The world's best golfers head to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, this week for the 2021 edition of The PLAYERS Championship - golf's 'unofficial fifth major championship'.
To help build up to the biggest tournament of 2021 so far, we've been throwing around our predictions at Hole19 HQ and discussing the golfers we expect to perform best at TPC Sawgrass.
Check out our collection of picks for the 2021 PLAYERS Championship below.
During his win at the WGC - Workday Championship, the clinic of ball-striking he displayed underlined a growing feeling that if Collin Morikawa is playing his best, there are very few golfers who can compete with him. His strokes gained on approach stat was crazy good, and we expect to see this carry over to TPC Sawgrass.
He made his PLAYERS Championship debut last year and sat in T-7 after the one round before the tournament was cancelled. That's a small sample size, of course, but Morikawa easily jumps to the fore as one of the hot favourites this week.
It seems that Justin Thomas is trending towards another win before too long. He's striping his irons better than most at present and was second only to the eventual winner (Morikawa) in strokes gained on approach at the WGC - Workday Championship.
Despite being without a win since August 2020, he's generally there or thereabouts heading into Sunday's final round. We love JT's chances this week.
Possibly this week more than most, Bryson DeChambeau's chances of success hinge on his ability to play intelligently from the tee. Last week's winner will unlikely use his driver more than six holes per round at TPC Sawgrass, and if his iron play is on point, his renowned steely nerve on the putting surface could be the difference-maker.
After celebrating with plenty of chocolate milk and pinball, the current U.S. Open champion arrived in Ponte Vedra Beach on Monday morning and headed straight to Sawgrass' driving range. Success never sleeps!!
“I just can’t bomb it out there. You have to put the ball in play and there’s a few holes where you can take advantage, from a length perspective, but for the most part, the par-4s you’ve got to hit it in play and you’ve got to have great iron play this week. So that’s what I’m really focused on. If I can get my iron play down this week and my wedges down this week, I’ll have a great chance to win with my putting.” Bryson DeChambeau
The PLAYERS Championship is an event where golfers looking to shed the 'nearly man' tag can excel and Patrick Cantlay seems to fit that mould better than most.
He's been playing some undoubtedly consistent golf over the last few months and finishing T-3 or better twice in his last three starts points towards a golf game that's in great shape. As with Morikawa, he posted an impressive R1 score last year before the tournament was cancelled.
In terms of players who can shoot a low number around TPC Sawgrass, Cantlay has to be in that discussion. If he can take the next step and put four good rounds together, he'll be right in the mix.
Make sure you whisper it, but Jordan Spieth is back. OK, we get it, he hasn't actually won anything in recent times, but the green shoots of recovery are undoubtedly starting to show. Four consecutive top-15 finishes point towards growing confidence in his game, and an in-form Spieth is a match for anyone when it comes to scrambling - an essential requirement this week.
One note of caution: Spieth has failed to make the cut in four of his last five appearances at TPC Sawgrass. With that said, we're keeping everything crossed that he can continue his positive play and challenge at the top of the 2021 PLAYERS Championship leaderboard.
Now for a pick from a little further back in the field, we think Sungjae Im is worth a look this week. After a T-2 at Augusta National back in November and a T-5 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January, Im has failed to make any real impression over the last couple of months.
He does have a strong record in Florida-based events and won the Honda Classic just last year - that often counts for a lot. For the South Korean superstar, it could all come down to the short-stick. If the putter behaves, he could contend at the head of affairs.
Tee times and groupings for the first round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
USA unless stated, start times GMT.
11.56 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Lee Westwood (Eng), Robert MacIntyre (Sco)
12.07 Phil Mickelson, Charles Howell III, Tony Finau
12.18 Sungjae Im (Kor), Kevin Kisner, Henrik Stenson (Swe
13.02 Kevin Na, Carlos Ortiz (Mex), Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)
13.13 Max Homa, JT Poston, Russell Knox (Sco)
13.24 Stewart Cink, Nick Taylor (Can), Austin Cook
13.35 Byeong Hun An (Kor), Henrik Norlander (Swe), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa)
13.46 Vaughn Taylor, Jerry Kelly, Joel Dahmen
13.57 Scott Brown, Sam Ryder
17.05 Cameron Tringale, Denny McCarthy, Matthew NeSmith
17.16 Brian Harman, Cameron Percy (Aus), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut)
17.27 Martin Laird (Sco), Tyler Duncan, Joaquin Niemann (Chl)
17.38 Richy Werenski, Aaron Wise, Kevin Streelman
17.49 Patrick Reed, Jon Rahm (Esp), Jordan Spieth
18.00 Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson
18.11 Daniel Berger, Adam Scott (Aus), Shane Lowry (Irl)
18.22 Andrew Landry, Cameron Champ, Brendan Steele
18.33 Jason Kokrak, Francesco Molinari (Ita), Jason Day (Aus)
18.44 Charley Hoffman, Rory Sabbatini (Svk), Cameron Davis (Aus)
18.55 Matt Jones (Aus), Maverick McNealy, Will Zalatoris
19.06 Chris Kirk, Luke List, Bo Hoag
19.17 Brian Stuard, Danny Lee (Nzl), Beau Hossler
11.45 Kyle Stanley, Lucas Glover, Tyler McCumber
11.56 Russell Henley, Tom Hoge, Scottie Scheffler
12.07 CT Pan (Twn), Graeme McDowell (NIrl), Matt Kuchar
12.18 Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel, Ian Poulter (Eng)
12.29 Viktor Hovland (Nor), Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas
12.40 Sergio Garcia (Esp), Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy (NIrl)
12.51 Si Woo Kim (Kor), Harris English, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn)
13.02 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Paul Casey (Eng), Xander Schauffele
13.13 Lanto Griffin, Corey Conners (Can), Rickie Fowler
13.24 Brendon Todd, Adam Long, Andrew Putnam
13.35 Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Doc Redman, Harry Higgs
13.46 Sam Burns, Wyndham Clark, Victor Perez (Fra)
13.57 Scott Stallings, Adam Schenk
17.05 Peter Malnati, Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Abraham Ancer (Mex)
17.16 Anirban Lahiri (Ind), Kyoung-Hoon Lee (Kor), Robby Shelton
17.27 Branden Grace (Rsa), Sung Kang (Kor), Jimmy Walker
17.38 Hudson Swafford, Brandt Snedeker, Scott Piercy
17.49 Jim Herman, Ryan Armour, Mackenzie Hughes (Can)
18.00 Nate Lashley, Ryan Palmer, Zach Johnson
18.11 Robert Streb, Marc Leishman (Aus), Justin Rose (Eng)
18.22 Chez Reavie, Bubba Watson, Pat Perez
18.33 Patton Kizzire, Jason Dufner, Kramer Hickok
18.44 James Hahn, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Harold Varner III
18.55 Adam Hadwin (Can), Patrick Rodgers, Mark Hubbard
19.06 Ryan Moore, Sepp Straka (Aut), Scott Harrington
19.17 Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Talor Gooch, Tom Lewis (Eng)