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Power Rankings: THE PLAYERS Championship

4 Min Read

Power Rankings

Power Rankings: THE PLAYERS Championship

    Because a golf course can’t effectively be rewarded 600 FedExCup points, $4.5 million and PGA TOUR membership through 2028, the golfer who finishes atop the leaderboard at THE PLAYERS Championship instead will gobble up those goodies.

    You don’t need another word to have fun with the fact that no one truly conquers the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, he simply survives it better than everyone else. And it’s not simple at all. As arguably the most indiscriminate test of any, the Stadium Course wins the tournament every year – and let’s face it, its position as the TOUR’s home office is cemented, anyway – but the 49th edition of the PGA TOUR’s flagship event will be contested, nonetheless.

    An expanded ranking of projected contenders aligns with the enormity of the stakes. Details on the course, what’s new and more can be found below.

    Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and the breakthrough champion at Bay Hill, Kurt Kitayama, will be among the notables reviewed in Golfbet Insider.

    If you ever wanted to see last season’s top 125 in Eligibility Points square off against those who slot inside a current top 125, THE PLAYERS comes pretty close to it. When Nico Echavarria won the Puerto Rico Open on Sunday to qualify, it meant that Dylan Wu was the last man in via the latter grouping. To be precise, he was 111th when the FedExCup ranking was used at the conclusion of The Honda Classic. Those outside the top 10 at that checkpoint filled the field of 144 at the commitment deadline on Friday, March 3.

    Of course, all eligible winners since last year’s PLAYERS are in the field, as are winners of recent majors, World Golf Championships, legacy invitationals and qualifiers via other conduits. Seven qualifiers are not competing: Daniel Berger (extended time off for an injured back), John Huh (elbow), C.T. Pan (wrist), Ben Taylor (wedding), Vince Whaley (undisclosed), Tiger Woods (ongoing recovery from injuries to his right leg) and Kevin Yu (knee surgery).

    In addition to the benefits at the top, the champion will be exempt into every major through 2025, but then he won’t be expected to successfully defend his title in 2024 … because no one ever has. Certainly, prevailing over the most robust of fields on the PGA TOUR even once is hard enough, but TPC Sawgrass is essentially wholly responsible for the competitive balance. If there’s a margin of error around the stock par 72, it’s defined in a nonzero measurement. Ball-striking has been the predominant narrative over time, and that’s not inaccurate, but putting four rounds together, heck, putting one hole together is an exercise in commitment.

    As you’d expect, experience also matters. In addition to the challenge of the field, everything is heightened, including the purse to a record $25 million. However, it’s not unprecedented that a debutant has emerged with the victory. It’s happened twice at TPC Sawgrass. After Hal Sutton founded the exclusive club in 1983, Craig Perks joined it in 2002.

    The course, as it should be, is in immaculate shape. All of it is overseeded and the TifEagle bermuda greens are ready to run up to 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. Those are the constants. Twists this year include a back tee at the par-5 ninth hole that now can stretch 602 yards. That increase of 19 yards comprises the aggregate rise on the course overall. It now tips at 7,275 yards. And after allowing to grow another half-an-inch last year, the lushest of the rough is up yet another half-an-inch to 3½ inches this week.

    In terms of scoring, last year’s 72.619 established a 12-edition high (the 2020 staging was canceled after one round due to COVID-19), but only barely, so it fell within an expected range. With higher sideboards now framing fairways, no one should expect scoring to tumble measurably, if at all.

    Not that the Stadium Course really needs it, but wind also helps defend it, and it will most on Saturday, but the wild thing is that it will be felt from every directional point through the week. Amid seasonable daytime highs in the low-to-mid 70s and beginning with an easterly push on Thursday, it will rotate clockwise through one cardinal direction at a time until it blows in from the north for Sunday’s finale. However, that’s a relative term because the northerly might be but a zephyr, so there’s an exceptional opportunity for the contenders to put on a show coming home for the victory.

    ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.

    MONDAY: Power Rankings

    TUESDAY*: Sleepers

    WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider

    FRIDAY: Medical Extensions

    SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Qualifiers, Reshuffle

    * - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.

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