Unofficially known as the fifth major of the PGA Tour season, the 2014 Players Championship brings the biggest stars out as they look to make their mark on one of the courses at TPC Sawgrass.
The defending champion and golf's biggest star, Tiger Woods, will not be taking part in this weekend's event as he recovers from back surgery, but there's plenty to watch with names like Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald, Masters darling Jordan Spieth and Masters champion Bubba Watson teeing it up.
The Players Championship is also one of the most exciting events each year. No player has won by more than two strokes since Henrik Stenson in 2009. We've got a live look at the leaderboard, as well as a few notes to prepare you for the weekend.
Since American golf seems to be in a transition phase, with Woods and Mickelson getting older, it's only fitting that we talk about Spieth, who shows the potential be a superstar in time.
ESPN's Bob Harig noted that Spieth wouldn't be overwhelmed or intimidated by this stage because of his familiarity and past experience with the course:
He played a junior event in Sawgrass four years ago. They used the same Sunday pins we'll see this Sunday at the Players Championship. He even birdied the famous 17th hole. Spieth didn't win that junior event, but does anyone think it would be a surprise if he won the Players Championship in his first attempt? Not when you consider the great success he's had in just a little over a year as a pro.
Sometimes it also helps to be more lucky than good. Spieth got started early on Thursday and, as Brian Wacker of PGATour.com noted, didn't look sharp with the putter on the final hole but rebounded nicely:
With Spieth being the new flavor of the month, Rory McIlroy, who used to be golf's young darling, is reminding everyone that he's still pretty good.
McIlroy finished the first round at three under par and looked strong, particularly with his short game, as Wacker also noted:
It seems fitting that the "fifth major" is taking place this weekend, one of the busiest in sports with the NBA and NHL playoffs and NFL draft, because the Players Championship always flies under the radar.
Every year the Players Championship delivers on the promise that comes along with being one of the most important events on the calendar. It's off to a rousing start so far, and will only get better as the weekend moves along.
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