The Players Championship always attracts one of the best fields on the entire PGA Tour schedule. This year is certainly no different. Even though reigning champion Tiger Woods remains sidelined, almost all of the sport's big names are battling at TPC Sawgrass.
One thing every player in the field will need to do in order to capture the coveted title is conquer the famous island green at No. 17. The hole headlines a dramatic finishing stretch that got the better of Sergio Garcia last year, as he carded a seven on the par three to fall out of contention.
Let's check out which golfers have fared the best on the Stadium Course throughout Day 1 with an updated look at the leaderboard. It's followed by a closer look at three top players to watch during The Players.
2014 Players Championship Leaderboard
Players to Watch
Watson returns to competitive action for the first time since his second Masters triumph. While winning a major is always a big deal, he was having a terrific season even before winning the green jacket. In all, he's tallied six top-10 finishes, including two wins, in nine starts.
He's never enjoyed much success at TPC Sawgrass, though. Steve DiMeglio of USA Today passed along comments from the fan favorite, who said the course simply doesn't fit his eye well but noted he's made some progress in recent years:
When I look down No. 1 and No. 10, just to give you an example, it's hard to tell the fairway and the rough. It all kind of blends in together. I don't like to look at a tree and aim at a tree. I like to see the lay of the land and that's how I hit my shots. So it's very difficult when you look at a golf course like that. So it makes it difficult for me.
But the challenge is there. I'm on a streak. I made cut the last two years, so maybe a 36th this year and I get my best tournament (finish) ever here.
Despite those previous struggles, it's impossible to completely count him out given how well he's been playing this season. The toughest task might not be the course, but rather coming down from the emotional high of the Masters win to start playing again.
Scott is still searching for his first win of the season in his seventh tournament. The good news is he's putting himself in contention on a weekly basis, which means it should only be a matter of time before he gets a victory. It could very well happen this week.
There's more on the line than just a win in The Players this week, though. Scott is one of four players capable of overtaking the idle Woods for the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Ranking. As Justin Ray of ESPN notes, he also holds the easiest path to the top ranking:
4 players can become world no. 1 this week: Adam Scott (top-16), Henrik Stenson (top-6), Bubba Watson (solo 2nd), Matt Kuchar (win).— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) May 7, 2014
The key for Scott is better play over the weekend. Over the past two years at TPC Sawgrass, his average score in the first two rounds is a shade under 69. In the final two rounds, it's been nearly 73. He needs to carry that early-round form into Saturday and Sunday in order to have a chance.
Kuchar is quietly having perhaps the best season of anybody on the PGA Tour. In 11 starts, he's made the cut 10 times, racked up eight top-10 finishes and added a win to his resume in his most recent start at the RBC Heritage the week after the Masters.
Which of these players will have the best Players finish?
The American is also a former Players Championship winner. He captured the title two years ago by shooting 13 under, two shots better than the rest of the field. In fact, that's been the winning score each of the past three years, giving Kuchar and Co. a target.
A strong start to the season has also landed Kuchar on the aforementioned list of players capable of taking over the No. 1 ranking this week. He must win in order to have a chance, though. That said, it would surely make for a memorable weekend if he could pull it off.