Often referred to as the “unofficial fifth Major,” The Players Championship is one of the richest tournaments in world golf. Always attracting a stellar field, Henrik Stenson will return as defending champion hoping he can become the first man to win The Players in consecutive years.
Last year Stenson fired a fantastic, bogey-free, closing round of 66 to beat Ian Poulter by four shots. Poulter will also tee it up again this year.
In fact, 27 of the top 30 players in the World are on the start sheet at Sawgrass – it was 29 of 30 though Steve Stricker and Anthony Kim have withdrawn because of injury. The field also features every PGA Tour winner stretching back to last year’s Players Championship (except Retief Goosen who has a broken toe.)
It could be a big week for Phil Mickelson. If “Lefty” can win at Sawgrass and Tiger Woods finishes outside of the top five, then Mickelson would take the number 1 slot on the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career.
“For me to accomplish that, I can’t focus on that. I’ve got to go out and get ready to play this golf course because it’s not an easy challenge, and for me to have a chance to achieve No. 1, I’ve got to win. So I’ve got a lot of work ahead,” he said.
Tiger is coming off the back of his worst ever PGA Tour performance last week at Quail Hollow where he missed the cut by eight strokes. After a rare Monday practice round, he was feeling confident his game is in better shape.
“Well it’s getting better, no doubt. It couldn’t get any worse,” he said.
Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Florida
Date: May 6-9
Course stats: par 72, 7,220 yards
Purse: $9,500,000 Winner: $1,710,000
Defending Champion: Henrik Stenson (-12)
Thursday 6 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 5.30pm
Friday 7 – Live on Sky Sports 2 from 5.30pm
Saturday 8 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 7.30pm
Sunday 9 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 7.00pm
Phil Mickelson – He’s coming off the back of his Masters victory and a solid performance at Quail Hollow. He’ll be trying his heart out to secure the victory and, potentially, the World Number 1 slot.
Ian Poulter – Runner up here last year, the Englishman hasn’t played since a good, yet ultimately disappointing, performance at the Masters. He’ll be keen to bounce back strongly.
Jim Furyk – He’s already won twice this year and he has a good record at Sawgrass. He lives on Ponte Vedra Beach so feels at home on this course. It’s also a layout that rewards straight hitting.
Key hole: 16th. A 532 yard par 5, reachable in two for most players but the approach must flirt with the water short of the green and all down the right side. Eagle is a possibility here but so is a big number.
Skills required: Straight driving. Pete Dye courses are notoriously awkward to play and the key to success around Sawgrass is to find the fairways – see Fred Funk’s victory in 2005.