Why aren’t there any repeat champions at The Players?

While it seems like the only topics at The Players are SSG, PIF, and Commissioner Jay Monahan, there are plenty of other things people are talking about. One of them is figuring out why no one has ever successfully defended at The Players. 
Tiger Woods - The PLAYERS Championship
Tiger Woods - The PLAYERS Championship / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

Justin Thomas had some thoughts on why it’s hard to win two in a row.

“I think first and foremost it's just really hard to win a golf tournament, let alone win it, defend and win it back-to-back. So I think that's the start,” he said.

The second reason he said was because The Players has one of the best fields all year in golf. (Some say the best.)

Then there's the course. TPC Sawgrass.

“It's just -- it doesn't -- it truly does not fit anybody,” Thomas added. 

“It's not a bomber's course,” he continued. 

“You look at a week like this week, how long the rough is,” he noted.

The change back to March affects how the course plays, Thomas thinks.

“You can get cold, you can get rain, you can get a lot of wind,” he said.  “It's more just kind of adapting, adjusting, and it's just not a place I feel like you can show up and you know what you're going to get every single year.” 

In other words, conditions are unpredictable.

And that’s only one guy’s perspective.

Scottie Scheffler, who is the only person this year who could potentially be a repeat champ said it's just the nature of the course.

“It doesn't really suit one type of player. It really is a Pete Dye, just kind of genius design, where you have to hit all different kinds of shots, and it tests you in a lot of different ways,” Scheffler said. “That's why I think it's one of the best places we play on TOUR, just because it really doesn't suit one type of player.”

In addition, Scheffler said there are certain styles of golf that won’t work.

“Bomb and gouge doesn't really work out here,” Scheffler added.  “You kind of got to plot your way around. But then you even have the shorter hitters that plot it around that can struggle here.”

Scheffler suggested that to be successful, a golfer has to hit the ball exactly where he is looking or suffer severe golf punishment.

Many tournaments on the PGA Tour have had a champion who has won two in a row. Even the hardest event to win, the U.S. Open has had back-to-back champs including Willie Anderson, John McDermott, Bobby Jones, Ralph Guldahl, Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange, and Brooks Koepka. You could say that anybody can win one U.S. Open, but it takes a real tough guy champ to win two in a row.   

Amazingly Walter Hagen won four PGA Championships in a row at match play in 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927.  If we want to go really historic, Tom Morris, Jr., (Young Tom) won four British Opens in a row, although there was no tournament played in 1871, which was between his 3rd and 4th in a row.  

Amazingly, there are several PGA Tour tournaments that have been won three and four times in a row. 

Most recently, Steve Stricker won the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Before that, it was Stuart Appleby who won the Mercedes Championship (now the Sentry) in 2004, 2005, and 2006.  

Tom Watson was able to win the Byron Nelson Golf Classic three times for a back-to-back-to-back series in 1978, 1979, and 1980. Johnny Miller did the same in Tucson in 1974, 1975, and 1976.

Incredibly, Jack Nicklaus was the first PGA Tour player to accomplish the three-peat at the Walt Disney World Classic in 1971, 1972, and 1973.

To no one’s surprise, Tiger Woods more or less holds the record for multiple victories in a row at tournaments. He won The Memorial three times in a row in 1999, 2000, and 2001 and The Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Then he cleaned up at the WGCs winning the one at Doral in 2005, 2006, and 2007 and the Bridgestone one at Firestone also in 2005, 2006, and 2007.

But the biggest repeat record Woods has is at the Buick Invitational which was in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, for a foursome of victories.

Next. 2024 PLAYERS Championship Power Rankings. 2024 PLAYERS Championship Power Rankings. light

So, will there ever be a repeat champ at The Players? Scottie Scheffler has perhaps the best chance of anyone because he is playing so well, he likes the course and he just found a putter he likes. But TPC Sawgrass hates everybody, especially those who think it can be conquered. That said, never ever is a long time.