Players Championship Preview

Players 2020: Ranking the top 100 golfers competing at TPC Sawgrass

March 09, 2020
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players-championship-top-100-ranking-collage-no-tiger.jpg

The Players Championship features what might be, from top-to-bottom, the strongest field in professional golf. There are no amateurs (like in the Masters), no qualifiers (like in the U.S. and British Opens) and no club professionals (like in the PGA). Nope—it’s nothing but the best touring pros on Planet Earth.

To help you get your bearings and assess a wildly deep group of golfers, we’ve ranked the top 100 players teeing it up this week at TPC Sawgrass. It’s based on a few criteria—current form, course history, statistical profiles and, yes, some good ol’ gut feelings. You’ll have plenty of reading to do once you get to the actual list, so without further ado …

100. Kevin Tway
Age: 31 World Ranking: 154 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-46, 2018
Long-hitting Oklahoma State grad won the first event of the 2018-'19 season, but he’s had just one top 10 since. Missed the cut here last year.

99. Rory Sabbatini
Age: 43 World Ranking: 102 Players starts: 18
Best Players finish: T-6, 2015
The other Rory has quietly racked up six PGA Tour wins in a lengthy if unglamorous career. Had a bit of a resurgence in 2019, racking up six top 10s and missing just four cuts in 30 starts. Few in the field have played Sawgrass more than he has, but he’s got just one top 10 in 18 appearances.

98. Tyler Duncan
Age: 30 World Ranking: 183 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: MDF, 2019
Purdue grad has missed as many cuts as he’s made in the 2019-’20 season, but one of those made cuts was a win at the RSM Classic in November. That was a dream week for a guy who ranks outside the top 100 in all core strokes-gained categories.

97. Si Woo Kim
Age: 24 World Ranking: 131 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: Win, 2016
Became the youngest Players champion in 2017 when he hoisted the trophy as a little-known 21-year-old. It has proven to be more of a fluke than the start of something sustained, at least so far, as he's yet to win again. Finished T-63 and T-56 at Sawgrass in his two starts since the W. He’s only played all four rounds in one of his last eight starts, having missed six cuts and pulled out of one.

96. Mackenzie Hughes
Age: 29 World Ranking: 160 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-16, 2017
Canadian had missed five straight cuts and nine of 11 before the Honda, where he made the cut on the number then shot 66-66 on the weekend to finish solo second. Golf, man. Solid ball-striker made the cut in both Players appearances.

95. Shugo Imahira
Age: 27 World Ranking: 39 Players starts: Rookie
A case study in how you can win on lesser-known pro tours and steadily climb the World Rankings … despite showing horribly in your starts on the PGA Tour. Imahira is the Japan Tour’s dominant force, which is how he’s so high in the rankings. But his last nine starts on the PGA Tour have yielded seven missed cuts, a T-27 in a field of 63 and a T-59 out of 76.

94. Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Age: 30 World Ranking: 140 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-30, 2018
Lovable Thai player is slumping, plain and simple. He’s missed four of five cuts on the PGA Tour to start 2020, with his lone weekend coming at the opposite-field Puerto Rico Open.

93. Bud Cauley
Age: 30 World Ranking: 133 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-47, 2019
Does the majority of his damage in the weaker-field events, but he’s having a solid season thus far with two top 10s in 10 events. Terrific short game but his ball-striking can get squirrely, which may explain the three missed cuts in four tries at Sawgrass.

92. Scott Brown
Age: 36 World Ranking: 164 Players starts: 7
Best Players finish: T-23, 2018
Missed five of his first seven cuts on Tour in 2020, but one of the two made cuts was a T-2 at Riviera, and that’s likely good enough to keep his card no matter what happens the rest of the season. That's the PGA Tour for you, where the really good weeks mask the really bad weeks.

91. Andrew Landry
Age: 32 World Ranking: 113 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-47, 2019
Won’t wow you with his game, but he’s got a victory in two of the past three PGA Tour season, including earlier year at the American Express. He does, however, miss quite a few cuts.

The American Express - Final Round

The American Express - Final Round

LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 19: Andrew Landry reacts after putting in to win on the 18th green during the final round of The American Express tournament at the Stadium Course at PGA West on January 19, 2020 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Photo by: Jeff Gross

Jeff Gross

90. C.T. Pan
Age: 28 World Ranking: 97 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-46, 2018
Won last year at Harbour Town, which allowed him to make the Presidents Cup on points. Unlike the majority of his International teammates, he’s been a bit of a mess since, missing four of five cuts to start the year and ranking outside the top 200 in strokes gained/overall this season.

89. Matt Jones
Age: 39 World Ranking: 92 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-17, 2014
Aussie won his second Australian Open in December. Has an odd history at Sawgrass, with two top 20s sprinkled among four other missed cuts. Got crushed on Sunday at Bay Hill in shooting 81, but he wasn't close to the only one.

88. Cameron Champ
Age: 24 World Ranking: 83 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: WD, 2019
Longest hitter on Tour won his second title at the Safeway Open last fall. He’s a bit boom or bust and tends to fare best on courses with room to miss. Sawgrass ain’t one of those, and he withdrew from the Players last year at eight over through 26 holes.

87. Wyndham Clark
Age: 26 World Ranking: 155 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: DQ, 2019
When he’s on, you wonder why he isn’t one of the better players in the world—he absolutely mashes the ball and is one of the best putters on Tour. The kryptonite? Some foul balls off the tee and consistently below-average iron play. Shot 80 in the first round at Sawgrass last year, then was DQ’d for signing an incorrect scorecard. Yeesh.

86. Jazz Janewattananond
Age: 24 World Ranking: 40 Players starts: Rookie
Thai native was introduced to American audiences at last year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage, where he hung around the top of the leader board all week before a disappointing Sunday. Has won three times on the Asian Tour since and seems likely to be a Presidents Cupper in years to come.

85. Harold Varner III
Age: 29 World Ranking: 124 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-7, 2018
Has put himself in position in some big events—he played in the final group at the PGA and the penultimate one at Riviera—but struggled big-time on those Sundays. Missed the cut at Sawgrass last year after a more-than-solid T-7 in 2018.

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Harold Varner III looks on during the third round of 2020 Genesis Invitational.

Photo by: Icon Sportswire

Icon Sportswire

84. Vaughn Taylor
Age: 43 World Ranking: 100 Players starts: 11
Best Players finish: T-8, 2006
Three-time PGA Tour winner is past his best days but has a couple really solid finishes this season, highlighted by a T-2 at the Mayakoba. Has missed eight of 11 cuts at Sawgrass.

83. Ryan Moore
Age: 37 World Ranking: 111 Players starts: 13
Best finish: T-20, 2013
Faded a bit from his Ryder Cup peak in 2016, but still hanging around on Tour, making more cuts than he misses and picking up the odd top 10. Picked up his first top 25 in 13 Players starts last year with three rounds in the 60s.

82. Kevin Streelman
Age: 41 World Ranking: 93 Players starts: 11
Best Players finish: T-2, 2013
Seems to either miss the cut or hang around the very top of the leader board these days. Finished solo second at Pebble Beach last month and teamed with Larry Fitzgerald to win the pro-am competition. Finished T-2 here in 2013 but also has missed his fair share of cuts.

81. Russell Knox
Age: 34 World Ranking: 121 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-17, 2015
Scotsman was going along nicely until missing three straight cuts at Pebble, Riviera and the Honda. Went to Jacksonville State and lives in Jacksonville Beach, so this is a home game of sorts.

80. Lucas Glover
Age: 40 World Ranking: 89 Players starts: 12
Best Players finish: 3, 2010
Had a resurgent 2019 and made it to the Tour Championship, which was nice to see given the depths he’s experienced. Not so great since, with a single top 10 in the fall being his only good finish since last summer.

TOUR Championship - Round One

TOUR Championship - Round One

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 22: Lucas Glover of the United States plays a shot on the first hole during the first round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on August 22, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Photo by: Kevin C. Cox

Kevin C. Cox

79. Patrick Rodgers
Age: 27 World Ranking: 237 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: MDF, 2019
If it seems like his name pops up on leader boards often, it’s because he plays often. Like every week often. This will be his 10th start in as many weeks, and he’ll hope for better luck than his previous tries here: three missed cuts and a MDF. He has made eight of his last nine cuts on tour and has no problem taking it low.

78. J. B. Holmes
Age: 37 World Ranking: 99 Players starts: 13
Best Players finish: T-6, 2011
Has just one top 10 in 28 starts since October 2018, though it was a victory at the 2019 Genesis Open. Posted three straight top 20s on the West Coast swing. He’s missed the cut in four of his last five Players starts but did enter the final round of the 2017 Players tied for the lead, only to shoot … wait for it … 84.

77. Danny Lee
Age: 29 World Ranking: 87 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: T-7, 2018
With the help of speed guru George Gankas, he’s picked up 19 yards of distance over the past two years. Was tied for second at the halfway point at Sawgrass two years ago, and he was T-5 last week at Bay Hill.

76. Phil Mickelson
Age: 49 World Ranking: 63 Players starts: 26
Best Players finish: Win, 2007
On one hand, he has won this tournament before, and he does have eight top-25 finishes at the Players. On the other, his last top 25 came in 2012, and he has missed the cut in six of his last seven starts. Simply put, this current version of TPC Sawgrass does not suit this current, rather erratic version of Mickelson. At this stage, he fares best on wide courses with room to miss of the tee. In other words, not here. He bounced back from back-to-back missed cuts to finish T-3 in Saudi Arabia and third at Pebble Beach, but he missed the cut at Riviera and Bay Hill.

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Phil Mickelson walks on the ninth green during the second round of the 2019 Safeway Open.

Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

75. Francesco Molinari
Age: 37 World Ranking: 28 Players starts: 9
Best Players finish: T-6, 2017
Arrived at Sawgrass last year fresh off a victory at Bay Hill, ranked No. 7 in the world and firmly among the favorites. Returns this year 26th in the World Ranking, and his last five starts have yielded three missed cuts, a T-56 out of 72, and a withdrawal last week at Bay Hill due to a back injury. Unfortunately he’s been a completely different player since the Sunday back-nine collapse at Augusta, and not in a good way. The ball-striking has been much looser (180th in strokes gained/off the tee, 193rd in strokes gained/approach) and the confidence has suffered. Does have some solid finishes at Sawgrass, mainly a T-6/T-7/T-6 stretch in 2014, ’16 and ’17, but you wonder if he’s in any sort of condition—physically or mentally—to contend. There's a nonzero chance he withdraws before Thursday.

74. Danny Willett
Age: 32 World Ranking: 33 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: Never made a cut
He’s seen the mountaintop (2016 Masters) and the deep valley of professional golf (falling outside the top 400 in the world in 2018). Now he’s back somewhere closer to the top than the bottom, having won a couple of huge European Tour events in the past two years but not really translating that success to America. Has played the Players five times and has yet to see the weekend.

73. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Age: 25 World Ranking: 48 Players starts: Rookie
Young South African player finished runner-up in Dubai and won a tournament in his home country to eek into the top 50 ahead of the deadline and get a spot at Sawgrass. Showed quite well at Bay Hill, opening with 68 in his first start in the United States and finishing T-18 for a healthy paycheck. Huge incentive to keep playing well, as he's right on the bubble for getting a Masters invite by ranking inside the world top 50 the week before Augusta.

72. Matthew Wolff
Age: 21 World Ranking: 110 Players starts: Rookie
Became a phenom last summer with his stellar NCAA career (winning the 2019 individual title at Oklahoma State), his extremely homemade and extremely powerful swing, and his victory in his fourth PGA Tour start. Has made 12 of 14 cuts since, but the two missed cuts have come recently, at the Waste Management and the Genesis Invitational. The struggles have been around the green: he ranks 218th in strokes gained/around the green and 116th in strokes gained/putting.

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matthew-wolff-sentry-toc-2020-playing-chip-shot.jpg

Matthew Wolff reacts on the 12th hole during the final round of the 2020 Sentry Tournament Of Champions.

Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images

Harry How/Getty Images

71. Keith Mitchell
Age: 28 World Ranking: 95 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-47, 2019
Got hot in Florida last year, winning the Honda Classic then finishing T-6 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Had just one top 10 since, a T-8 last May, before a T-5 at Bay Hill. The guy loves playing golf in Florida.

70. Emiliano Grillo
Age: 27 World Ranking: 126 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: 11, 2017
Argentinian was the PGA Tour rookie of the year in 2016. He hasn’t quite delivered on the hype, but he’s still a solid ball-striker who can hang on tough courses. Case in point: he’s made three of four cuts at Sawgrass, and had final-round 66 here last year.

69. Joaquin Niemann
Age: 21 World Ranking: 78 Players starts: Rookie
Former World No. 1 amateur from Chile picked up his first win at The Greenbrier and gained invaluable experience as a captain’s pick at the Presidents Cup. All the talent in the world, but you get the sense he’s still figuring out how to best compete week-in, week-out. Loves a low ball flight, which can become an issue in big events, which tend to have firm greens.

A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier - Final Round

A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier - Final Round

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Joaquin Niemann of the Chile celebrates a birdie putt on the 18th green to win A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier held at the Old White TPC course on September 15, 2019 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Photo by: Rob Carr

Rob Carr

68. Nick Taylor
Age: 31 World Ranking: 104 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-16, 2019
One of those guys who keeps his card every year but doesn’t make much noise … until last month, when he stared down Phil Mickelson to win at Pebble Beach. Closed with 69-69-67 last year at Sawgrass to finish T-16.

67. Jason Kokrak
Age: 34 World Ranking: 77 Players starts: 7
Best Players finish: T-46, 2018
Big Ohioan made the Tour Championship last year but has been significantly worse this season, missing three of his first six cuts. Never had any sort of success at Sawgrass, missing the weekend in his first five tries before T-46 and a T-47 the last two years.

66. J. T. Poston
Age: 26 World Ranking: 76 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-22, 2019
A very solid young player who notched his first Tour win at last year’s Wyndham. Fared quite well last year in his Players debut, finishing T-22 for a cool $125,000. Currently ranks inside the top 10 in strokes gained/putting on the year. Was a mess on Thursday at Bay Hill, shooting 12-over 84, but rebounded with a one-under round on Friday.

65. Jhonattan Vegas
Age: 35 World Ranking: 161 Players starts: 7
Best Players finish: T-3, 2019
Played the last three rounds in 14 under last year at Sawgrass to finish T-3, and also finished T-7 in 2012. Misses more cuts than you’d prefer but a deep sleeper indeed.

64. Victor Perez
Age: 27 World Ranking: 41 Players starts: Rookie
French player has a win and two seconds in Europe recently, and he impressed with a T-4 at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November. He’s set up well to make the Ryder Cup team on points.

63. Brian Harman
Age: 33 World Ranking: 137 Players starts: 8
Best Players finish: T-8, 2019, 2015
Diminutive lefty has made 10 of 11 cuts on Tour this year and has a couple top 10 finishes at Sawgrass, including last year.

62. Branden Grace
Age: 31 World Ranking: 74 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-42, 2015
Reached as high as World No. 10 back in 2016. He’s fallen off since then but did win his native South African Open to start the year. Has made six of six cuts here but never finished better than T-42.

61. Sebastian Muñoz
Age: 27 World Ranking: 94 Players starts: Rookie
Colombian player had a terrific fall, during which he won the Sanderson Farms Classic and finished solo third at the RSM Classic. Ranks 20th in strokes gained/overall mainly due to that stretch.

60. Jason Day
Age: 32 World Ranking: 50 Players starts: 9
Best Players finish: Win, 2016
Had shown some positive signs since returning from a back injury that kept him out of the Presidents Cup, finishing T-16 at Torrey Pines and solo fourth at Pebble Beach before missing the cut at Riviera by a shot … and then pulling out of Bay Hill with yet another back injury. Ugh. He clearly feels very comfortable around Sawgrass—he won this by four in 2016 and has top 10s in each of the past two Players, and he’s shot par or better in 10 straight rounds here. He’s regressed from his world-beating ways of 2015 and ’16, and you wonder if he’ll ever get back there, considering his inability to stay healthy.

59. Jordan Spieth
Age: 26 World Ranking: 56 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-4, 2014
Still, unfortunately, in the wilderness. There have been a few rather fleeting flashes that he’s turning the corner, but the ball-striking is still nowhere close to being anywhere close to where it was in that 2014-’17 stretch (he’s 192nd in strokes gained/off the tee and 199th in strokes gained/approach). Shared the 54-hole lead in his Players debut in 2014 and wound up finishing T-4, then missed the cut in five of his next six starts, including last year. There’s too much trouble on this course, the way he’s hitting it.

GOLF: JAN 24 PGA - Farmers Insurance Open

GOLF: JAN 24 PGA - Farmers Insurance Open

LA JOLLA, CA - JANUARY 24: Jordan Spieth looks on at the 13th hole on the North Course during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament at Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course on January 24, 2020. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Photo by: Icon Sportswire

Icon Sportswire

58. Bubba Watson
Age: 41 World Ranking: 53 Players starts: 12
Best Players finish: T-37, 2009 and 2013
He’s made eight of 12 Players cuts but has yet to finish better than T-37. The course might be a bit tight for a guy who loves to shape the ball more than anyone else. Did play solidly out west, with a T-6 at Torrey and a T-3 in Phoenix.

57. Corey Conners
Age: 28 World Ranking: 66 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: T-41, 2019
Kent State grad is a very good ball-striker but is sometimes held back by his putter. The Canadian was something of a Presidents Cup snub, having played quite well in the months leading up to Royal Melbourne.

56. Andrew Putnam
Age: 31 World Ranking: 62 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: MC, 2019
Steady-eddy player had made 17 straight cuts before missing the weekend at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Genesis Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Racks up quite a few finishes in the T-10/T-20 range. Had a rough go in his Players debut last year, finishing seven over and missing the cut by a mile.

55. Adam Hadwin
Age: 32 World Ranking: 55 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: T-30, 2017
Canadian Presidents Cupper had two top fives in the fall but hasn’t done much since. In 16 starts in majors and the Players, Hadwin has never finished better than T-24.

54. Jim Furyk
Age: 49 World Ranking: 85 Players starts: 23
Best Players finish: 2, 2014, 2019
Remarkably gave Rory McIlroy everything he could handle last year at Sawgrass, birdieing 18 for a final-round 67 that left him one shot out of a playoff. Has zero top 10s since, however, and has missed three cuts in a row.

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jim-furyk-players-championship-2019-sunday-walking-up-18.jpg

Jim Furyk walks up to the 18th green during the final round of the 2019 Players Championship.

Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

53. Bernd Wiesberger
Age: 34 World Ranking: 26 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-12, 2017
Austrian played in the final pairing of the 2014 PGA Championship before struggling with injuries and dropping outside the top 300 in the world. Has surged in the last year, winning three times in Europe since May to all but assure himself a spot on his first Ryder Cup team. Making his first start at Sawgrass since 2017.

52. Charles Howell III
Age: 40 World Ranking: 75 Players starts: 17
Best Players finish: T-17, 2018
Keeps his PGA Tour card every year, which means playing in the Players every year, but he still hasn’t really figured out Sawgrass: He has just one top 20 in his 17 starts.

51. Joel Dahmen
Age: 32 World Ranking: 69 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: T-12, 2019
Bucket-hat wearer has had a nice season thus far, with three top 10s and ranks an impressive 15th in strokes gained/tee to green. His T-5 at Riviera came in the best field of the year thus far, and he had a chance to win until the very end. Shot four under-par rounds last year in taking T-12 in his Players debut.

50. Kevin Na
Age: 36 World Ranking: 31 Players starts: 13
Best Players finish: T-3, 2009
Gave us one of the funniest moments of the year at last year’s Players, when Tiger mocked his quick-pick-up at 17. The bad news: It came amidst a third-round 78, leading to a MDF finish. After one win in his first 11 years as a pro, he’s won three times since July 2018, including in Las Vegas last fall. Plays shorter, tighter courses well, so the firmer May conditions probably fit him better.

Shriners Hospitals For Children Open - Final Round

Shriners Hospitals For Children Open - Final Round

Kevin Na celebrates after winning the 2019 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on the second playoff hole at TPC Summerlin.

Photo by: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

49. Matt Wallace
Age: 29 World Ranking: 43 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: T-30, 2019
Volatile Brit showed well in the majors last year, grabbing a top five at Bethpage and a top 15 at Pebble Beach, so he’s certainly not afraid of big-time events. Has been a bit of a slog in 2020, though, with his best finish in six starts being a T-24 at Bay Hill. Shot three under-par rounds last year for a T-30 in his Sawgrass debut.

48. Erik Van Rooyen
Age: 30 World Ranking: 42 Players starts: Rookie
South African joggers-wearer tied for third in Mexico, where he was a factor until the back nine on Sunday. Has been one of the best players on the European Tour the last few years and should earn enough non-member points to get his PGA Tour card for next season. Plays tough courses well, so he has a puncher’s chance to make some noise in his first Players.

47. Henrik Stenson
Age: 43 World Ranking: 32 Players starts: 14
Best Players finish: Win, 2009
His winning final round in 2009 might be the most badass round of golf ever played—a six-under 66 without putting a tee in the ground all day (he never hit driver and didn’t tee up any 3-woods or irons). Won Tiger’s tournament in the Bahamas in December but has had a very meh stretch to begin 2020 overseas. First U.S. start of the year was at Bay Hill, where a first-round 77 torpedoed his chances to make the weekend. Missed the Players cut last year but has nine top 25s in 14 starts.

46. Graeme McDowell
Age: 40 World Ranking: 51 Players starts: 10
Best Players finish: T-9, 2016
Back in the world top 50 and back as a PGA Tour winner (last year’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championionship), so the affable Norther Irishman is back at the Players for the first time since 2017. Has made the cut in eight of his 10 Sawgrass starts but has no real solid finishes except the T-9 in ’16. Held off Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson to win the Saudi International back in January.

45. Cameron Smith
Age: 26 World Ranking: 37 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-56, 2019
Young Aussie won his first individual PGA Tour title in January at the Sony Open. One of the best short games around but can struggle at times with loose ball-striking, which is tough to overcome at Sawgrass. Has yet to break 70 on the course, and has missed the cut in two of his three Players starts.

44. Rafa Cabrera-Bello
Age: 35 World Ranking: 45 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-4, 2017
Sweet-swinging Spaniard has hit a bit of a lull in his career, still searching for the first PGA Tour victory and not having won anywhere in nearly three years. Does have two top 20s at Sawgrass, including a T-4 in 2017, but shot 77-76 here last year to finish joint-DFL.

43. Viktor Hovland
Age: 22 World Ranking: 58 Players starts: Rookie
The third member of the Wolff-Morikawa-Hovland triumvirate to get their first Tour win. The Norweigan needed 22 starts to do it. (What took so long?) Has star written all over him, with his DJ-esque swing and an attitude completely devoid of pretention—“I suck at chipping,” he said directly after winning a PGA Tour event.

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viktor-hovland-cj-cup-friday-2019.jpg

Photo by: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

42. Sung Kang
Age: 32 World Ranking: 52 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-30, 2017
Hit his irons extremely well in finishing T-2 at Riviera, then finished second-to-last the next week in Mexico, then T-9 at Bay Hill. Go figure. Recently started working with Damon Green, longtime caddie to Zach Johnson, and that partnership is off to a very good start.

41. Scott Piercy
Age: 41 World Ranking: 101 Players starts: 9
Best Players finish: T-22, 2009
Golf’s latest player to be in the news for the wrong reasons, he posted a homophobic meme to this Instagram story and was promptly dropped by his clothing and equipment sponsors. That has (rightfully so) obscured what’s been a solid stretch of play for the veteran, posting three straight top 20s heading into Bay Hill, where he missed amid some intense distractions. Has missed the cut in six of his nine Players appearances.

40. Ian Poulter
Age: 44 World Ranking: 57 Players starts: 16
Best finish: 2/T2, 2009, 2017
Started his U.S. 2020 schedule at the Honda Classic, finishing T-27, and made the cut at Bay Hill. It’s a Ryder Cup year, so expect Poulter to start finding serious form anytime now. Perhaps it’ll be at Sawgrass, where he’s been runner-up twice and missed the cut just three times in 16 appearances.

39. Chez Reavie
Age: 38 World Ranking: 36 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-30, 2018
Journeyman had the best year of his career in 2019, winning the Travelers and taking T-3 in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Had a rough start to 2020, finishing T-27 out of 34 at the Tournament of Champions, then missed his next three cuts, but has rebounded since and finished T-10 at Riviera. Has missed the cut in three of his six starts at Sawgrass, and only three of his 18 career rounds there have been in the 60s.

38. Paul Casey
Age: 42 World Ranking: 24 Players starts: 12
Best Players finish: T-10, 2004
Continues to hang around as a force on Tour even in his 40s. Beat only two guys in last year’s Players, shooting 78-74, and also missed the cut at the Masters, so he’s a bit prone recently to a big-stage no-show. Sample size is small, but his short-game numbers this year are troubling (212th in strokes gained/around the green, 212th in strokes gained/putting). Best finish on the young season is an 11th at the WGC-Mexico.

37. Billy Horschel
Age: 33 World Ranking: 34 Players starts: 7
Best Players finish: T-13, 2015
Native Floridian and University of Florida grad has four top 10s on the wraparound season so far, and he’s inched back into the mid-30s in the World Rankings despite not many super-high finishes. Has made five of seven cuts at the Players but has yet to post a top 10.

36. Sergio Garcia
Age: 40 World Ranking: 38 Players starts: 20
Best Players finish: Win, 2008
Hard to believe he’s 40 and making his 21st Players appearance. Has played just two tournaments stateside this year, finishing T-37 at Genesis and WGC-Mexico. Made the cut in 18 of his 20 Players starts and has 10 top 25s, six top 10s, a third, two runner-ups and that victory in 2008. That’s the good news. The bad news is he has a propensity for shooting some awfully high numbers on Sundays here: a 75, two 76s, a 77, four 78s and a 79. Did close with 67 last year for a T-22.

sergio-garcia-pga-championship-2019-walking.jpg

sergio-garcia-pga-championship-2019-walking.jpg

35. Keegan Bradley
Age: 33 World Ranking: 61 Players starts: 9
Best Players finish: T-7, 2018
A former-anchorer who has struggled since the ban, he’s currently ranked outside the top 200 in strokes gained/putting. Missed the cut at Riviera and Honda. Perhaps a return to Sawgrass is just what the doctor ordered—he’s 22 under over his last eight rounds at Sawgrass, which have yielded a T-7 in 2018 and a T-16 in 2019.

34. Kevin Kisner
Age: 36 World Ranking: 35 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: T-2, 2015
Lost to Rickie Fowler in a playoff in 2015 but has also missed his fair share of Players cuts. Has the sort of plot-along, no-big-mistakes game to navigate Sawgrass, and few can get as hot with the putter. Had a nice time in Hawaii, finishing T-14 in the Tournament of Champions and T-4 at the Sony Open, and posted a solid T-18 at the WGC-Mexico. Missed the cut last week at Bay Hill.

33. Lanto Griffin
Age: 31 World Ranking: 88 Players starts: Rookie
Tall Californian toiled on the developmental tours before finally getting his breakthrough in 2017. Had a terrific fall including his first Tour win at the Houston Open and has mostly kept up the good form, posting four top-15 finishes already in 2020.

32. Max Homa
Age: 29 World Ranking: 71 Players starts: Rookie
Golf Twitter’s darling quite enjoyed the West Coast swing and getting to play in his home state of California: T-9 at Torrey Pines, T-6 in Phoenix, T-14 at Pebble and T-5 at Riviera. Will be making his Players debut.

31. Shane Lowry
Age: 32 World Ranking: 20 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: T16, 2016
Reigning Open champion and short-game wizard has missed the cut in three of his last five starts at the Players, including last year, though he does have a T-16 back in ’16. Has only broken par five times in his 14 trips around Sawgrass. Coming off a solid T-21 at the Honda. One of the best set of hands anywhere, which should come in, well, handy given the tricky short shots Sawgrass requires.

shane-lowry-abu-dhabi-2020-practice.jpg

shane-lowry-abu-dhabi-2020-practice.jpg

Shane Lowry smiles during the pro-am ahead of the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he is the defending champion.

Photo by: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

30. Louis Oosthuizen
Age: 37 World Ranking: 19 Players starts: 9
Best finish: T2, 2017
Got hot overseas toward the back end of 2019, finishing 2-2-5 in three tournaments in Australia and Abu Dhabi, but has struggled considerably since. He hit the ball awfully in Mexico to finish T-51 out of 72 and missed the cut at the Honda by six. He thrives, however, on tough layouts, as he’s a major champion and has finished second in all four majors at least once. Does have the T-2 at Sawgrass, too, in 2017 but also has missed the cut in four of his nine Players starts. One of the tougher guys to predict this week.

29. Brendon Todd
Age: 34 World Ranking: 54 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-51, 2015
The breakout story of the fall season, Todd completed a remarkable comeback from outside the world top 2,000—two thousand, not two hundred—to back-to-back PGA Tour winner in less than one year. He’s cooled down a bit since but it hasn’t been anything drastic, as he’s made all six cuts since the wins and continues to play solidly. Hasn’t teed it up at Sawgrass since missing the cut in 2016, which must feel like a lifetime ago for him.

28. Byeong-Hun An
Age: 28 World Ranking: 49 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-26, 2019
Keeps trending upward, but the putter continues to hold him back from winning PGA Tour events. Ranks 17th in strokes gained/tee to green and outside the top 190 in strokes gained/putting, and that’s a familiar story for former U.S. Amateur champion. Has two top 10s in his last three starts, including a T-4 at the Honda, and he’s a proper ball-striker, so he’s a good bet to make the weekend at a track that rewards precise ball-striking. Opened with 66 last year at Sawgrass en route to a solid T-26.

27. Daniel Berger
Age: 26 World Ranking: 107 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: T-9, 2016
Playing on a major medical exemption and playing quite well. Has three straight top 10s and ranks inside the top 70 in all major strokes-gained categories, he seems to have regained the form that saw him make the 2017 Presidents Cup team. Made four of five cuts here but not much success beyond the T-9 in ’16.

26. Brandt Snedeker
Age: 39 World Ranking: 46 Players starts: 11
Best Players finish: T-5, 2019
Turns 40 later this year but still chipping and putting his way to relevance on Tour. Finished T-3 at Torrey Pines before missing back-to-back cuts at Phoenix and Pebble, then posted a solid T-22 in Mexico. Has one of the odder Players Championship histories: He has a T-12, a T-8 and finished T-5 last year, but he’s also missed the cut in seven of his 11 starts overall. Feast or famine indeed.

25. Scottie Scheffler
Age: 23 World Ranking: 47 Players starts: Rookie
Texas grad and reigning Korn Ferry Tour player of the year is your odds-on favorite to win rookie of the year. Enjoying a terrific debut campaign with four top 10s and six top 25s in his first 12 starts. Ranks an impressive 14th in strokes gained/off the tee. Opened with 67 at Bay Hill—he’s ready for that breakout victory.

24. Justin Rose
Age: 39 World Ranking: 14 Players starts: 16
Best Players finish: T-4, 2014
Rose to the top of the World Rankings with ruthlessly consistent ball-striking in 2018, then switched from TaylorMade to Honma and had what can be described for him as a down year. He missed one cut in all of 2018 (23 starts), two in 2019 (24 starts) and has already missed three in five starts 2020. Looked to be showing some signs of resurgence with a T-5 at the Hero and a solo second in Singapore, but missed the cut at Torrey before a T-56 at Riviera, a MC at the Honda and a MC at Bay Hill. Showed up at Bay Hill with a full bag of TaylorMade sticks, so maybe that Honma experiment is over. Rebounded from an opening-round 74 here last year with 66-68-68 for a backdoor top 10 of the richest order.

justin-rose-tour-championship-2019-preview.jpg

justin-rose-tour-championship-2019-preview.jpg

Photo by: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

23. Rickie Fowler
Age: 31 World Ranking: 27 Players starts: 10
Best Players finish: Win, 2015
Perhaps returning to the site of the biggest win of his career will jump-start him back into form. Been on a slow-but-steady slide down the World Rankings and had missed two of three cuts before a solid showing at Bay Hill. Won in 2015 with an all-time closing stretch and also has a runner-up in 2012 … but he also has missed the cut in five of his 10 Players appearances.

22. Marc Leishman
Age: 36 World Ranking: 15 Players starts: 10
Best Players finish: T-8, 2013
Returned to the winner’s circle with a lights-out putting performance to come from behind at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, and he hung with Hatton all the way en route to a solo second at Bay Hill. His recent Players history is concerning, though, with two missed cuts, a T-63 and a T-64 in his last four tries. It begs the question: Do we prioritize form or course history when predicting a golfer's performance?

21. Collin Morikawa
Age: 23 World Ranking: 44 Players starts: Rookie
Get used to him, because he’s going to be here for a while. The oldest member of the Wolff-Hovland-Morikawa crew, he’s also emerged as the most consistent. Simply put, he doesn’t miss cuts—he’s made the weekend in each of his first 21 starts as a professional and currently holds the longest consecutive cuts streak on Tour. Already one of pro golf’s best ball-strikers, he’s sixth in strokes gained/approaching the green and 10th in strokes gained/tee to green.

20. Matt Fitzpatrick
Age: 25 World Ranking: 25 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-41, 2019
Young Brit is playing his first full season as a PGA Tour member, and it’s been steadily profitable. He’s quietly made 18 straight cuts on Tour and had the best round of the day on Sunday at Bay Hill, shooting three-under 69 for a backdoor top 10. Continues to do most of his damage on the European Tour, but he finished runner-up at Bay Hill last year and has a residence in West Palm Beach, so playing in Florida is a rather familiar proposition. One of the straightest hitters out there, he should be able to steer well clear of Sawgrass’ ubiquitous trouble, but he’s only broken 70 once in 12 rounds here.

19. Tyrrell Hatton
Age: 28 World Ranking: 22 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-41, 2017
Fiery Brit missed three months with a nagging wrist injury but returned to action in a the biggest way possible, finishing T-6 in Mexico then winning his first PGA Tour event at Bay Hill. Perhaps he should injure his wrist more often? Will carry plenty of confidence to Sawgrass, where he’s yet to break 70 in eight career rounds and missed two of three cuts.

tyrrell-hatton-api-trophy-sweater-2020.jpg

tyrrell-hatton-api-trophy-sweater-2020.jpg

Tyrrell Hatton celebrates with the trophy after winning the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Photo by: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

18. Tony Finau
Age: 30 World Ranking: 16 Players starts: 4
Best Players finish: T-22, 2019
Continues to rack up the top 10s at a human-ATM pace but remains stuck on that lone victory back in 2016. Checks all the boxes statistically and was on a nice run—runner-up in Phoenix, where he held a two-shot lead late, and a T-6 at Torrey Pines—before a T-51 at Riviera and a missed cut at Bay Hill. He’s contended at heaps of huge events and winning a big one feels like a matter of when rather than if … but we’ve been saying that for a while now.

17. Patrick Reed
Age: 29 World Ranking: 8 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-22, 2017
If all the criticism bothers him, he doesn’t show it. The closest thing we have to a villain in golf has continued racking up top finishes in huge events. Since the bunker fiasco at the Hero and the subsequent doubling down and the Presidents Cup shenanigans, Reed finished second in the TOC, T-6 at Torrey Pines, won the WGC-Mexico, and finished T15 at Bay Hill. As a result, he’s now back in the top 10 in the World Rankings. The history at Sawgrass is nothing to write home about, though—he’s made the cut four of six times but has never cracked the top 20.

16. Gary Woodland
Age: 35 World Ranking: 18 Players starts: 8
Best Players finish: T-11, 2018
Reigning U.S. Open champion has made the Players cut only three times in eight starts, though he has made the weekend three of the past four years. He’s been solid of recent, with a T-12 in Mexico and a T-8 at the Honda.

15. Abraham Ancer
Age: 29 World Ranking: 29 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: T-12, 2019
Oklahoma grad from Mexico had a coming-out party of sorts at the Presidents Cup, going 3-1-1 and flashing extreme moxie in doing so. Has backed it up since, with a runner-up at the American Express, a T-6 in Saudi Arabia and a T-12 back home at the WGC-Mexico. Was very much in the mix last year at Sawgrass, entering Sunday in fifth before a meh final round, but still a more-than-solid T-12 in his Players debut.

14. Bryson DeChambeau
Age: 26 World Ranking: 13 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-20, 2019
The beefiest player on Tour at the moment, the early reviews on DeChambeau’s “Extreme Makeover: Body Edition” have been positive. He’s got top 10s in four of his last five starts worldwide, including a solo second in Mexico in a tournament he probably should have won. Solo fourth last week in Bay Hill. Has become one of the longest players on the PGA Tour and currently ranks fourth in strokes gained/off the tee. Sawgrass will take driver out of his hands often, but that hasn’t been a problem in the past—he’s broken par in seven of his eight career rounds at Sawgrass.

Safeway Open - Round Three

Safeway Open - Round Three

NAPA, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 28: Bryson DeChambeau checks his score card on the ninth green during the third round of the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort on September 28, 2019 in Napa, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Photo by: Daniel Shirey

Daniel Shirey

13. Webb Simpson
Age: 34 World Ranking: 7 Players starts: 10
Best Players finish: Win, 2018
Was an unexpected winner in 2018, when he led by seven (!) after 54 holes and cruised a four-shot victory. Has proved since that that victory was anything but a fluke, as he has returned to the mountaintop after some dark years following the anchoring ban. Since first putting the claw grip into play at the 2017 Players, he’s turned himself into one of the best putters on Tour. Has top 10s in five of his first six events on the wraparound season, including a come-from-behind victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Struggled at the Players early in his career but has sandwiched that ’18 victory with two T-16 finished in ’17 and ’19. The course often takes driver out of play, which feeds right into Simpson’s terrific set of hands.

12. Brooks Koepka
Age: 29 World Ranking: 3 Players starts: 5
Best Players finish: T-11, 2018
The World No. 3 is dealing with a nagging knee injury that kept him away for three months and, he says, still isn’t fully healed. The results since his return have been shaky by Koepka’s standards, with a couple of uninspired finishes in the Middle East, a T-43 at Riviera, a missed cut at the Honda and a T-47 at Bay Hill, where he shot a career-worst 81 on Saturday. Was his own biggest critic last week, saying he needs to re-learn how to play golf but that he’s trying his (butt) off. The definition of a big-game hunter, Koepka is always a threat to challenge for the biggest titles so long as he’s mentally all there. One would think the Players is a prestigious enough event to get his attention. Finished T-56 here last year but had a couple of top 20s in the years prior.

11. Dustin Johnson
Age: 35 World Ranking: 5 Players starts: 11
Best Players finish: T-5, 2019
His return from knee surgery has also not yielded the results he’d like. Did finish second in Saudi Arabia and T-10 at Riviera, but he simply hasn’t been the same player since the June 2019. Now closer to 40 than 30, his chances of claiming more big events and supplementing his 20-win resume are diminishing. It took him a while to crack Sawgrass but he’s figured something out in recent years, going T-12/T-17/T-5 in his last three tries, including shooting four rounds in the 60s last year.

10. Matt Kuchar
Age: 41 World Ranking: 17 Players starts: 15
Best Players finish: Win, 2012
His victory in 2012 remains the biggest win in a long, lucrative career. Still very much a factor despite being north of 40, Kuch picked up a victory in Singapore in January and held the 54-hole lead before finishing T-2 at the Genesis Invitational. Has seven top 25s at Sawgrass and a T-3 in 2016 to go along with the victory.

9. Adam Scott
Age: 39 World Ranking: 9 Players starts: 18
Best Players finish: Win, 2004
Was bitterly disappointed to lose his Presidents Cup singles match as his International side squandered the lead in his home country of Australia in December. Responded by winning each of his next two starts, the Australian PGA and the Genesis Invitational, the latter victory bringing him all the way to World No. 6. Few have navigated Sawgrass better than Scott, whose victory in 2004 might seem like a long time ago, but it did come when the tournament was in March. He’s gone T-12/T-6/T-11/T-12 in his last four starts at the Players. Missed the cut at Bay Hill after a truly odd opening-round 77, which feels more like a fluke than anything else.

adam-scott-australian-pga-championship-2019-victory.jpg

adam-scott-australian-pga-championship-2019-victory.jpg

Adam Scott celebrates winning the Australia PGA Championship, his first win in Australia since November 2013.

Photo by: Chris Hyde

Chris Hyde

8. Xander Schauffele
Age: 26 World Ranking: 12 Players starts: 2
Best Players finish: T-2, 2018
Unlucky not to have two wins already this season, having lost a playoff to McIlroy in China and handing away the Sentry TOC. Instead, he has zero wins this season. Such is golf. Been consistent if unremarkable lately, going T-16 in Phoenix, T-23 at Riviera, T-14 in Mexico and T-24 at Bay Hill. Finished runner-up at Sawgrass in 2018 despite losing strokes to the field putting. That’s been a bit of a theme, as he’s struggled on Bermuda greens in his young career. He’s 10th in strokes gained/overall despite ranking 170th in strokes gained/putting—it’s why he’s near the top of the leader board anytime he has a good week on the greens.

7. Hideki Matsuyama
Age: 28 World Ranking: 21 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T7, 2016
Missed the cut in his first start of the season then got hot, finishing T-16 or better in nine of his 10 tournament since, including a solo second at the Zozo in Japan. He’s tantalizingly close to winning for the first time since the summer of 2017, when he reached World No. 2. Wears out the center of the clubface and ranks third in strokes gained/tee to green, 11th in strokes gained/overall and third in scoring average. No surprise, then, that he has quite a solid history around Sawgrass: two top 10s and five top 25s in six starts.

6. Tommy Fleetwood
Age: 29 World Ranking: 10 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-5, 2019
Went through a bit of a lull last summer but has rebounded in a big way, posting three-straight top-two finishes in Europe and finishing third at the Honda, where he had a great chance to get into a playoff before rinsing his approach on 18. Has four wins on the European Tour but still chasing the first W in the U.S., (as those familiar with Golf Twitter will know very well). The only thing that has held him back from winning majors and the like has been a cold putter on Sundays. Shared the lead at the halfway point at Sawgrass last year but was the only player in the top 10 to shoot over par in the final round. Also finished T-7 in 2018. He did have his streak of 33 straight made cuts on Tour end with a 76-76 at Bay Hill, but we’re willing to wager that was an aberration.

5. Sungjae Im
Age: 21 World Ranking: 23 Players starts: 1
Best Players finish: MC, 2019
Picked up his first PGA Tour victory at the Honda Classic, playing the Bear Trap in two under on Sunday for an eventual one-shot victory. Backed it up with a solo third at Bay Hill, where he had a chance before a timid birdie putt on the 72nd hole. A few months earlier, he shined at the Presidents Cup. All this to say: he's firmly cemented himself as one of the game’s brightest young stars, if not the brightest. Fantastic ball-striker—top 30 in both strokes gained/off the tee and strokes gained/approach—and profiles as the type to shine on difficult courses. Will be his sixth tournament in as many weeks, but that’s the norm for the Tour’s Road Warrior, who played 35 times last year and does not own a home in the U.S. Missed the cut in his Players debut a year ago.

4. Justin Thomas
Age: 26 World Ranking: 4 Players starts: 6
Best Players finish: T-3, 2016
Has won three times since August, including January’s Sentry TOC, but has also missed two of his last four cuts. He’s made the weekend in all five of his Players starts and his 70.74 scoring average is rather impressive. Has three rounds of 66 or better at Sawgrass, so clearly he knows how to navigate the course. Profiles as the kind of guy who will eventually win every big tournament in existence, and this is certainly a big tournament. Coming in off two weeks of rest following a disappointing Sunday in Mexico, where he was the only player in the top 28 to shoot over par.

Justin Thomas 2020 Sentry Tournament Of Champions - Final Round

Justin Thomas 2020 Sentry Tournament Of Champions - Final Round

Justin Thomas plays his shot from the 10th tee during the final round of the 2020 Sentry Tournament Of Champions.

Photo by: (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

3. Patrick Cantlay
Age: 27 World Ranking: 6 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-22, 2017
Has blossomed into a world-class player with seemingly no weakness in his game. Comes into the week having made 14 cuts in a row, with his last missed cut coming at … last year’s Players, when an opening-round 75 doomed him. Been in the mix in big events at different types of courses, so he’s capable of winning anywhere. Ranks second in the always-vital strokes gained/approach, as well as eighth in strokes gained/overall. You get the sense he has multiple majors in his future. And probably a Players or two, as well. Why not this year?

2. Rory McIlroy
Age: 30 World Ranking: 1 Players starts: 10
Best Players finish: Win, 2019
The defending champ and World No. 1 has been golf’s most consistent contender since hoisting the trophy here last year, most recently winning the Canadian Open, the Tour Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions. He’s in contention virtually every time he plays, and has been a factor in every start since the beginning of the season. Still, he’s struggled to put together the rounds you need to win on Sunday. Comes in on a streak of seven straight top-five finishes, and has been in the top 10 in 10 of his last 11 starts. Has actually missed the cut in four of his 10 Players starts, including in 2018, but the other three came before his 24th birthday. The softer conditions since the move back to March suits his game better, and he’s absolutely one of the favorite this week. Just like he is every week.

1. Jon Rahm
Age: 25 World Ranking: 2 Players starts: 3
Best Players finish: T-12, 2019
Shot a third-round 64 last year to take the Players lead heading into Sunday, but a Sunday 76—and a noteworthy disagreement with his caddie—led to a T-12 finish. Perhaps the most consistent player in the world at this point, his last eight starts include two wins, two runner-ups, a third, three other top 10s and a T-17. A threat to win every time he tees it up, and this week is no different … should he be able to avoid the big mistakes that are so easy to make at Sawgrass. Comes in rested, having taken two straight weeks off after a 61-67 weekend and a T-3 in Mexico. The man to beat.

Jon Rahm looks on during the finals round of the 2019 Open de Espana.


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