11 Mar 2020

PLAYERS Championship – The formbook

This week’s 2020 Players Championship holds many fond memories for golf fans around the world because, like The Masters, it has a permanent home at the TPC Sawgrass in northern Florida. It also boasts the richest prize fund in tournament golf at $15 million and home to Pete Dye’s notorious 17th hole. We take a look at who’s hot and who’s not coming into the 47th staging of the iconic tournament.


HOT

Rory McIlroy

The World No.1 is on red hot form right now and has finished in the top five in his last eight worldwide appearances, including picking up a third World Golf Championships title at WGC-HSBC Champions. He is also the defending champion at TPC Sawgrass after defeating Jim Furyk by one-stroke on a dramatic final day last year to pocket a cool US$2.7 million and the redesigned trophy. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Northern Irishman will be up there once again come Sunday.


Tommy Fleetwood

The World No.10 narrowly missed out on a maiden PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic a couple of weeks ago having started the final round with the lead. He eventually finished third after finding the water on the last in search of a birdie that would have taken the tournament to extra holes. The Englishman missed a rare cut at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational but before that had enjoyed five top 20s in his last five worldwide starts including tied second at the Rolex Series’ Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.


Collin Morikawa

Just a year after wrapping up his collegiate career at the University of California, the 23 year old is quickly making a name for himself on the PGA Tour where he secured a maiden win at the Barracuda Championship in July. With Fleetwood missing his first cut in 31 appearances last weekend, Morikawa took over the No. 1 spot on the Tour’s consecutive cuts list as well as being ranked eighth in 2020 on average strokes gained. In the last three years, winners at the Players have ended the week with an average strokes gained: tee-to-green of 11.26.


Justin Thomas

The former World No.1 has enjoyed a fine start to the 2020 PGA Tour season with two wins in nine starts at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges. Those performances, along with four more top tens including tied sixth at WGC-Mexico Championship, have seen the American rise to second in the FedEx Cup Rankings. Thomas also sits second in the PGA Tour’s birdie average with 4.93 while his best result at the Stadium Course came in 2016 where he finished tied third.


NOT

Justin Rose

Since winning the Farmers Insurance Open in January 2019, Rose has struggled to reach the heights of his game that saw him top the Official World Golf Ranking 16 months ago. Now sitting at 14th in the OWGR, the Englishman has missed three of his last four cuts and also looks likely to part ways with Honma Golf after just 14 months. At last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, he was spotted playing his old TaylorMade P730 irons in the Pro-Am and practice rounds.


Kiradech Aphibarnrat

The Thai star has endured a dire last 12 months with his world ranking plummeting to 140th. The 30-year-old enjoyed three top-5 finishes in the early portion of last season in his rookie campaign on the PGA Tour, but a knee injury curtailed his progress and he finished 83rd on the FedEx Cup points list. He also failed to qualify for the International Team for the Presidents Cup, which was a big career goal. He started 2020 off with a run of three missed cuts from the Phoenix Open through Pebble Beach and the Genesis Invitational.


Francesco Molinari

Rewind 12 months and Francesco Molinari was in the form of his life after sealing his maiden career Major at the Open, topping the European Tour’s Race to Dubai and performing flawlessly for Team Europe in their Ryder Cup triumph in France. Now he finds himself slipping down the World Ranking after his 2019 Masters meltdown at Amen Corner when he held a one-shot lead over Tiger Woods with seven holes to play. The Italian was seventh going into last year’s Players but now lies in 28th following a poor start to the 2020 campaign with missed cuts in his first three events and just a 53rd place finish in the 72-player WGC-Mexico Championship.

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