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Matthew Fitzpatrick hits from the 4th hole tee during the first round of The Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
March 9th, 2022
The best of the best in golf will gather at TPC Sawgrass this weekend for the sport's unofficial fifth major, The Players Championship, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
The 144-player field will feature each of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, including tournament favorite and World No. 1 Jon Rahm (+1200), last year's Players Championship winner Justin Thomas (+1400), and Scottie Scheffler (+2200), who triumphed in last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Thomas is one of the five most recent Players Championship winners who will participate in this weekend's event. Rory McIlroy (2019 champion), Webb Simpson (2018), Si Woo Kim (2017), and Jason Day (2016) will also tee off at TPC Sawgrass in hopes of joining a short list of players who have won this tournament more than once. There has not been a two-time champion since 2013, when Tiger Woods collected his second Players Championship trophy.
Let’s examine TPC Sawgrass’ design and look at the key course notes as we make our best picks for the 2022 Players Championship.
Opened in 1980 as the first of several Tournament Player Clubs, TPC Sawgrass has played host to The Players since 1982.
While it features two separate courses, the Stadium course was designed by Pete and Alice Dye specifically for the annual tournament and is considered one of the most difficult in the world.
Missing the fairways will cost you, with penal rough on the edges, and all but one hole has a water hazard waiting to swallow up the ball. Add in the fickle Florida weather, which should bring quite a bit of rain this weekend and 24 mph winds on Saturday, and the competition can quickly get dicey.
TPC Sawgrass is best known for its iconic par-3, 137-yard "Island Green" on Hole 17, where it's estimated more than 100,000 balls are retrieved from its surrounding water every year.
9 numbers to know about the iconic island green at TPC Sawgrass - https://t.co/YD56AFgADz #ThePlayers pic.twitter.com/EXv1Vjgqfn— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) May 11, 2017
9 numbers to know about the iconic island green at TPC Sawgrass - https://t.co/YD56AFgADz #ThePlayers pic.twitter.com/EXv1Vjgqfn
With challenges at every turn, Dye's goal in designing TPC Sawgrass was to create an equally balanced course that did not favor any one style of play and presented the "purest test in golf." Thus, The Players has produced a wide array of winners over the last several decades. From power drivers to potent Bermudagrass putters, a variety of golf styles have been rewarded at the par-72, 7,256-yard layout.
In 2019, McIlroy tied for fourth in driving distance and 49th in driving accuracy the week of his win, while Simpson ranked 70th in distance, but first in accuracy, when he finished first at the event in 2018.
Both golfers also ranked in the top 10 in ball striking and bogey avoidance, while neither cracked the top 40 in strokes gained putting.
One player to eye for a top finish at TPC Sawgrass is Matthew Fitzpatrick (+2800), who just placed ninth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has a run of four straight top-12 finishes.
The English golfer ranks seventh in strokes gained tee to green, fourth in strokes gained putting, and is in the top 20 on Tour in strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approaching the green, and par-5 scoring.
Love playing Bay Hill, always a challenge and even more so this year. Really rewards thinking your way around the course. Happy to finish inside the top 10 again now onto @THEPLAYERSChamp!! 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/LGOUCdyymO— Matt Fitzpatrick (@MattFitz94) March 7, 2022
Love playing Bay Hill, always a challenge and even more so this year. Really rewards thinking your way around the course. Happy to finish inside the top 10 again now onto @THEPLAYERSChamp!! 💪🏼 pic.twitter.com/LGOUCdyymO
Fitzpatrick is known to perform well in tough conditions, so the weekend weather forecast shouldn't bother him too much. With five career appearances at The Players, he has improved each time, with his best finish (ninth) coming last year.
Another player set to climb the leaderboard is Chris Kirk (+8000), who has been crushing the Florida Swing so far, with a seventh-place finish at the Honda Classic and fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Kirk currently ranks sixth on Tour in strokes gained around the green, 12th in strokes gained tee to green, and is top 30 in strokes gained off the tee. While he landed 48th last year at The Players, Kirk has cracked the top 20 in three of his 10 career appearances at the tournament.
With the way he's playing at the moment, another top-20 finish should be in store for the 36-year-old Tennessee native.
The winner of the 2022 Players Championship will receive 600 FedEx Cup points and a whopping $3.6 million of a $20 million purse, the largest on the PGA Tour.
You can catch all the action on the following days and times:
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