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Published: Thu, May 11, 2017
Sport | By Dustin Murphy

Previewing The Players Championship; The field, course and predictions

Previewing The Players Championship; The field, course and predictions

Competing for the first time at last week's Wells Fargo Championship, DJ stormed back into play finishing the tournament in second place.

Few non-majors quite get the adrenaline pumping quite like THE PLAYERS Championship.

It also might be the most hard to handicap.

If marriage and a new equipment deal were not enough for Rory McIlroy, he also was presented with his own bobblehead for winning the FedEx Cup past year.

"I think that's natural". Like most Pete Dye designs, the players will be navigating tricky doglegs, mounding, bunkers and water hazards, and will be forced to hit less then driver off many tees.

McIlroy's tie for seventh at the Masters was his fourth top-10 in five starts this season.

Day failed to make the cut in the Zurich Classic in New Orleans at the end of April, and it may be hard for him to find his best form at TPC Sawgrass.

"I feel like my game's in good shape", McIlroy said.

Somebody will play 72 challenging holes in the fewest strokes this week at the Stadium course and take home $1.9 million, a five-year Tour exemption and invitations to the four major championships in their next three playings.

He registered a best ever Sawgrass finish of ninth last term and he could easily go better this season so the 140/1 offered by Bet365 is very tempting. He tied for 28th.

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One big change will be hole 12 this year. He's T-24 and T-3 in his last two starts here, and coming off a T-5 in New Orleans, he could be due a big win at The Players.

Jordan Spieth said he "lipped out for a 1" when he played it on Tuesday. The par-5 16th hole offers players perhaps a final opportunity to post a red number.

-Hole 12 was shortened from 358 to 302 yards, making the hole driveable.

Not even the TOUR's hottest player is immune to the penalizing nature of TPC Sawgrass. He hasn't won since The Players past year. "And I've got to try and do it as much as I can before my time is over". Spieth was T4 in his 2014 debut and has missed the cut the past two years. "I think I've just been trying to do a little too much the last couple of years. You just get negative".

Bernd Wiesberger, of Austria, blasts from the sand trap on the 14th hole during a practice round for The Players Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 10, 2017, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He leads the field in birdie or better rate at this course in the past 10 years, per FantasyGolfMetrics, though keep in mind that he's played here just twice. Of course, he's never been on the kind of roll he's now on, with three consecutive wins followed by a tie for second last week.

2013: Tiger Woods. Event played like a U.S. Open with Garcia struggling at the close and Woods winning from the scorer's trailer.

Garcia returns to Sawgrass on the crest of a wave after finally ending his waiting for his first major victory, beating Justin Rose in a thrilling climax to The Masters at Augusta in April.

The world number one's electric start to 2017 suffered a setback when he was forced to sit out the Masters last month after a freak accident left him nursing a back injury.

"My mentality on the golf course I feel will just be the same", he said.

And he never seems to lose his cool, even on a course that seems to bring out frustration in anyone. That being said, players still need to be able to manage the holes well because they still are holes that surrender lots of birdies. "I don't think anything fazes him - that's probably the understatement of the year". Garcia said. "I'm sure it's going to be a great experience for both of us, but hopefully it helps him a lot". "It's up to the other guys to try and catch him".

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