Golf's unofficial fifth major comes our way this weekend as the majority of the PGA's top golfers hit The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
With a purse of $9.5 million and $1.7 million winner's share, this is the most lucrative golf tournament on the planet, and this year it is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
Given the financial possibilities in this tournament, it should be no surprise that the tournament draws an elite field. You can view the full field here and know that the top 30 golfers are all scheduled to compete.
This Pete Dye stadium course offers up a tough challenge. There are 93 bunkers, and water adds peril all over the course. As it does on the iconic 17th island-green hole.
It is easy to get into trouble on this course but not so easy to get out of it. Scrambling abilities will be put to the test at this course. So will a player's approach game. Placement on these greens is key, and the greens are typically blazing fast.
Matt Kuchar took the title last year at 13-under, and he'll be back to defend his title. It won't be easy. I'll discuss his chances, as well as two other marquee players, below. First, here are some vitals to help you enjoy all the action.
When: Thursday, May 9, to Sunday, May 12
Where: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Purse: $9.5 million
Thursday: Golf Channel 1-7 p.m. ET
Friday: Golf Channel 1-7 p.m. ET
Saturday: NBC 2-7 p.m. ET
Sunday: NBC 2-7 p.m. ET
*Tournament info via PGATour.com.
Live Stream: PGATour.com will stream coverage from pivotal holes and pairings.
Tee Times: View the full tee times for Rounds 1 and 2 on PGATour.com
Players to Watch
Let's just start with the defending champion. Kuchar's win here was his only Tour victory last season. However, he did have a solid and consistent year, and he's picked that up again this year.
He won the Accenture Match Play Championship in February and tied for eighth at the Masters.
Kuchar has yet to miss a cut this year, and that's not all that surprising. He's developed into one of the most consistent players on the Tour.
Obviously, Kuchar has the game to win here. However, he is struggling a bit hitting greens in regulation, as he is just 109th (h/t PGATour.com).
Also, not boding well for Kuchar's chances is that no one has ever successfully defended the title at this event.
If Tiger Woods is in action, it means he is worth watching. Woods hasn't been in action since his fourth-place finish at the Masters.
For most, a fourth at the Masters is a solid accomplishment. For Tiger, it is a disappointment—especially considering how well he was playing heading into the year's first major.
Woods has won three of his six Tour events this year. While he played well at Augusta, he was not as dialed in as he had been leading up to it. Most notably was a drop-off with the putter.
Woods still leads the Tour in strokes gained-putting (h/t PGATour.com), but his hot hand cooled off a bit at Augusta.
With a win here in 2001, Woods proved he could take this tournament. However, he was winning everything then, and he hasn't had much success here since this event moved to May in 2007.
Last year, he came in 40th. And while this event is the unofficial fifth major, Tiger is more concerned about the official majors.
Rory McIlroy is still looking for his first win this season, but after a rough start to the year, he has been improved.
McIlroy finished second at the Texas Open and went into Augusta with a bit of momentum, but he finished 25th after a terrible third round.
Rory has been in action once since the Masters. That came at the Wells Fargo Championship last week, and he was solid—finishing 10th.
However, if Rory is going to contend here, he will need to figure out Sawgrass. McIlroy has played this event three times, and he's missed the cut in each.
I'd be surprised if he missed the cut this year, but Rory is never short on surprises.
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