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Five things to know for THE PLAYERS' first round

6 Min Read

Need to Know

    Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin

    PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – THE PLAYERS Championship is here. One of the strongest fields of the year will play Pete Dye’s definitive design, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, beginning Thursday. Dye crafted a course that challenges players in myriad ways, most notably with the Island Green 17th.

    To get you prepared for the first round of the PGA TOUR’s flagship event, here are five things you need to know:


    THE PLAYERS Championship is the first of five events during the season that offer 600 FedExCup points to the winner. The four major championships are the others. This week’s field features 44 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and 29 of the top 30 players in the FedExCup standings.

    This is the 49th edition of THE PLAYERS Championship and 41st since the tournament moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982. The purse is $25 million, a $5 million increase from last year, and the winner's share is $4.5 million. Both are the largest in PGA TOUR history.

    Only four players – Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Davis Love III (1992, 2003), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997) and Fred Couples (1984, 1996) – have won multiple times at TPC Sawgrass. No one has gone back-to-back, a testament to the strength of THE PLAYERS field and the democratic nature of TPC Sawgrass, which allows a variety of players to thrive.

    2. FORE-CAST

    After severe weather led to a Monday finish for last year’s PLAYERS, this week’s forecast looks ideal. As of Wednesday afternoon, there was only one competition day where thunderstorms were listed as a possibility. That is Friday, when there’s a 60% chance of afternoon thunderstorms.

    Temperatures are forecast to stay in the 60s and 70s all week, with just enough wind to give players anxiety as they approach the island 17th. Winds of around 15 mph are expected each day. The breezes are expected to blow from different directions each day, forcing players to adapt to a variety of conditions.

    Last year’s opening round at TPC Sawgrass was not completed until Saturday, as the venue fell victim to torrential rains between Wednesday and Friday evening. Nearly 3 inches of rain fell in a 48-hour period, requiring the first Monday finish since 2005.


    The marquee group of THE PLAYERS’ opening two rounds is a meeting of the top three players in the world ranking, a trio that has separated itself from the pack. That group includes the reigning FedExCup champion (Rory McIlroy), PGA TOUR Player of the Year (Scottie Scheffler) and the current No. 1 in both the OWGR and the FedExCup, Jon Rahm.

    One of those three players has held the top spot in the world ranking since July 2021.

    McIlroy ended 2022 as the first player to end a year by concurrently holding the FedExCup, DP World Tour’s points title and top spot in the world ranking. Rahm quickly became the story of this year by winning his first two starts (Sentry Tournament of Champions, The American Express). Then Scheffler successfully defended the WM Phoenix Open last month to regain the top spot in the world, only for Rahm to wrest it from him a week later by winning The Genesis Invitational, his third win in five starts. Rahm is just the fourth player since 2007 to arrive at THE PLAYERS ranked No. 1 in both the FedExCup and the world ranking.

    “Rory, Jon and Scottie are kind of in a league of their own at times,” said Max Homa, the only player besides Rahm to win multiple times this season, “and it’s just our job to go and catch them.”

    Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy have combined for 12 TOUR victories in the past 13 months. McIlroy (2019) is the only of the three with a PLAYERS title. Rahm and Scheffler are, of course, hungry to change that.

    “Winning this event is a big step toward a Hall of Fame career,” Rahm said Tuesday. “You are THE PLAYERS champion, arguably as close as you can get to being a major champion. … Hopefully when my career is said and done, I’m one of those players that can call themselves a PLAYERS champion.”

    Jon Rahm’s hot start in 2023

    The trio will tee off TPC Sawgrass’ 10th tee at 7:56 a.m. ET Thursday.

    Homa, who ranks second in the FedExCup, will play Thursday with 2021 PLAYERS champion Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth at 12:56 p.m. Thursday. Here’s a quick look at some other notable groups:

    7:34 a.m. ET, No. 10: Tony Finau-Tom Kim-Patrick Cantlay

    7:45 a.m. ET, No. 10: Collin Morikawa-Adam Scott-Rickie Fowler

    8:07 a.m. ET, No. 10: Justin Rose-Billy Horschel-Hideki Matsuyama

    12:34 p.m. ET, No. 1: Matt Fitzpatrick-Viktor Hovland-Shane Lowry

    12:45 p.m. ET, No. 1: Kurt Kitayama-Will Zalatoris-Xander Schauffele

    1:07 p.m. ET, No. 1: Sam Burns-Cameron Young-Sahith Theegala


    A record number of players are making their PLAYERS debut this week, including both players who won last week on the PGA TOUR, Kitayama and Nicolas Echavarria. It was the first PGA TOUR win for both players. Kitayama held off a star-studded field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, while Echavarria won the Puerto Rico Open.

    Kitayama is in his second season on the PGA TOUR. He started 2022 ranked 250th in the world but now sits inside the top 20. He is sixth in the FedExCup, as well, after holding off several of the game’s biggest names at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge. McIlroy and Harris English tied for second last week, while Scheffler, Spieth, Cantlay and Tyrrell Hatton finished T4.

    Three players have won the week before THE PLAYERS and then won THE PLAYERS: Raymond Floyd (1981), Tom Kite (1989) and Tiger Woods (2001).

    Kitayama, who is 19th in the world ranking, is one of four top-50 players making their PLAYERS debut this week. The others are Kim (17th), Ryan Fox (32nd) and Min Woo Lee (50th).

    Other players making their PLAYERS debut this week include RSM Classic champion Adam Svensson, who ranks 12th in the FedExCup, and rookie Taylor Montgomery, who is 15th in the standings.

    5. A NEW NO. 9

    TPC Sawgrass was designed to feature holes that test players in a variety of manners. The ninth hole was designed to be the longest of the course’s four par-5s, one that was intended to be a three-shot hole for all but the longest of players. Reaching the green in two was so rare that it was newsworthy when Elkington reached the green in two shots during his 1991 PLAYERS victory and again three years later when Woods nearly replicated the feat en route to winning the 1994 U.S. Amateur.

    Over the years, as players have hit the balls greater distances, more and more players have been going for the tiny green in two. But a new tee is debuting this year that stretches the hole past 600 yards. Players had been hitting fairway woods off the tee because of a creek that diagonally crosses the fairway, but the new tee will put driver back in more players’ hands. The longer tee also will require more players to execute the difficult lay-up, which features trees and a large bunker left of the fairway. Players who pull their second shots can get stuck behind those trees and not have a shot to the green.

    THE PLAYERS is made possible with the support of its Proud Partners: Grant Thornton, Morgan Stanley and Optum.

    Kevin Prise is an associate editor for PGATOUR.COM. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.