This year’s PLAYERS Championship has plenty of intrigue, featuring the top players in the world. Rory McIlroy just won the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, but normally doesn’t perform well at TPC Sawgrass. World No. 2 Jordan Spieth has publicly aimed for McIlroy’s spot on top and was in serious contention last year. Also, Tiger Woods is back for the first time since winning the Players in 2013.
2015 PLAYERS Championship
When: Thursday, May 7 – Sunday, May 10
Where: TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Purse: $10 million (winning share: $1.8 million)
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to winner
Thursday and Friday: 1-7 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
Saturday and Sunday: 2-7 p.m. ET, NBC
1. Featured Groups
The first two rounds of the PLAYERS Championship feature some incredible groupings. Here’s a couple that are definitely worth watching start to finish:
- Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods – A group of three past champions at TPC Sawgrass. Kaymer won last year’s PLAYERS by one shot over local resident Jim Furyk. Woods won this tournament in both 2013 and 2001. Scott won THE PLAYERS in 2004. (Tee times: Rd. 1 – 1:49 p.m. ET off No. 1; Rd. 2 – 8:39 a.m. ET off No. 10)
- Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day – Three of the top seven players in the Official World Golf Ranking are in this group, including Nos. 1 and 2. They’ve all won this season, too. McIlroy earned his first TOUR title of the season Sunday at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Match Play; it was his 10th PGA TOUR victory. (Tee times: Rd. 1 – 8:39 a.m. ET off No. 10; Rd. 2 – 1:49 p.m. ET off No. 1)
2. Tiger is back
A two time winner at TPC Sawgrass, Tiger Woods is back. The last time we saw the 14 time major winner was at Augusta National, where he played better than expected, finishing tied for 17th.
Viewers certainly saw glimpses of the old Tiger at Augusta. He’s clearly healthy for the first time in what seems like ages, or else he wouldn’t have mapped out such an aggressive summer campaign.
A healthy Tiger is step one. Step two is whether or not he’s ready to compete again at the highest level, especially against such a competitive field as the one at TPC Sawgrass. His familiarity and confidence at the course should bode well for Tiger, and it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see him play well and on the first page of the leaderboard, assuming his head’s on straight following his breakup from Lindsey Vonn.
3. Can Jim Furyk Continue to turn back the clock?
At 44-years-old, Jim Furyk looks the best he’s looked in at least five years. Last month, the 2003 U.S. Open winner won the RBC Heritage in a playoff. Last week, Furyk made the semifinals in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, losing to eventual champion Rory McIlroy. It was Furyk’s best finish ever at the event. Furyk turns 45 next week, and an argument can be made he’s the most accomplished player in this field to never win the event (four top five finishes).
“There are a handful of tournaments out there that I earmark, but I’ve never won,” said Furyk. “I really like Riviera [site of the Northern Trust Open]. I’ve come so close at Colonial [site of the Crowne Plaza Invitational], and I love that course. But The Players is the event most near and dear to me, because I live there, and it’s our flagship event. I just want to play well there.”
4. The Famed 17th Hole
Thank you Pete Dye for delivering to us the iconic island green at TPC Sawgrass. The island green wreaks havoc on even the best players in the world. According to PGATour.com, 28 shots went in the drink in 2014, and that was the lowest amount in 12 years of tracking.
The weather bears watching, because it drastically affects the way this hole is played. It only measures 137 yards, but most players will be happy to take four pars and make their scores on the other 68 holes.
5. WGC-Cadillac Match Play Aftermath
The Players Championship is being held directly after the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, which means that’s a lot of golf for some players. McIlroy won the event, defeating Gary Woodland in the final, and players such as Jim Furyk, Paul Casey and Louis Oosthuizen played deep into the weekend. Each of those golfers played five or more rounds at TPC Harding Park.
While fatigue shouldn’t be an issue, you never know, and it bears watching. Keep an eye on players who got bounced early, like Spieth, Bubba Watson and Henrik Stenson who should be fresh come Thursday. McIlroy, who is in incredible shape, should be rested and ready to go, but it’s still something to keep an eye on.