The 26th event of the wraparound season is upon us, as the PGA Tour heads to Florida for The Players Championship. A field of 144 will tackle the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, where the winner will receive $1.8 million.
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1. Jordan Spieth: Not all early exits are created equal. Spieth played lights-out last week in San Francisco before getting bounced by Lee Westwood, but there is reason to think his hot streak will continue on a course where he finished T-4 in his event debut last year.
2. Rory McIlroy: The world No. 1 enters with plenty of momentum after hoisting the trophy at TPC Harding Park. While fatigue could be a factor after seven competitive rounds and a cross-country flight, McIlroy was T-8 here in 2013 and T-6 a year ago.
3: Jim Furyk: Furyk's runner-up last year was his third top-five finish at TPC Sawgrass since 2006. He turned the momentum from a breakthrough win at Hilton Head into a fourth-place showing at Harding Park, and the veteran ranks third on Tour this season in strokes gained tee-to-green.
4. Hideki Matsuyama: The Japanese phenom has a stat line to behold: sixth on Tour in strokes gained, fourth in GIR percentage and third in ball-striking. He has turned those numbers into five straight top-25 finishes, including three top-10s, and his T-23 finish last year at TPC Sawgrass included four rounds at par or better.
5. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard won here in 2008 and has logged four top-25 finishes in this event since, including a third-place finish last year. Garcia clearly feels comfortable on the Stadium Course, and he played well at the Masters (T-17) in his most recent stroke-play start.
6. Henrik Stenson: Stenson won at TPC Sawgrass in 2009, but a nasty flu bug has limited his effectiveness since a near-miss earlier this year at Bay Hill. Despite slowing down recently, the Sweded still leads the Tour in both strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained putting: a formidable combination.
7. Jason Day: The Aussie had a rare hiccup last week, going 0-3 in match play, but he's likely to get back on track at a course where he finished T-6 in 2011 and T-19 in 2013, his most recent appearance. Day's four top-10 finishes this season include a win in San Diego and a T-4 at the Zurich Classic when he held a share of the 54-hole lead.
8. Lee Westwood: Westwood surprised many with his elimination of Jordan Spieth last week, but the Englishman appears to be finding his form and has a strong record of success at TPC Sawgrass. Westwood has notched five top-10 finishes here, including three in his last four starts dating back a T-4 showing in 2010 and including a T-6 finish last year.
9. Justin Rose: Westwood's countryman is high on current form, but low on past success here. While Rose finished T-4 last year, that was his first top-40 finish since 2009 and he has missed the cut five times in 11 attempts. His momentum could overcome that course history, though, as Rose was T-2 at the Masters before his win last month in New Orleans.
10. Zach Johnson: Johnson's track record here shows that the Stadium Course favors those who can keep the ball in play. The veteran has a run of five straight top-30 finishes in this event, highlighted by his T-2 finish in 2012, and 13 of his last 15 rounds on the Stadium Course have been at par or better. He enters with four top-25 finishes in his last five starts.