The Players Championship is one of the most eagerly anticipated tournaments on the PGA Tour calendar, and is regarded by many as the unofficial fifth Major.
Not surprisingly, it has also been awarded designated status this year, adding even more importance to a tournament that already stood a level above many other events in the eyes of players and fans alike.
As well as a record purse of $25m, the tournament also features an outstanding field with many of the world’s best players competing at the world-famous TPC Sawgrass.
One player who will not be in the field is the defending champion. That’s because the 2022 winner was Cameron Smith, who has since signed for LIV Golf. In fact, it is for the same reason that the two players who finished behind the Australian last year, Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey, also miss out.
Despite their absences, there is still an embarrassment of riches in the field, including Kurt Kitayama, who claimed an enthralling Arnold Palmer Invitational victory last week, and a host of former Players champions.
World No.3 Rory McIlroy finished tied for second at Bay Hill, but that represented a marked improvement on his previous PGA Tour outings in 2023, and he will be confident of replicating his 2019 victory, when he edged out Jim Furyk by one shot.
Following cancellation in 2020 due to Covid-19, the tournament returned in 2021, and Justin Thomas took the honours. The World No.9’s best finish of 2023 so far came with fourth in last month’s WM Phoenix Open, and he’ll be another with high expectations this week.
After the first round in last week’s tournament, it appeared to be business as usual for World No.1 Jon Rahm, whose 65 gave him the overnight lead. That was as good as it got for the Spaniard, though, and eventually he finished outside the top-10 for the first time in 10 starts worldwide with a disappointing tie for 39th. Despite the underwhelming result, few would bet against him claiming his fourth win since the turn of the year this week.
It is now less than a month until World No.2 Scottie Scheffler defends his Masters title, and he will be confident of building on strong performances in recent weeks, which included winning at TPC Scottsdale and a tie for fourth last week, as the Augusta National Major approaches.
Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, Will Zalatoris and Collin Morikawa complete the list of players in the world’s top 10. Sitting just outside that elite group,…
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