The Players Championship begins this week, March 12-15, on the iconic Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass. The tournament features the largest payout in professional golf, with the winner taking home $2.7 million, and has the largest purse. The Players is colloquially known as the “fifth major”, and its prestige routinely attracts one of the strongest fields in world golf. One of the biggest stars teeing off this week is also the defending champion: world number 1 Rory McIlroy.
2019 Champion Rory McIlroy
The Northern Irishman enjoyed a splendid 2019, capped off by winning the FedExCup. In many ways, it was the Players that got McIlroy going, as it was his first PGA Tour win in almost a year. McIlroy was made to work for his victory by future hall of famer Jim Furyk. McIlroy was never out of the top-5, and began the final round 1 stroke off of leader Jon Rahm. However it was Furyk, 5 strokes behind the leader, who provided the drama when he finished with a 67, after already carding a 64 in the second round. However, McIlroy kept his cool and put in a final round 70 to finish the tournament -16 to beat Furyk by 1 stroke.
McIlroy comes into the tournament trying to buck history, as no golfer has ever repeated as champion at the The Players. But all records must be eventually broken and McIlroy is in a rich vein of form. Standing in his way are the usual crew, with all of the top-10 in the Official World Golf Rankings competing this week in Florida, including Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas. Jim Furyk will compete again at age 49, along with Phil Mickelson, also 49, in what is their last year before being eligible for the PGA Tour Champions. Neither will want to go quietly into senior golf, and both remain contenders. On the other end of the spectrum, early season PGA Tour winners Viktor Hovland and Sungjae Im will look to compete, along with Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Tyrrell Hatton.
Brooks Koepka tees off this weekend. photo courtesy the PGA Tour
Television coverage is shared between the Golf Channel and NBC. The first two rounds will be shown on The Golf Channel Thursday and Friday, 1-7pm ET. Saturday coverage will be 2-7pm ET on NBC, with the final round coverage coming on Sunday, 1-6pm ET on NBC. Streaming coverage is available through PGA Tour Live of select groups and holes throughout the tournament. Radio coverage is provided by PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM and online at PGATour.com.