The Players 2022: Preview

Justin Thomas will hope to defend his title as The Players tees off at TPC Sawgrass in Florida. Here’s the most eye-catching pairings and everything else you need to know ahead of golf’s ‘fifth major’.

No player has ever won the PGA Tour‘s flagship event in consecutive years, and the American will face stiff competition with almost the entire world’s top 50 players featuring in golf’s strongest field of the year.

For the first time ever, each of the top five players in the official world golf rankings going into the event are under the age of 30: Jon Rahm (27), Collin Morikawa (25), Viktor Hovland (24), Patrick Cantlay (29), and Scottie Scheffler (25).

Pairings to look out for

It’s tough to pick out the most significant groups teeing off at TPC Sawgrass, but these pairings could well feature the eventual winner.

7:40 am: Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama, Cameron Smith
7:51 am: Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland
12:34 pm: Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger, Dustin Johnson
12:45 pm: Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele
12:56 pm: Rory McIlory, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas

No Tiger or Phil

Rory McIlroy will be looking to win the event for a second time, having claimed a narrow victory in 2019, while world number one Rahm and Open champion Morikawa will resume their rivalry at the top of the world rankings.

Bryson DeChambeau will be absent after pulling out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week with hip and wrist issues, and for the first time in 28 years The Players will be without both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Prize money

The 2022 Players will offer the biggest prize pool for a PGA Tour stop ever. A cool $20 million will be available to the 65 players and ties who make the cut – $7.5m more than the US Open, the biggest purse of the four majors – with a huge $3.6 million going to the winner. The player who finished in 36th place still gets a six figure sum, $104,000, and the player who finishes in 65th last place gets $43,000. 

The victor also gets a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a three-year exemption for all four majors. The champion also earns 600 FedEx Cup points, which is the same as any major and more than the 500 given for regular PGA Tour events. 

Golf’s ‘fifth major’

The Players Championship is widely considered to be golf’s fifth major in all but name. Inaugurated in 1974, it’s now the PGA Tour‘s flagship event and the quality of the field is the strongest of the year.

While the PGA Championship offers 20 places for club professionals and The Open, the US Open and the Masters all allocate invites to amateurs, The Players consists of the world’s top 50 ranked players, recent winners of majors, WGC and PGA Tour events, and players with a high enough FedEx Cup and PGA Tour money list standing from the previous season.

TPC Sawgrass, The Stadium Course

As with the Masters, The Players is held at the same course each year: TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, home of the PGA headquarters. 2022 will be the 40th staging of the event at this venue.

Like Augusta National, the Pete Dye-designed ‘Stadium Course‘ has become one of golf’s iconic venues, with its distinctive stadium concept of grass banks for spectators and one of the world’s most recognizable holes, the treacherous 137-yard, par-3 17th ‘Island Green’.

With 88 bunkers and 17 water hazards coming into play on 17 holes, it’s easy to post big numbers. Dog-legs go both ways and the routing is designed so that no two consecutive holes ever play in the same direction. It’s a typical Dye risk-reward course and players will need to decide when to attack and when to play away from danger off the tee with all the water and cross bunkers.

The closing holes usually deliver drama. The 16th is a par five with water running down the right where eagles can be scored, but a wayward approach could result in a double-bogey, or worse. The 18th is a fearsome par four with water on the left which can make or break careers. The greens run at a speedy 13 on the stimpmeter and are smaller than Tour average, which means proximity and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green will be a priority.

Weather forecast

The par 72, 7,256 yards course can be tough when the wind picks up, but the event’s move back to March from May means that big hitters can attack more with the driver compared to May, without the fear of their drives scooting off and landing in trouble.

Cooler temperatures, widespread rain and the threat of thunderstorms dominate the forecast for the first two rounds, with the rain set to continue into Saturday, bringing with it winds up to 30 mph. The cold, wet and windy weather will bring extra challenges to an already demanding course.

Most wins at The Players Championship

Jack Nicklaus won in 1974, 76 and 78, but never at TPC Sawgrass, as it wasn’t held there until 1982. Two-time winners are: Fred Couples (1984, 1996), Steve Elkington (1991, 97), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Davis Love III (1992, 2003) and Tiger Woods (2001, 2013).

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