The Players Championship: Big Guns Ready for Sawgrass

If there’s one thing the PGA Tour has done since the New Year, it’s keep us entertained.

Remarkable storylines have permeated the Tour week after week and the trend should continue from Thursday when The Players Championship gets underway.

We’ve had Patrick Reed’s latest brush with the rules, Jordan Spieth returning to form and Bryson DeChambeau smashing drives no-one else would dare, while off-course there was the sad sight of Tiger Woods requiring leg surgery after a serious car accident.

This weekend at TPC Sawgrass showcases another opportunity for some blockbuster action as the infamous Pete Dye course welcomes the very best players in the game.

As the PGA Tour’s flagship event with the strongest field of the year (48 of the top 50 in the world are teeing it up), organisers want the cream to rise to the top – and that that didn’t always happen when the event was held in May.

From 2007-2018 the tournament took place in drier, firmer conditions five months into the year, and the winners included some notably short hitters –  Webb Simpson, Tim Clarke, KJ Choi and Matt Kuchar – while there were also wins for some of the game’s best – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Sergio Garcia.

Runners up during that period were the likes of David Toms, Kevin Kisner, Ian Poulter and Zach Johnson, proving that distance isn’t everything at this tricky course.

The event moved to March in 2019 and that saw Rory McIlroy prevail in softer conditions and Dustin Johnson posted his career-best result in the event (T5).

Here’s the Worldwide Golf picks of some players to keep an eye on…

Looked a little out-of-sorts at the WGC near Tampa a couple of weeks ago but that marks his only finish outside the top 25 in a PGA Tour event since last August. Held the 54-hole lead at Sawgrass in 2019 but imploded Sunday with a 76.
Seems to be getting back to his best having recently fallen outside the top 40 in the world, the 2016 Players Champion has only posted one over-par round in his last 15 on tour and that was on the difficult final day last week at Bay Hill.
No Englishman has ever won The Players, but Poulter has twice been a runner-up and clearly likes to plot his way around the course. “It’s a good, tricky test, one that rewards great shots and very badly penalizes bad shots,” he said. “From that perspective, if you are in control of your golf ball, you can really play well here.”
There’s just something about playing in Florida for Sungjae Im. Over the last three years he has averaged +2.10 strokes gained total in the state – better than any other player on Tour over that same period.

Unsual Statistics from recent editions

  • Rory McIlroy led the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee when he won the 2019 Players Championship – yet short-hitting runner-up Jim Furyk outscored McIlroy across the par-5s that week.
  • McIlroy enters the Players this week as the World No.11. The last time he played ranked outside the top ten – week of the 2018 Arnold Palmer Invitational which he won.
  • Sergio Garcia has made the cut at the event for 16 consecutive years
  • Jason Dufner, in 40 career rounds at The Players, has never found the water on the 17th.


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