championship.
And that length might seem to militate against Clark, who is certainly not particularly long off the tee. But Clark, of course, brings other qualities to the party. En route to victory at TPC Sawgrass in 2010, he led the field in strokes gained-putting, par-four scoring and bogey avoidance, according to the PGA Tour website. He ranks second on the PGA Tour in fairways hit and 21st in bogey avoidance. That all adds up to a good package for TPC Sawgrass.
And he has recent good form too: He shared 11th at the Masters and 24th at the RBC Heritage.
The other South Africans in the field are Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Branden Grace, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini.