The PGA Tour travels to Flordia this week for the prestigious Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. Matt Kuchar of the USA is defending champion.
An extremely strong field has assembled for this great event, often referred to as “golf’s unofficial fifth Major.” In fact, all 10 of the top-10 players in the world will tee it up. There will be 25 Major winners on the start sheet and 96 of the 145 who will start have tasted PGA Tour victory in the past.
World Number 1 Tiger Woods will be looking for his first victory in the event since 2001. Masters champion Adam Scott will be aiming to repeat his success here in 2004 and both Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia will take memories of Sawgrass triumphs (2007 and 2008 respectively) into the week. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy will also be hoping to make a return to the winner’s circle.
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.
Last season Matt Kuchar secured the biggest win of his career. He posted a four-round total of 13-under-par to finish two clear of Ben Curtis, Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson and Martin Laird.
The event has been contested over Sawgrass’ Stadium course since 1982. A Pete Dye design, originally dating from 1979, the layout was re-designed 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.
Terrible weather at the start of this week has caused organisers to reschedule practice days in an effort to ensure the layout has time to drain sufficiently. More than 5 inches of rain fell over the weekend so the course was closed to the public on Monday.
The forecast for the tournament itself is far more promising with only a small chance of rain on Friday.
Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Date: May 9-12
Course stats: par 72, 7,215 yards
Purse: $9,500,000 Winner: $1,710,000
Defending Champion: Matt Kuchar (-13)
Thursday 9 – Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Friday 10 – Sky Sports 2 from 6pm
Saturday 11 – Sky Sports 2 from 7pm
Sunday 12 – Sky Sports 2 from 7pm
Phil Mickelson – He won this event in 2007 and has made the cut 11 times consecutively at Sawgrass. He should have won last week in the Wells Fargo and will be out to make amends for that this week.
Kevin Streelman – He may not have an incredible record at Sawgrass, but he’s on great form this season. He won in Tampa then has a tied third and (last week) a tied sixth to his name.
Billy Horschel – Perhaps the current “on-form” player on the PGA Tour. He took a week off at the Wells Fargo but won on his last outing in New Orleans and was second, third and ninth in the weeks leading up to that victory.
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.