The last time Matt Wallace was here at Sawgrass he was a first-year student at nearby Jacksonville State University. The young Londoner was disappointed to find that cold weather had rendered the famous course brown and was nothing like the green vision he had seen on TV. Today, eight years on, he will keep a promise he made to himself that day – to appear in the lush conditions of The Players Championship.
It is fair to say it has been some journey for the 28-year-old from London. A little over two years ago, he was playing on The Alps Tour, one of European golf’s more lowly feeder circuits, before five wins in succession saw him start his rapid ascent up the ladder. Now, he arrives as the world No 35 who does not see why he should not, as a debutant, win the event which Dustin Johnson, the world No 1, called yesterday to be recognised as “golf’s fifth major”.
Certainly, the determined 28-year-old is not intimidated, despite being in a field containing every member of the world’s top 50, including, of course, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Having been switched back to its traditional slot in March following 12 years in May, interest is greater than ever, but Wallace welcomes that pressure.