Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of the Players Championship at the Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass, golf’s self-styled fifth major and the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
Throw your form and history books out of the window this week however, because the tournament has been moved back from May to March in a re-jigged schedule that sees the USPGA Championship move to the middle of the season.
It is the first time since 2006 the Players has been held in March, and it completely changes the golf course. The fairways are softer and lush, so it will play much longer than previously – Tiger Woods said earlier this week that he was hitting three-iron into the par-four 18th during his practice round.
The greens and rough have also been overseeded with rye grass, so that’s good news for those players who did not enjoy putting on the grainy Bermuda.
Sawgrass might be more of a test of driving this year then. In years past it has been known as a second shot golf course where iron-play is all important.
It is a typical Pete Dye design with fairways that run across the player from the tee, and working out the right angles is all important. The greens are some of the smallest on tour bar Pebble Beach, but if you miss them there can be some devilish lies and stances in the swales and run-off areas that surround them.
One green you certainly don’t want to miss is the island 17th surrounded by water, the course’s signature hole though not without its critics.
The aforementioned Woods returns from a neck strain, and the signs looked good in the practice rounds. Rory McIlroy has been super consistent this season, while Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia have fine records round here.
My long-shot for the week is American Jason Kokrak, who topped the field in strokes gained tee-to-green last week at Bay Hill. He had a Weston-super-mare on the green however, losing four strokes to the field with the putter. If he straightens that out he might go well, and Kokrak is yet to miss a cut this season.