It’s one of the most important weeks on the PGA Tour schedule as the world’s best head for TPC Sawgrass and The Players Championship. K.J. Choi is the defending champion.
The list of winners of the Players reads like a who’s who of elite golf through the last 40 years. Jack Nicklaus won in 1974. Since then Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle, Tom Kite, Nick Price, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson have all taken the title. The event has been contested over Sawgrass’ Stadium course since 1982
Last year it came down to a battle between two of the game’s veterans – K.J. Choi and David Toms. It was the Korean who eventually prevailed in a playoff.
Choi is back again this week, but will have his work cut out to win in consecutive years. The field that has assembled is impressive to say the least.
New World Number 1 Rory McIlroy tees it up after losing out in a playoff at the Wells Fargo Championship last week. Luke Donald is back in action and looking to re-engage battle for that top spot with the young Northern Irishman.
After a fine final round at Quail Hollow last week, Lee Westwood is confident of a good showing at Sawgrass.
“I’ve been in with a chance two or three times here,” he said. “It’s a course I love playing, it suits my game.”
Tiger Woods is on the start sheet as are Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Louis Oosthuizen and last week’s winner Rickie Fowler.
The course at Sawgrass is a Pete Dye design. Originally dating from 1979, the layout was redesigned by Dye in 2006. It has traditionally been one of the toughest tracks on the circuit but has been a little less testing over the last couple of years. This could be down to the fact that re-shaping of some of the greens has allowed for more pin positions – some of them on less severe slopes.
The weather could be a factor this week. Stormy conditions could hamper early play on Thursday and could return on Saturday. Add to that a swirling wind and the players could face quite an examination.
Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Date: May 10-13
Course stats: par 72, 7,215 yards
Purse: $9,500,000 Winner: $1,710,000
Defending Champion: K.J. Choi (-13)
Thursday 10 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Friday 11 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Saturday 12 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 5pm
Sunday 13 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 6pm
Lee Westwood – A good record in this event and fresh off the back of an excellent weekend at Quail Hollow. There’s been a good deal of talk about the battle between McIlroy and Donald at the top of the World Ranking, Lee Westwood would love to get back into the equation.
Steve Stricker – The consistent American has played solidly at Sawgrass in years gone by and has enjoyed decent form in recent weeks. He makes few mistakes and that’s a key to success around this course.
Luke Donald – Third in his last start in New Orleans, Donald will be trying to reclaim Number 1 slot on the Official World Golf Ranking. He, once again, leads the PGA Tour in scrambling. He was fourth here in 2011.
Key hole: 17th. One of the most famous holes in world golf, this 137-yard par 3 plays to an island green, totally surrounded by water. It may be no more than a 9-iron but, with a swirling wind and the pressures of a “green or bust” scenario, it’s one of the most intimidating challenges on the PGA Tour.
Skills required: Knowing the track. Since 2005 all but one of the winners at Sawgrass had made at least seven appearances in the event before securing victory. The “but one” was Henrik Stenson who won on his fourth start.
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