It's "fifth major" time and the PGA Tour headquarters takes centre stage with the biggest names in golf once again hitting TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra for the Players Championship - the PGA Tour flagship event.
Last year saw an enthralling tournament, with huge debate in the build up surrounding Tiger Woods, and the world's best player once again relished the limelight as he took advantage of course specialist and leading Players Championship money winner Sergio Garcia's 26.00 capitulation. The Spaniard had it in the big only to come unstuck down one of the most dramatic finishing stretches in golf, firing no less than three shots into the water through holes 17 and 18.
This year, the talk in the lead up to the event is centered mainly around the state of the usually pristine conditioned course: A poor winter saw a green protection project go wrong as product application to help manage density and root development has led to grass plugs having to be used to replace turf in some areas, so expect to see some putts veer offline. Of course this just means there's a bigger emphasis on tee to green play and we should see the form horses thrive from a betting perspective.
Tiger Woods is absent and doesn't tee it up this year due to injury so Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are vying for the market lead at 17.00 and 15.00 respectively while 2012 Players Champion Matt Kuchar - who won at the Heritage last time out - is trading at 19.00.
The course - TPC Sawgrass
An all round test of golf playing 7,215 yards long, TPC Sawgrass requires all components of a players game to be on song. A trend that stands out down the years is that experienced players and the biggest names tend to come to the fore.
The wind generally blows at The Players Championship and is expected to do so again moderately this week so shot making and ball flight control will be a premium. Flushers and those who can shape the ball both ways have the advantage around a course where shot shaping is in the brief.
Scrambling is always key around here on and around smallish, quick, sub-air systemed greens - generally circa 12.5 on the stimp, and may be even more so this year with a number of surfaces poorly affected by the aforementioned product misapplication and adverse weather. Watch out for the infamous par three island green 17th hole, and the difficult finishing 18th where many players will come unstuck.
Three from the pack
Phil Mickelson is an interesting play this week at 26.00. Phil was his enigmatic self at Quail Hollow last week shooting numbers of 67-75-63-76 to yet again finish outside the top 10 in 2014. The 44-year-old missed numerous short putts in his last round though and his game looks about to hit top gear. Mickelson is a former Players Champion who has all the shots to tackle TPC Sawgrass and always worth a bet at 25/1 plus.
Luke Donald is very close to my man to beat this week. Luke was pipped at the post last time out at Hilton Head where shaping the ball both ways, controlling trajectory and scrambling are the premium, and the Players championship requires similar abilities to that test. No coincidence then that Donald - who ranks 4th in scrambling and 8th in scoring average - has such a good record at both. Luke finished runner up here back in 2005 and since 2009 his average position on this track is 13.5. The Englishman trades at 23.00.
Last up is another course specialist in Swede Henrik Stenson at 26.00. Again a former Players Champion at Sawgrass, Stenson is yet to really get going this season but not many enjoy the course more than he does. Henrik has another three top 10s to go with his win in the last 8 seasons and carded a top five in 2013. Stenson is showing current progressive form of 54-14 (Masters), and hit a final round 65 for a T5 finish in China last time out.
Martin Kaymer is another who knows how to control his trajectory and play in the wind. Kaymer has mentioned before that he holds this event in very high esteem and would love to win it. Opened with a 67 in 2012 to show what he can do at Sawgrass on his way to a top 15 and his worst finish is 55th in five starts around this track. Kaymer bounced back to form at Quail Hollow, now showing a progressive reading of 31-23-18 and he was in contention after 54 holes. The German trades at 81.00.