PGA preview: The Players Championship

Rickie Fowler will aim to be the first ever back-to-back winner of The Players Championship this week as he competes against some of golf's best. (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

By: Noah Thomas –

It’s about time for the PGA Tour to make its annual trip to TPC at Sawgrass for its unofficial fifth major—the Players Championship.

Just one week after a stellar finish at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, most of golf’s best competitors will take the same course for the first time since the Masters at Augusta National a month ago.

That doesn’t mean golf has been without excitement. James Hahn mounted a come-from-behind victory in the final round on Sunday in Charlotte to win his second tournament on Tour in two years.

Getting to the winner’s circle wasn’t easy. Collapses by Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson during those final two rounds opened up a grand opportunity for Hahn to force a playoff against Roberto Castro.

As for The Players, multiple storylines have piled up over recent weeks leading up to the tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. One interesting thing to keep an eye on will be the aforementioned Fowler, who will enter this week as the defending champion.

Why’s that so interesting? As mentioned a few ‘graphs ago, Fowler held the lead going into the final round at the Wells Fargo Championship last week.

A 2-over round on Sunday jeopardized his chances of walking away with a win, and the world knows the 27-year-old Fowler will be looking to redeem himself this week.

There lies the problem: no one has ever won back-to-back years at The Players. The tournament is the oldest on Tour to not have a repeat winner in its history at 41 years.

Fowler has been on a hot streak since winning The Players in 2015. A great showing in the final half of last year allowed him to propel into 2016 and, so far, log six top-10 finishes in 12 events.

PGATour.com has Fowler clocking in at no. 2 in the power rankings going into the weekend. Rory McIlroy leads all golfers in that list, with Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, and Hideki Matsuyama rounding out the top five.

No one quite knows how things are going to shake out in golf, it’s a sport crueler than any other to those who play it. We’ll see.

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