Rickie Fowler defends The Players Championship

An extremely strong field has assembled to do battle for a prize fund of $10,500,000

Rickie Fowler defends The Players Championship
Rickie Fowler defends The Players Championship
(Image credit: Getty Images)

46 of the top 50 in the world are at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida this week where Rickie Fowler defends The Players Championship.

The list of winners of The Players Championship reads like a who’s who of elite golf through the last 40+ years. Jack Nicklaus won in 1974. Since then Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino, Ray Floyd, Fred Couples, Sandy Lyle, Tom Kite, Nick Price, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods, Davis Love III and Phil Mickelson have all taken the title.

Last season, Rickie Fowler produced one of the most memorable finishes in PGA Tour history to tie and then beat Kevin Kisner and Sergio Garcia. Fowler finished birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to force his way into a playoff. He birdied the 17th again in the three-hole playoff as Sergio Garcia was eliminated. Incredibly, Fowler then birdied 17 for a third time to take the title in sudden death over Kisner.

This event has been contested over Sawgrass’ Stadium course since 1982. A Pete Dye design, originally dating from 1979, the layout was redesigned by Dye in 2006. It’s one of the most recognisable courses on the PGA Tour and has traditionally been one of the toughest tracks on the circuit. Although, a reshaping of some greens has resulted in the opportunity for some less severe pin positions and that has meant the layout has been a little less testing over the last few seasons.

There’s a huge prize fund this week: $10,500,000 – It’s the biggest purse of the year and the world’s best are out to grab a share of it. Rickie Fowler defends The Players but Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day will all tee it up. They’ll face stiff competition from Sawgrass specialists like Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. Masters champion Danny Willett will also make a start.

Danny Willett swing sequence:

The weather forecast looks relatively settled although there is the chance of thunderstorms on Friday. It will be warm but fairly strong winds could make things a little more interesting.

Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida Date: May 12-15 Course stats: par 72, 7,215 yards Purse: $10,500,000 Defending Champion: Rickie Fowler

TV Coverage: Thursday 12 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Friday 13 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm Saturday 14 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Sunday 15 – Sky Sports 4 from 7pm

Player watch: Sergio Garcia – Runner-up last year, Sergio is the all-time leading money winner in this event. He hasn’t missed a cut in his last 12 visits and has finished top-10 in his last three starts. He won the event back in 2008.

Hideki Matsuyama – His game should be ideally suited to this course as he’s one of the circuit’s top ball strikers. He’s been top-25 both times he’s played here but has yet to really show what he can do around Sawgrass… maybe this year.

Louis Oosthuizen – Playing well this year with a host of solid finishes including victory in Australian and a second place at the WGC Match Play… He’s overdue a big win.

Click here for the betsafe guide to the Players Championship by Fergus Bisset

Key hole: 17th. One of the most famous holes in world golf, this 137-yard par 3 plays to an island green, totally surrounded by water. It may be no more than a 9-iron but, with a swirling wind and the pressures of a green or bust scenario, it’s one of the most intimidating challenges on the PGA Tour.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?