PGA Tour flagship facts at TPC Sawgrass – The Irish Times
Wallet: €23.4 million (€4.2 million for the winner)
Where: Ponte Vedra, Florida, United States
Of course: TPC Sawgrass – 7,256 yards, par 72 – is a so-called “stadium course” that features a large number of purpose-built hills around the layout to give spectators a better view. Designed by Pete Dye with input from his wife Alice in creating the famous 17th hole island green, the design philosophy includes deep bunkers and small greens, while Dye’s clever tracking around the former swamp encourages players to drive the ball off the tee into both edit directions.
It has traditionally provided for rigorous scrutiny and past winners are both long hitters and those more inclined to strategically navigate a path around the course. The signature hole is the par 3 17th, but it is part of a very strong final stretch that also includes the par 5 Risk and Reward 16th hole, which has water on the lower right and around the green throughout the par 4 water 18th hole has a crescent shaped fairway that works its way along a lake with water in play on the left.
The field: There is no defending champion as Cameron Smith is one of the LIV golfers not allowed to serve. There are 43 of the world’s top 50 in the field and 49 of the top 50 from the FedEx Cup standings at the PGA Tour’s flagship event, whose prize pool has risen to €23 million from €18 million a year ago at the latest edition.
Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy – the world number three – lead the strong field, with each of the trio leaving Sawgrass as world number one on Sunday night, depending on a variety of scenarios. About 30 players are making their debuts in the Championship, including Australia’s Min Woo Lee, who clinched a late spot above the top 50 in the world rankings last Monday.
Playoff Holes (if required): Three-hole aggregate: (16-17-18), then sudden death 17-18-16.
Quote end of quote: “The first thing that comes to mind is the old trophy, because I still have the old crystal memory, right? To me, for some reason, that’s still the Players Championship trophy. I don’t know why” – a nostalgic world number one Jon Rahm on the old Waterford Crystal trophy previously awarded to the winner. A new trophy – including a mix of silver and gold – was unveiled in 2019.
Irish in the field: McIlroy is in the standout group with Rahm and Scheffler (from the 10th tee at 12.56pm Irish time); Shane Lowry is grouped with US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland (off the first at 5.34pm Irish time); Séamus Power, currently fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, will be grouped with Chris Kirk and Keegan Bradley (from first at 18:18 Irish time).
bets: No wonder the market is dominated by the big three, with McIlroy – a winner in 2019 – leading the bets with a narrow 15-2 ahead of Rahm and Scheffler’s 9-1s. Shane Lowry’s early years at the venue were uninspiring with three missed cuts in his first five appearances, but he seems to have developed a greater liking in recent years and is worth a look at either side, at 33-1. Rickie Fowler’s form has improved significantly over the past year as he’s undergone some swing changes and as a former winner on a preferred course he’s also looking decent at 40-1.
On TV: From 11.30 a.m. live on Sky Sports Golf.
Magical Kenya Open
Wallet: €2 million (€320,000 for the winner)
Where: Nairobi, Kenya
Of course: Muthaiga Golf Club – 7,228 yards, par 71 – is known to its members as the “Home of Golf” and was founded in the early 1920’s but has been renovated in recent years under the direction of South African course designer Peter Matkovich. It has a reputation as one of the best golf courses in East Africa and boasts the fastest greens in the region. The seventh par 5 measures 616 yards, the longest on the course, and there are five par threes.
The field: A strong enough field – obviously made up of players who didn’t have access to The Players – is led by a number of Tour winners including Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, Richie Ramsay and Ewen Ferguson, Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, Adrian Otaegui and Jorge Campillo, along with many young savages who want to make a name for themselves.
Quote end of quote: “I’m still in la-la country. Everyone congratulates me, it’s great to clap your shoulders. It was a life changing week. But now it’s important to focus again. I don’t want to make the mistakes I’ve made in the past. I want to prove that I can be a multiple winner on tour again.” – Deutschlands Marcel Siemwho ended an eight-year drought when he won the Hero Indian Open on his last outing.
Irish in the field: Tom McKibbin, John Murphy and Gary Hurley.
bets: Robert MacIntyre goes into the tournament as a 14-1 favourite, Antoine Rozner has a 16-1 chance. However, Julien Brun is worth a look at 28-1, while Tom McKibbin is decent in the each-way market at 66-1.
On TV: Sky Sports Golf (from 10 a.m.).