TPC Sawgrass 2014 Championship Preview
Posted at May 8, 2014
The Players Championship, 2014
TPC Sawgrass is often considered as the 'fifth major' in golf and is the flagship event of the PGA Tour with a prize fund of a hefty $10,000,000. A big prize fund, a strong field and a testing 7,215 yard course; the Players Championship is teed up to be one of the highlights of the 2014 season without doubt. So many factors could play a part this week - here are five things we think you should watch out for:
1 - Drama at the 17th Hole
There are few golf fans who would fail to recognise the iconic 17th hole on the Players Stadium Course at Sawgrass. That island green with the ridged wall and the relentless body of water which has swallowed the golf balls of many a champion; even just the description would be enough to identify this famously treacherous par 3. As if the water weren't intimidating enough for the players, the grandstands full to capacity which surround the hole creates a tense cauldron of anticipation which is unrivalled by any hole at any other championship golf course. Eyes watching from all angles, many of which are willing your golf ball into the calm waters just for some excitement; it's a deceptively simple, straight forward hole for the professionals but the drama which a simple island green can provide in the theatre of Sawgrass is incredible.
2 - The Field
The field for The Players Championship features no short of eight of the current top 10 golfers in the world. With only Woods and Jason Day absent through injury, a fiercely competitive tournament, synonymous with any major championship, is a certainty this week and it will take someone with incredible nerve and composure to take the title. No short of four players could feasibly become world number one come Sunday evening, too. Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar could each leapfrog Tiger Woods to top spot if they perform exceedingly well this week - as if the $1.8 million first prize was not enough of an incentive!
3 - Past Winners vs Current Season Winners
A few weeks ago, we highlighted how many 'surprise' victors there have been on the PGA Tour so far this season. The emergence of youngsters such as Jordan Spieth, Russell Henley, Patrick Reed and Seung Yul-Noh amongst many other lesser-known names has really ruffled the feathers of some of the boys at the top this season - but winning at Sawgrass requires significantly more bottle and nerve than the average PGA Tour event. The list of past winners proves this case: Woods, Kuchar, Choi, Clarke, Stenson, Garcia, Mickelson, Scott - some of the biggest names in golf have triumphed here in recent years. Will any of these 'new kids' on the PGA Tour be able to surprise once more this week at TPC Sawgrass?
4 - The Importance of Accuracy
One for the stat fans: in the past 10 years, the eventual TPC champion has finished in the top four of the Greens in Regulation standings. The greens on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass are smaller than the regular Tour Standard, hence finding more greens than any other would appear to be the key to conquering The Players Championship. So, who is top of the GIR standings so far this season? The top five makes for interesting reading: Graham DeLaet // Chad Campbell // Harris English // Dustin Johnson // Jason Hicks; whilst notable others near the top include Bubba Watson (11th) and Sergio Garcia (12th). Everyone will remember Sergio's catastrophic downfall at the last two holes last year; it will most certainly be the 17th and the difficult 18th with the left hand water hazard which cause the most concern yet again this week.
5 - The European Contingent
Just three Europeans have won The Players Championship in its 30 year history; only one of which was British (Sandy Lyle, 1987). If we are suggesting that it is a major winning mentality which is needed for victory, then there are five European major winners in the field alongside previous TPC champions Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, who is also baying for that number one spot. Throw in the in-form Luke Donald and Jonas Blixt with his impressive major performances and we have a very competitive European contingent with ample ability to win at TPC Sawgrass.
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