The 2014 Players Championship is the most lucrative tournament on the regular PGA Tour circuit in terms of prize money, with a $10 million purse and the winner taking home a nice $1.8 million paycheck. Even the runner-up will rake in a cool $1.08 million.
That ups the ante from last year's $9.5 million purse, when Tiger Woods seized victory and a $1.71 million reward for the top prize (per Yahoo.com). As Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com points out, only the final major of the season in the PGA Championship boasts a matching $10 million in total prize money.
This anecdote from golf analyst Steve Elling seems pertinent in that context:
Golf facts: Only the PGA Championship drew more players from the world top 200 last year than the Players Championship, 126 to 114.— Steve Elling (@EllingYelling) May 7, 2014
"For years and years, The Players Championship has been the No. 1 purse in golf. We like that designation," said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in the fall, per Porter.
Although this field is filled with elite golfers, it's likely that some star will have a big breakthrough in golf's "fifth major." The intensity of this tournament is going to be a pivotal point for many players as they gear up for the U.S. Open in June.
Here is an overview of the payouts for the top Players Championship performers as the action gets underway Thursday, along with a brief preview of the marquee tour stop.
Source: PGATour.com. Ties will impact payouts.
Players Championship Preview
There is an increasing amount of parity in modern golf, because Woods isn't as dominant as he used to be, and no one has stepped up to claim the throne of world No. 1 on a consistent basis. Rory McIlroy has come the closest to emulating at least some of Woods' early success, as the young star has won two major titles by eight strokes already.
McIlroy is the 12-1 favorite to win (according to OddsShark.com), but he's followed in the odds by Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia. The latter three have all won the Players before, thus making them illogical bets based on the diverse array of champions this event has fostered.
Those who have won at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, shouldn't necessarily be counted on to do so again. Woods became the sixth multiple winner of this event last season, but there were nine first-time Players champions in as many years before Woods' 2013 triumph.
Part of what makes this tournament so hard to win are the final three holes.
Given the fact that he's placed in the top 10 in his previous three starts and hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2012, it seems feasible to believe McIlroy is destined to claim the coveted crystal trophy.
But Scott, Kuchar, reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson and another past Players winner in Henrik Stenson all have a chance to overtake Woods for the No. 1 spot in the world rankings this week. Below is a look at what's required of them:
4 different players can become World No. 1 at #THEPLAYERS: Adam Scott: Top 16 Henrik Stenson: Top 6 Bubba Watson: 2nd alone Matt Kuchar: Win— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 7, 2014
Stenson discussed how he compared to Woods before the tournament and what the top ranking would mean to him, per GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel:
If I compare my best game with Tiger’s best game, I would always put his a little higher, what he achieved over such a long period of time. I know I can beat him; I did that in Atlanta [at last year’s Tour Championship] when I gave him a pretty good beating in the first round, when my game was really good and he wasn’t playing his best. I know I can beat the best players when I’m playing my best and that’s good enough for me – whether I’m ranked (No.) 1 or 3 or 7.
Among the competitors who are fortunate enough to challenge for Woods' prestigious throne this week, Kuchar seems like the strongest candidate. Kuchar won his last start at the RBC Heritage and has been as steady as anyone on tour as of late, registering eight top 10s in 11 starts and top-five finishes in his past four events.
Golf Central logged Kuchar's comments regarding his potential ascent to the top of the golfing world:
“I think all of us that are out here dream of being No. 1… It’s cool to have that chance right now” – Matt Kuchar pic.twitter.com/VTvJqdn5vw— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) May 7, 2014
Who would you most like to see ascend to No. 1 in the world this week?
Rose placed eighth at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and fifth at last week's Wells Fargo Championship, while Donald was runner-up to Kuchar at the RBC Heritage. Both are fully capable of getting a landmark victory come Sunday.
Golf could use some star power sans Woods, though, and the most marketable man for the job is McIlroy. If the Northern Irishman can get his short game in order, he could have a runaway win with the way he's played from tee to green in his past three times in competition.
But also returning to action is Jordan Spieth, who's viewed as the next great hope in American golf after his meteoric rise to stardom and his lead on the front nine during Masters Sunday. Spieth will bring excitement if he's in the mix, and a win would bolster his resume that already includes one tour victory and a No. 7 world ranking.