Elites take on changed Saw­grass

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LOS AN­GE­LES: De­fend­ing cham­pion Ja­son Day plays with past cham­pi­ons Rickie Fowler and Hen­rik Sten­son, while World No 1 Dustin John­son tees it up with Rory McIl­roy and Justin Thomas in to­mor­row’s open­ing round of The Play­ers.

Day, the world num­ber three, won last year’s event by four strokes af­ter open­ing with a course-record 63.

The Aus­tralian helps kick off the tour­na­ment in the morn­ing wave to­mor­row with fel­low top 10 play­ers, Swe­den’s Sten­son (7) and Rickie Fowler (9), tee­ing off at the 10th tee in the so-called ‘fourth ma­jor’ of the sea­son.

An­other glam­our group fol­lows them to the tee 11 min­utes later as World No 5 Jor­dan Spi­eth, No 4 Hideki Mat­suyama of Ja­pan and five-time ma­jor win­ner Phil Mick­el­son set off on the re­vamped Sta­dium Course at TPC Saw­grass.

John­son, whose run of three vic­to­ries in his pre­vi­ous three starts ended with a tie for sec­ond at last week’s Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship, hopes to get started on a new win­ning streak when he tees off from the first tee in the af­ter­noon wave.

World No 2 McIl­roy, the FedExCup cham­pion, cel­e­brates a re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion af­ter a month off to get mar­ried.

They are pre­ceded by group­ings of Masters cham­pion Ser­gio Gar­cia of Spain and for­mer win­ners Adam Scott of Aus­tralia and Matt Kuchar, and an in­ter­na­tional trio of Bri­ton Justin Rose, Ger­man Martin Kaymer and Spa­niard Jon Rahm.

The elite field at The Play­ers will see nu­mer­ous changes at the per­ma­nent site of the cham­pi­onship, in­clud­ing a new driv­able par-four 12th hole, where ea­gles are pos­si­ble if one risks the dan­ger posed by a wa­ter haz­ard left of the green.

There is also a new haz­ard be­tween the sixth and sev­enth, and sub­tle changes to sev­eral holes, in­clud­ing ex­panded greens and the re­moval of rough to pro­mote cre­ative re­cov­ery shots. Reuters

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