Where is Tom Brady going to play next season? Who is going to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, Lebron James or Giannis Antetokounmpo? The Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox are cheaters, and baseball’s opening day is just a week away.
Those are the sports headlines dominating the news these days.
Oh, yeah, there is also a little bug going around as well if you hadn’t heard.
So, if you have been distracted with those stories and busy washing your hands, you can’t be blamed if you didn’t realize the Professional Golf Association’s “Fifth” major tournament starts on Thursday.
The 2020 Players Championship, which unfolds at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, golf’s headquarters, is considered by many to rank number five behind The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championships.
With The Masters just a month away, the golf season starts to ramp up, and the casual fans should start to pay attention.
As a refresher, here are three quick takeaways from the first part of the 2020 PGA Tour:
1. Injuries have slowed many of the big stars: Tiger Woods has not played in weeks and will miss The Players with a bad back. Brooks Koepka is battling a knee injury, and Justin Thomas is coming off wrist surgery. Also, where has Jordan Spieth gone?
2. Rory Mcllroy is back as the number one ranked player in the world and is the favorite to defend the title he won last year. It catapulted him to the 2019 Player of the Year Award as well as the FedEx Cup Championship. He is playing some of his best golf right now, finishing in the top five in his last six tournaments. He also won a tournament in China in November.
3. Some familiar faces have already won tournaments this season: Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, and Webb Simpson among others. But the last three tournaments heading to Florida have featured first-time tour winners (Viktor Hovland, Im Sung-jae, and Tyrrell Hatton).
What to expect this weekend?
All the big names (minus Tiger) will be on hand, so the leaderboard should be packed with all the fun golfers to follow.
Besides Mcllroy, others playing well and figuring to be factors are Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Bryson Dechambeau, and Patrick Cantlay. Also, don’t count out those who are notorious for playing well in the big events. That includes Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, and Ricky Fowler.
One of the parts of The Players is what Golf Digest calls “Super Groups.” That is, the way the Tour sets up the pairings of players in the first two rounds makes for some interesting golf. Most events sprinkle the biggest names amongst the different groups to spread fans out across the golf course.
Not this weekend.
Just look at some of Thursday’s groups: Rory Mcllroy, Jon Rahm, and Brooks Koepka in one group and Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and Jordan Spieth in another.
While most of those players are in form, Koepka and Spieth are struggling. Koepka used a swear word to describe his current form recently and shot a career-worst 81 this past Saturday. Spieth has slipped out of the top 50 in the world and has spent the last two years looking to regain his Major-winning swing and putting.
It will be interesting to see how they fare with the bright lights back on again.
The TPC Sawgrass is a tough course and not for struggling players. The island green 17th hole always plays a part in determining the champion.
This weekend is the tour’s showcase, and looking at the field, I see all the ingredients for some really good golf.
If you can pull yourself away from the on-going Brady saga and depressing virus news, this weekend’s golf should be a great distraction.