Tournament: The Players Championship, May 10-13 2018
Course: Tournament Players Championship Sawgrass (Stadium Course), 7,245 yards, par 72
Purse: $11,00,000 ($1,980,000 to the winner)
Defending Champion: Si Woo Kim. The youngster from Korea seemingly played better almost every day, never shot above par, and won by 3 at 10 under par on a tough setup.
Fun Fact: There are tons of fun facts, mostly around the famed 17th island green and it’s construction. I like that Jerry Pate won the first tournament played on this course with an orange golf ball. Those are starting to make a comeback (I see you Bubba), and I would kill for the ProV1, TourB, Chrome Soft, or the TP5 to come out in orange.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1:00-7:00 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 2-7:00 p.m. (NBC). Tons of live streaming from PGATour.com and the PGATour app.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field ( Eight ): Chris Kirk, Harris English, Keith Mitchell, Hudson Swafford, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Brian Harman.
“The toughest field in golf.” That is a tough one to prove, and if you asked the average fan they would say it belongs to the Masters, or the US Open, or one of the other two “Major” tournaments. But even a quick glance at the list of players in those tournaments and you can see it’s not the case.
The Masters has a limted field (usually around 90-100), and in that smaller field they have past champions who are well over 50 years old, include several amateurs, and winners from minor international tours who honestly have no chance at beating the best pros who happen to be playing Augusta the same week. As for the US Open, it is truly an open field and qualifers come from the amateur ranks across the country. Again, little chance of beating those who play golf for a living. The British Open (Open Championship) also includes amateurs and qualifiers from all over the world, and the PGA Championship has around 20 club pros - those who are professional teachers and club managers and don’t compete in golf for their livelihood (even if there are some very good sticks among them).
But this week is truly a deep field. 144 entrants, and all are basically the top 144 in the world (with a few exceptions). The only exemption from outside the Official World Golf Rankings is in the Senior Players Champion, and this year it’s Scott McCarron. Who at 52 years old can still drive it 300 yards plus, and is playing better than ever in his career. The winners of the last 22 majors are here, 49 of the top 50 in the world are here, the top 10 drivers of the golf ball are here, and there are 5 players this week who can take over the #1 spot in the world rankings. If you want a deeper dive on how difficult it is to win this week against this field, you can check out this article to get some geek on.
According to my preliminary research (admittedly flawed, casual, and performed in conjuction with Elijah Craig), UGA is the most represented university in the field. The aforementioned 8 Georgia Bulldogs are not only voluminous, they are serious contenders. Brian Harman has been one of the 25 best golfers the last 12 months, Keith Mitchell is probably the hottest rookie on Tour, Kevin Kisner was a Rickie Fowler dream-round away from winning this a couple of years ago, and Bubba Watson has won twice in his last 5 tournaments. Swafford has a Tour win in the last 18 months, and Henley and Kirk hold multiple Tour titles.
There is a lot of breakdown on the course, and this is one of my favorites and deserves the accolades, but I’ll spare you the details. That being said, I welcome questions in the comments section and we have quite a few knowledgeable golfers amongst the Dawg Sports readership. So go watch some golf, start a conversation, and as always...
**Yes, I got through the entire article without mentioning Tiger Woods.