THIS WEEK: The Players Championship, March 12-15
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Par 72, 7,454 yards)
Purse: $15 million (Winner: $2.7 million)
Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy
FedEx Cup leader: Sungjae Im
TV: Thursday-Friday, 1-7 p.m. ET (The Golf Channel); Saturday, 2-7 p.m. (NBC); Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (NBC)
NOTES: No defending champion has ever won The Players, and McIlroy is seeking his first successful title defense on the PGA Tour (0-for-11 attempts). … Of the 144 players in the field, 110 have won on Tour, the most of any tournament in the FedEx Cup era. … This is the first event since last year’s BMW Championship to feature all players currently in the top 10 of the official world golf rankings. … The field also includes each of the past 10 Players champions. … McIlroy was the first person to win the Players and the FedEx Cup championship in the same year. The Players is also one of four tournaments he has won twice (2016, ’19), and he has joined Tiger Woods and Greg Norman as the only players to spend 100 weeks ranked No. 1. … Woods is not in the field due to ongoing back issues. … At 21 years, 344 days, Im is the third-youngest player to lead the FedEx Cup standings. … Forty-five balls landed in the water at the famed 17th hole last year, which has claimed a tournament average of 47.18 balls since 2003. … Norman holds the tournament scoring record of 264 set in 1994.
BEST BETS: McIlroy (+725) is only the second player since 2000 to post seven consecutive top-five finishes (Woods had 14). He also leads the Tour in scoring average (68.437), par-5 scoring average (4.40), scrambling (70.40 percent) and top 10s (six). … Jon Rahm (+1100) held the 54-hole lead last year before closing with a 76. He has four top-10s in five starts this season. … Justin Thomas (+1500) has three wins since August but has only one top-10 in five previous event starts. … Dustin Johnson (+2800) tied for fifth last year and was the first player since Steve Elkington in 1997 to record all four rounds in the 60s. … Im (+3000) has a win and a solo third the past two weeks and has four top-3 finishes this season.
NEXT WEEK: Valspar Championship, Palm Harbor, Fla.