The Players: PGA Tour hopes for another big-name winner with LIV Golf stars missing at TPC Sawgrass | Golf News


The Players has produced a star-studded roll of honour in recent years, with the PGA Tour hoping for its star names to continue that trend this week at TPC Sawgrass.

The tournament is one of the biggest dates in the golf calendar and has previously been regarded as the unofficial ‘fifth major’ due to the strength of field it has historically produced, although that status will be called into question due to the notable names now missing from the event.

World No 1 Scottie Scheffler will headline the 50th edition, where he looks to become the first back-to-back winner of The Players, but the divide at the top of the men’s game means many of the sport’s biggest names won’t be able to feature since joining the LIV Golf League.

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David Howell and Dame Laura Davies give their view on the growing amount of money within golf and whether it will eventually have a negative impact on the game.

The PGA Tour’s continued exclusion of golfers who joined LIV Golf has hit the depth of the 144-man field this week in Florida, where the winner will get a $4.5m share of a $25m prize purse, leaving the flagship event without some of the star appeal seen in previous editions.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan addressed the issue in his pre-tournament press conference, where he insisted the circuit was delivering stronger fields than previous seasons.

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Eamon Lynch says Jay Monahan was far from expansive in his press conference discussing some of the issues regarding the PGA tour.

“Early returns for 2024 show that field strength, player participation, and access for full-field and signature events are strong and delivering on our expectations based on the modelled projections,” Monahan said.

“Using data comparing participation from the top 50 and top 125 in the FedExCup standings in versus 2023, the strength of field at full-field events has improved by nearly 30 per cent. Better yet, the reimagined schedule is delivering the essence of the PGA Tour’s ethos: Pure competition which shows just how hard winning is.”

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Tiger Woods says they are exploring pathways back for players who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf on a daily basis.

Which players are missing?

Masters champion Jon Rahm would have been one of the pre-tournament favourites had he been eligible to feature, while Cameron Smith has been unable to return to TPC Sawgrass since his victory in the weather-affected 2022 contest.

Tyrrell Hatton misses out after threatening to become the first English winner of The Players last year, finishing second to Scheffler, while half of the top 10 on the 2022 leaderboard have since gone off to join the Saudi-backed circuit.

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Rory McIlroy admits he has changed his tune by saying returning LIV Golf players shouldn’t be punished.

Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson are former Players champions teeing it up in the LIV Golf League, with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed all absent household names who added major-winning pedigree to The Players.

There are other LIV Golf names who would have previously been regulars at TPC Sawgrass, including two-time runner-up Ian Poulter and in-form Joaquin Niemann, although the field does still still boast the majority of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR).

“You’ve got 144 players competing in this championship and they’re the greatest players in the world,” Monahan claimed. “This is the greatest tour in the world. If you’re a junior golfer anywhere in the world, this is the place where you want to play. It’s the highest expression of individual achievement in our game.

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Ahead of the 50th anniversary of The Players Championship, take a look at some of the best moments from the historic tournament.

“There’s been disruption in our sport, but that is a constant, and we do that week-in and week-out. Strength comes from a number of different factors. It comes from the strength of your membership, and we consistently as an organization regenerate talent and create stars.”

Who has impressed this season?

The new-look calendar began with back-to-back surprise winners, as Chris Kirk won The Sentry and Grayson Murray claimed the Sony Open, before Nick Dunlap became the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event since Mickelson in 1991 with his success at The American Express.

DP World Tour graduate Matthieu Pavon earned a maiden victory at the Farmers Insurance Open and US Open champion Wyndham Clark prevailed at a weather disrupted AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, with Nick Taylor then winning the WM Phoenix Open.

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Highlights from the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where Wyndham Clark impressed.

Hideki Matsuyama became the most successful Asian-born player in PGA Tour history with his Genesis Invitational victory, while Jake Knapp and Austin Eckroat added to the tally of first-time winners, before Scheffler extended his advantage as world No 1 by winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Scheffler pulled clear of a strong leaderboard on the final day to claim a five-shot victory at Bay Hill, with his leads so big at the top of the world rankings that he will remain world No 1 regardless of his performance at The Players.

Rory McIlroy is a former winner of The Players and chases a first PGA Tour win of the season, having finished outside the top 20 in each of his first four starts, while FedExCup champion Viktor Hovland, major winner Brian Harman and former world No 1s Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas among those looking to impress at TPC Sawgrass.

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We look back at the highlights from Rory McIlroy’s live Watchalong on Sky Sports, where he relived his win at The Players with Nick Dougherty and Brandel Chamblee.

“While it’s still early in the season, there are also a number of stars and fan favourites who haven’t hoisted a trophy yet in 2024,” Monahan added. “They know it, and in talking to them, they’re looking to put an end to that narrative as early as this week.”

Could LIV players ever return to The Players?

Monahan said that talks were accelerating with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – who bankroll LIV Golf – to finalise their Framework Agreement announced last June, although no details have been confirmed about any potential pathways back for LIV Golf players to return to the PGA Tour.

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A look back on how Rory McIlroy’s stance on LIV Golf appears to have changed over the course of the last two years.

“While we have several key issues that we still need to work through, we have a shared vision to quiet the noise and unlock golf’s worldwide potential,” Monahan explained. “It’s going to take time, but I see a positive outcome for the PGA Tour and the sport as a whole.

“It really is not in the best interest of the PGA Tour and our membership and for PIF for me to be talking about where we are with specific elements of our discussions. I would just stress the fact that we’re engaged, we’re making progress, but I’m really not at liberty to share any of the details on that front.”

The Players Championship Live

Thursday 14th March 11:30am

When is The Players live on Sky?

Sky Sports Golf will once again be the home of The Players in 2024, with nearly 60 hours of live coverage during tournament week and a host of extra content available for you to enjoy. Live coverage begins on Thursday at 11.30am.

Bonus coverage will be available via the red button for all four tournament rounds, with featured groups and bonus marquee groups there to enjoy every day alongside a special featured holes feed.

Watch The Players live on Thursday from 11.30am on Sky Sports Golf. Stream the PGA Tour and more with NOW.

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