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Players’ Championship set to begin at Sawgrass

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The PGA Tour is back in Florida this weekend, but not just for a regular tour event. The Players’ Championship, to be contested at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra beginning Thursday, is commonly known as the unofficial “5th Major.”

Next to the PGA Championship each August, no other tour event draws such a quality field. All of the big names of golf from around the world will tee off on Thursday.

One of the big questions will center around Jordan Spieth. How will he respond to adversity?

When last seen one month ago, he was frittering away a five-shot lead on the back nine at the Masters. He has not played in an event since. Few remember that despite finishing 2015 as the top-ranked player in the world, he missed the cut at last year’s Players’ Championship.

The current world number one, Jason Day, is playing well, but not at the top of his game. Like Spieth, Day also missed the cut last year and has missed it three times in his career.

If there is a favorite this weekend, it is Rory McIlroy. The former number one and current third-ranked player is coming to Sawgrass on a run of three straight top 10s.

Sawgrass requires precision, so the natural advantage of long bombers like McIlroy and Day are somewhat neutralized. Their skills with 3 woods and 2 irons, as well as their short game, will be tested.

It also opens up the tournament to several possible winners. Many of the experts are looking at 2008 champion Sergio Garcia as someone to watch.

Those same experts are still making McIlroy a slight favorite followed closely by Day and Spieth.

Among the threesomes playing together on Thursday, none is likely to get more attention than Spieth and Day playing together. Playing along with South African Branden Grace, who had two top-five finishes in major tournaments last year, the group tees off at 8:43 a.m. from the 10th hole.

Crowd favorite Phil Mickelson and 2014 winner Martin Kaymer are paired together for the first two rounds (8:21 a.m.) while Masters Champion Danny Willett begins only his second round of golf since winning the Green Jacket one month ago at 8:10 a.m.

Garcia tees off at 1:25 p.m. Defending champion Rickie Fowler begins his quest for back-to-back titles at 1:36 p.m.


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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