Elites take on changed Sawgrass
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