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Golf Glance: No. 1 battle rolls into The Players

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Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Field Level Media’s Golf Glance provides weekly news and storylines from each of the major North American golf tours.

PGA TOUR
LAST TOURNAMENT: Arnold Palmer Invitational (Kurt Kitayama)
THIS WEEK: The Players Championship, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., March 9-12
Course: TPC Sawgrass (Par 72, 7,275 yards)
Purse: $25M (Winner: $4.5M)
Defending Champion: Cameron Smith
FedEx Cup leader: Jon Rahm
HOW TO FOLLOW
TV: Thursday-Friday, 12-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (NBC)
Streaming on ESPN+: Thursday-Friday, 6:45 a.m.-6 p.m. ET; Saturday-Sunday, 7:45 a.m.-6 p.m.
Twitter: @ThePlayersChamp
NOTES: This is the first of five events that offers 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner, with the other four being the majors. It’s the 49th edition of The Players, the 41st at TPC Sawgrass. … The 144-player field includes 49 of the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings, with only No. 30 Ben Taylor (wedding) missing. It also includes 44 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. The last man in was Ryan Armour, who was No. 111 in the FedEx Cup standings when the field was set, with No. 113 Harry Hall of England the first alternate. … Smith defeated India’s Anirban Lahiri by one shot and England’s Paul Casey by two shots last year. All three now play for the LIV Golf League, as does Harold Varner III, who finished T6. LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman holds The Players tournament scoring record of 264, set in 1994. … For the fourth time in five weeks, the No. 2 and No. 3 players enter a tournament with the chance to take over No. 1 depending upon the results. This time, it’s No. 2 Scottie Scheffler and No. 3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland trying to overtake Rahm. … Kitayama and Colombia’s Nico Echavarria are playing after earning their first tour wins last week. The last player to win The Players after also winning the previous week was Tiger Woods in 2001. … The famous island green at Sawgrass’ 17th hole saw 57 balls land in the water last year, well above the average of 48.68 since 2003. The most recent hole-in-one at No. 17 was by Shane Lowry in the third round last year.
BEST BETS: Rahm (+800 at BetMGM) already has three wins this year and enters The Players ranked No. 1 in the world for the second consecutive year. Coming off a T39 last week, the Spaniard’s best finish in five previous event starts was a T9 in 2021. … McIlroy (+900) won The Players in 2019 and narrowly missed out on a playoff at Bay Hill last week. … Scheffler (+1100) has a missed cut and T55 in two previous starts at The Players. He also missed out on a potential playoff last week when he bogeyed the 72nd hole. He leads the tour in greens in regulation (73.61 percent) this season. … Patrick Cantlay (+1800) is the only player to finish in the top five in each of the past two designated events, the Genesis and the Arnold Palmer. However, he has missed the cut in his past three appearances at TPC Sawgrass and has never finished better than T22 in 2017. … Justin Thomas (+1800) won the event two years ago and his 70.48 scoring average at The Players is the lowest since 1983 of any player with at least 15 rounds played.
NEXT TOURNAMENT: Valspar Championship, Palm Harbor, Fla., March 16-19

LPGA Tour
LAST TOURNAMENT: HSBC Women’s World Championship (Jin Young Ko)
THIS WEEK: OFF.
NEXT TOURNAMENT: LPGA Drive On Championship, Gold Canyon, Ariz., March 23-26

Champions Tour
LAST TOURNAMENT: Cologuard Classic (David Toms)
THIS WEEK: OFF.
NEXT TOURNAMENT: Hoag Classic, Newport Beach, Calif., March 17-19

–Field Level Media

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