With every top-30 golfer in the field for the Players Championship and nothing but the best players from top to bottom, there are some dynamic groups set for the first two rounds at TPC Sawgrass.
Combine the elite field and the fact that The Players Championship offers the richest purse in golf and it is no surprise that this tournament is hailed as the unofficial fifth major.
Lined with plenty of bunkers, ample water, thick rough and fast greens, this course tests a player's whole game, and it usually provides an exciting four days of golf. Here is when and where to catch all the action, followed by three groups worth paying extra attention to.
When: Thursday, May 9, to Sunday, May 12
Where: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
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
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
*Tournament info via PGATour.com.
Groups to Watch
Graeme McDowell, Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson
Round 1 Tee Time: 8:35 a.m. ET on No. 10
This group is a fantastic mix. We have the ultra-intense Keegan Bradlley, the laid-back Graeme McDowel and Bubba Watson. I don't know how to describe Bubba. He is laid back and intense at the same time.
This isn't just about a difference in personalities, though—I'll let McDowell explain:
McDowell is 151st in driving distance. He has been making up for that by hitting fairways as he is seventh in driving accuracy. He also has an amazing short game. He is sixth in strokes gained putting and first in scrambling.
That kind of game sets up great for this course. However, he hasn't had much success here. His best finish is 26th in 2010. McDowell has been in great form this year, and I expect him to contend.
Meanwhile, he is playing with some boomers.
Watson puts the ball as far out as anyone. However he doesn't always know where it is going. This will likely doom him here. He's played this event five times. He's missed three cuts and his highest finish is 37th, which came in 2009.
Keegan Bradley is currently ninth in driving distance, and a not terrible 89th in accuracy. He is not just about his tee game. His whole game is sound.
He's only played this tournament twice and he improved to 35th last year after finishing in 72nd in his debut. He might be figuring this course out.
It would not be a shock to Bradley in contention on Sunday.
Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy and Steve Stricker
Round 1 Tee Time: 8:39 a.m. ET on No. 10
Adam Scott will be hitting the course for the first time since his major breakthrough at Augusta. So, my guess is he will play terribly.
With a career-defining victory like Scott's, it is natural for it to create a lapse in focus. A little rust on Scott's game is to be expected. It is dangerous to count him out, though, and if he putts like he did to close out his Masters win, he will be tough to beat anywhere.
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy will be trying to ease his demons at Sawgrass. He has never made the cut here in three tries. Of course, as McIlroy explains, extracurricular activities may have played a part in his first two trips here:
McIlroy does a nice job of explaining the unique challenges of this course. Now, we'll see if he can handle them. My guess is he won't.
While he's been dialing in as the season goes on, he has been struggling to keep his shots straight, and that will tough to overcome here.
Then there is Stricker who, like Scott, has not been in action since the Masters. That is no surprise. Stricker has been playing a lighter schedule this year. He's only played in five events. Since three of those have been top-five finishes, I can't fault his strategy.
Stricker's results at this tournament have been a mixed bag. He missed the cut last year, and he was 12th the year before. That 12th-place finish was his third-best showing with his best being a sixth in 1999.
When Stricker is on, his game is well suited for this course.
No. 33: Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker
With great groups all over, there is no doubt this is the most interesting. Matt Kuchar is the defending champion. Brandt Snedeker has been as good as anyone the past year, and then there's some guy named Tiger Woods.
Of course, Woods is going to overshadow anyone he plays with, and all eyes will be on him here as he makes his first appearance since coming in fourth at Augusta.
Woods won here in 2001, but he has just one top 10 since. While he's been in great form this year winning three of his six PGA events, he has been struggling with his driving accuracy. That could doom him here. However, we all know Tiger can win on any track when he is hot.
Tiger offers up some nice comments on the challenges of this tournament.
Kuchar has been in good form this year. He won the Accenture Match Play Championship and he was eighth at the Masters. Kuchar doesn't do anything extraordinary, but he is solid with all facets. However, if he repeats, he will be the first player to do so in the history of this tournament.
Then there is Snedeker. This will be his second tournament since his latest Sunday collapse at Augusta. He played the following week in the Heritage and struggled to 59th.
At the start of this year, Snedeker was nearly unstoppable. In his first five PGA events of the year, Snedeker was in the top three or better in four of them. That included winning at Pebble Beach.
Then he was forced out of action with a rib injury, and has struggled to regain his form. He missed his two first cuts on his return leading up to the Masters. Still, I expect Snedeker to find his way onto the leaderboard here.