Dan Box
By Dan Box

It's Players week, and in its new March slot in the schedule it feels like it signifies that the start of the golfing season is finally just around the corner.

The Players Championship 2022 Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

The fact that this is the PGA Tour's flagship event, and the so-called fifth major, will presumably come as a bit of a relief to the big wigs at the Tour after a rocky start to 2022 with talk of super leagues and big stars leaving or, in the case of Phil Mickelson, making a bit of a fool of themselves.

This event comes at a good time to remind both players and fans of just what the tour can offer. When the field is as strong at this, at an event with such a rich history, and the small matter of a $20 million prize fund, then it's hard to see why you'd ever want to change things...

Last Year

In 2021 Justin Thomas added to his already impressive résumé with a stunning weekend of 64-68 to win by one stroke from overnight leader Lee Westwood.

The Course

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable on the PGA Tour's rota, from the manicured fairways to the white sand, wooden bleachers and of course, the island green on the 17th.

A Pete Dye design, it was first used to host The Players in 1982 and is a Par 72 which measures 7,256 yards. It was designed specifically for this event and so it is tailor made to provide drama and tension, particularly on the back nine.

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.

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 2022 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 2022 Preview Image Credit: The Players Twitter

If you want an even closer look at the course, check out Golf Digest's handy hole-by-hole walkthrough here...

The Field

The two big misses this week are Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, who had both been subject to intense scrutiny thanks to their (alleged) involvement in Greg Norman's Saudi-backed league.

In fact, this marks the first time since 1994 that neither Tiger nor Phil will be teeing it up at Sawgrass. The fact that there are still so many storylines without the presence of two of the game's biggest names shows just how much depth there is in the game these days.

Besides that, 48 of the top 50 in the OWGR are in the field this week at TPC Sawgrass. This means that wherever you look there's going to be star names, from European giants Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland to young American star Collin Morikawa, the red-hot Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay, as well as major winners Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

The case for an International win will be led by Cameron Smith and Hideki Matsuyama, backed up by Sungjae Im and recent winner Joaquin Niemann.

Look Out For...

  • A potential new World Number One

Whilst Jon Rahm has undoubtedly been phenonemal over the last year or so, such is the depth of quality in golf these days that there are four other golfers who could ascend to the top of the rankings this week.

Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland could all become the number one player in the world if they win, and other results go their way. It's one to keep an eye on...

  • More rumblings from the Saudi League?

As mentioned before we won't be seeing Bryson or Phil, but this is the first time that all of the big names will tee it up at an event this year so expect journalists to be asking questions. It will be interesting to see what the golfers have to say about the PGA Tour and their participation this week, considering that this is the biggest event besides the majors.

  • An appearance from Tiger Woods

Whilst he is not involved at The Players in a playing or hosting capacity, like he was at Riviera, Tiger will be there and will be honoured with a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday evening. Like always, when Tiger speaks, the world listens.

It will be interesting to hear his thoughts on his career, his comments on the PGA Tour as a whole and if we're lucky there may even be an update on his fitness and potential return to the game.

Golfalot Tips

  • Rory McIlroy @ 18/1

Showed plenty of good signs this year so far, without stringing four rounds together. The scoring should be a little better at Sawgrass than at Bay Hill last week, which should suit his attacking style of play.

  • Cam Smith @ 33/1

Has not played since a T33 at the Genesis Invitational but the Australian has cemented his place as a world class player and finished T17 at this event last year on a course that should be set up to suit his style.

  • Shane Lowry @ 45/1

Looking to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on the title at the Honda Classic, Lowry is still seeking his first win since The Open in 2019 but has been in great form for months and finished eighth here last year.

  • Will Zalatoris @ 50/1

He's yet to win on the PGA Tour, but that feels like it's just a matter of time as long as his putter continues to behave. A machine from tee to green and one of the best ball-strikers in the world, he struggled a little last week to finish T38 but made a solid debut in last year's Players.

  • Sergio Garcia @ 90/1

Has made 17 consecutive cuts, including a win, two second places and a third at TPC Sawgrass. Form has been pretty steady so far this year, and has not missed a cut since early October 2021.


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