The Players 2023: Preview

Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy, the world’s top three ranked golfers, are grouped together as The Players tees off at TPC Sawgrass. Here’s everything you need to know.

World No.1 Rahm, followed by Scheffler and then McIlroy in the rankings, all have the chance to end the weekend as the top ranked golfer by winning The Players. Rahm has three wins so far this season, with Scheffler and McIlroy both winning once, while each has already enjoyed a stint in the rankings top spot this year.

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, played at the same venue each year, TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

The quality of the field is the strongest of the year. For 2023, the 144-player line-up includes 43 of the world’s top 50 and all-but one of the current top 50 in the FedExCup standings, with all this season’s PGA Tour winners also teeing it up.

Who are the favourites?

Jon Rahm

Rahm and McIlroy, who got T-2 at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, are the co-favourites followed by Scheffler, 2021 champion Justin Thomas, Max Homa – a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, and Patrick Cantlay. Others in the conversation are Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Collin Morikawa, Cameron Young, Tom Kim, Sungjae Im, Will Zalatoris and Tony Finau.

Groups to look out for:

Round One (local time)

Hole 1

12:34 pm: Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Shane Lowry

12:45 pm: Kurt Kitayama, Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele

12:56 pm: Max Homa, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth

1:07 pm: Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala

Hole 10

7:12 am: Tommy Fleetwood, Taylor Pendrith, Callum Tarren

7:23 am: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Tyrrell Hatton

7:34 am: Tony Finau, Tom Kim, Patrick Cantlay

7:45 am: Collin Morikawa, Adam Scott, Rickie Fowler

7:56 am: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy

8:07 am: Justin Rose, Billy Horschel, Hideki Matsuyama

8:18 am: Nico Echavarria, Sungjae Im, Harris English

No defending champion

In 2022, defending champion Cameron Smith shot a final round 6-under 66 to finish at 275 (-13) to win his first Players Championship, one stroke ahead of Anirban Lahiri and a further shot ahead of Paul Casey. All three will not feature this year after they chose to join LIV Golf. The only seven players from inside the world’s top 50 not listed in this year’s Players Championship field are all LIV Golf members.

Smith could have had the chance to become the first ever back-to-back winner of The Players, but has now lost his playing privileges at TPC Sawgrass by joining LIV Golf. In fact five of last year’s top 10 at The Players have since moved to LIV.

Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson – the 2007 champion – and Brooks Koepka all would have automatically qualified via their recent major wins had they not joined LIV, while Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Martin Kaymer are among the former Players champions not in this week’s field.

Is Tiger playing?

Tiger The Players

Tiger Woods has chosen not to use The Players for some tournament practice ahead of The Masters. Woods is a two-time winner at TPC Sawgrass, with his first coming in 2001 after holing a 60-foot putt on the famous par-three 17th that is remembered for the iconic ‘better than most’ commentary. He won again in 2013.

Record prize money

The 2023 Players has a $25m purse on offer with the winner getting $4.5m – $900,000 more than Smith earned for his win in 2022. These are the largest figures in PGA Tour history for one tournament. The last prize money place is finishing 65th which offers $53,750.

Also, though the Players Championship doesn’t offer the same number of Official World Golf Ranking points as the majors (80 rather than 100), it does give the winner a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour and a three-year exemption at all four majors. The winner also earns 600 FedEx Cup points.

1st: $4,500,000

2nd: $2,725,000

3rd: $1,725,000

4th: $1,225,000

5th: $1,025,000

6th: $906,250

7th: $843,750

8th: $781,250

9th: $731,250

10th: $681,250

TPC Sawgrass, The Stadium Course

TPC Sawgrass

As with the Masters, The Players is held at the same course each year: the 7,256-yard, Par-72 TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, home of the PGA headquarters. 2023 will be the 42nd 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. Doglegs 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.

Keys to success

The greens usually run around 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. Precise iron and approach play combined with strong play around the green, scrambling and short game skills will position a golfer among the leaders come Sunday.

Weather forecast

There was a weather delayed finish to the 2022 contest, when storms took the tournament into a fifth day. But this time around the weather in Ponte Vedra Beach looks fine with temperatures of 20-25 degrees, partly cloudy skies with lighter winds around 10-15mph, and only a minor chance of rain later on Friday.

Most wins at The Players

Jack The Players

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).

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Related articles