Dan Box
By Dan Box

Let's try this again, shall we?

12 months on from the cancellation of this event after just one day's play, The Players is back and ready to provide us with one of the greatest weeks of golfing entertainment throughout the season.

2021 Players Championship Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

If you've been watching the golf over the last couple of months, and let's face it, there's not been much else to do (in UK anyway), then I'm sure you'll agree that the quality and drama on display has been fantastic.

The prime example of this came last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational... Jordan Spieth in the mix and making a hole in one, Lee Westwood showing he's still got it at the age of 47, and a certain Bryson DeChambeau taking ridiculous lines off the tee and finally winning a few fans round en route to victory. Surely not?

2021 Players Championship Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

With the majors getting underway next month, this week really does mark the start of the golfing season, and watching TPC Sawgrass in all of it's glory might just get your competitive juices flowing for the upcoming season too.

Last Year

Last year didn't really go to plan, as we've mentioned, and no-one would've been more upset that Hideki Matsuyama who had just tapped in for an opening 63 when PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan was getting set to announce the Tour's immediate postponement of their events.

Sorry, Hideki...

Going back to 2019 then, and it was Rory McIlroy who came out on top and added to his impressive trophy collection with his first of four victories that year.

McIlroy played the 18th hole to perfection, making a closing par to ensure a one stroke victory over Jim Furyk, with Eddie Pepperell and Jhonattan Vegas a further stroke behind.

The Course

The Players has been held at the Pete & Alice Dye creation, TPC Sawgrass, since 1982. The pair effectively created it specifically for this tournament to try and provide a fun and dramatic layout for the Tour's flagship event.

The course features deliberately raised mounds around the holes for fans to gather on, creating a stadium-like atmosphere to add to all of the excitement. Whilst it won't be at full capacity, it'll definitely be nice to hear a few roars as the leaders come down the stretch on Sunday afternoon.

Of course, the feature hole at Sawgrass is the iconic par-3 17th. Known throughout the sporting world for it's 'island green' surrounded by a lake, which has also been known to make or break many a round over the years.

The Players Championship 2020 Preview Image Credit: TPC Sawgrass Twitter

17 gets all of the attention, but the back nine also features a couple of other holes which are just as interesting and can be more important for those who want to be right up there on the leaderboard.

The redesigned par-4 12th, usually playing under 300 yards and with water all down the left hand side, is accessible for all golfers in the field and is a great chance to make an eagle or a birdie for those chasing or protecting a lead.

The Players Championship 2020 Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

Similarly, the par-5 16th plays just over 500 yards and is easily reachable in two. The lake sits all the way down the right hand side of the hole and stretches around the back of the green, whilst there are huge oak trees and grass bunkers guarding the left side of a sloped green for those who bail out.

The Players Championship 2020 Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

Get your tee shot in the fairway however, and these guys will be looking at birdie more often than not.

Finally, the 18th hole is perhaps the best on the course, both visually and tactically. It is an intimidating right-to-left dogleg played around the lake, with huge mounds and thick rough up the right for those who aren't brave enough to take on the water.

The Players Championship 2020 Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

Grass bunkers are situated short and right of the green, a very popular spot, leaving a tricky up and down

Anyone who makes birdies (or better) on the 12th and 16th and then plays the final two holes in level par if they're in the mix on Sunday will be very happy indeed.

The Field

A whopping 154 players are set to tee it up at Sawgrass this week, making The Players the strongest field in golf and helping to add a little more credence to the whole 'fifth major debate'.

49 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking will be in attendance, besides Brooks Koepka who has been sidelined due to a knee injury and will surely now turn his attention to Augusta next month.

World Number One Dustin Johnson starts as the bookies' favourite, closely followed by defending champion Rory McIlroy and Spaniard Jon Rahm.

Jordan Spieth appears to be getting back to his best with a string of impressive results so far in 2021 including T4 last week at Bay Hill, one of four consecutive Top 15s. We can get away with saying 'Top 15' right? C'mon... It is Spieth after all.

His form at Sawgrass is pretty uninspiring, but he seems to be progressing each week and will surely be a favourite for The Masters in April.

Golfalot Tips

Jon Rahm @ 20/1

One of the game's most consistent players, Rahm has strung together plenty of excellent finishes over the last few months but is without a win since the end of August, and I'm sure he'll be looking to change that very soon.

He finished 12th in 2019 and was right in the mix until a couple of poor decisions cost him on Sunday, and it's the kind of course which you feel could really suit him as he gets set to make his fourth appearance here.

Tommy Fleetwood @ 45/1

T5 in 2019, T7 in 2018. T10 last week at Bay Hill. That's a pretty good recipe for success.

Fleetwood is one of the game's best ball-strikers and TPC Sawgrass is a real ball-strikers course. We all know how good he is, now's the time to prove it by winning a big one and his first PGA Tour title.

Jason Day @ 45/1

The Australian finally looks to be injury-free for the time being and will be looking to improve on his world ranking of 47th this year, after a couple of winless seasons.

2021 Players Championship Preview

Image Credit: Global Golf Post

The 2016 champion knows that he can play well here and has played well recently at Pebble Beach and at the WGC event. If his back stays ok, he can easily contend here.


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