The Players Championship offers the PGA's largest purse and a great setting at TPC Sawgrass.
This year, the tournament carries a purse of $10 million with $1.8 million going to the winner. Both of those numbers are an increase from last season when Tiger Woods won $1.71 million of the $9.5 million purse.
Unfortunately, Woods will not be at TPC Sawgrass to defend his title when play gets underway Thursday. The world No. 1 is recovering from back surgery, and he passed along the following update on his return via his website:
I really don't know. I'm doing everything I can and listening to my doctors and working on a strength program, and then we just have to see how my back is. Some people heal up in three months, some people take longer. I just don't know.
Although Woods will not be there, this field is stacked. That is not a surprise. This prestigious tournament is typically viewed as the year's unofficial fifth major. The buckets of cash it offers the players has something to do with that.
Using the standard PGA percentage of prize distribution, here are the top payouts for this tournament:
Players to Watch
Back in 2009, Henrik Stenson won this event and promptly faded into oblivion. Injuries played a big part of that. Stenson roared back to the top of the golf world with a strong finish to last season that saw him win the FedEx Cup, and he will actually enter this tournament with a chance to claim the world's No. 1 ranking.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel highlights that Stenson is not alone in this pursuit.
Recurring theme alert: Four players (Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar) can become No. 1 in the world this week.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 5, 2014
Stenson did not pick up where he left off this season. He's been solid but not the dominating player he was around the close of last season. His game is moving in the right direction, though.
Stenson finished 14th at the Masters, and he's had one start since. That was a European Tour stop at the China Open where he had his best finish of the season by coming in fifth. Stenson will bring that improving form to a course in which he has had success in the past.
Along with his win, he has three other finishes in the top 10, and he came in fifth here last year.
Matt Kuchar can be listed as a player to watch at every tournament he enters, which is most of them. His consistent ways make him a fixture on leaderboards, and in 2012, it led him to the Players Championship title.
Which golfer will finish higher?
Kuchar has been strong this season, although until recently, his year was known for the wins that got away. In back-to-back starts, Kuchar blew Sunday leads. He still finished in the top five, and that is part of his current string of four straight top-five finishes.
His last start also erased some of the demons from his blown leads, as he won the RBC Heritage.
Kuchar was 48th here last year, but given his recent form and his win in 2012, expect him to be a big factor.
Rory McIlroy has been solid this year, but he is still searching for his first PGA win since 2011.
McIlroy's downfall this year has been that he hasn't been able to put together four good rounds.
McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in six of his eight PGA starts this season. If one bad round hadn't held him back, some of those would be victories.
Entering the Players off an eighth-place finish at Wells Fargo, McIlroy's chance at winning that event was doomed when he shot a 76 in Round 2.
Could this be the tournament that McIlroy breaks his drought? He appears comfortable at Sawgrass. The 25-year-old finished tied for eighth at this event last year, and he knows what it takes to play well there. This McIlroy quote is passed along by Tom LaMarre of AlbanyHerald.com:
When you hit the shots, it seems very simple. … I think around here, if you short-side yourself, especially in the Bermuda rough, you really pay a penalty for that. It’s better off missing it in the right places here.
No matter if he's at the top of his game or not, McIlroy will undoubtedly be entertaining to watch.