2022 Players Championship Preview

What to watch for at TPC Sawgrass and what Jay Monahan said in his annual press conference


Major or not, the Players Championship almost always delivers the goods. For today’s newsletter, we have a full Players preview as well as updates from the early-week press conferences at TPC Sawgrass.

Going for gold

All eyes are on Ponte Vedra Beach this week as Pete Dye’s Stadium Course prepares to befuddle the world’s best once again. The Players Championship, which has by far the strongest field of any regular PGA Tour event, gets underway on Thursday. Forty-seven of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking are in attendance. While most of these players have seen TPC Sawgrass before, they will encounter a few unusual variables this week. The weather forecast calls for considerable rain, and the $20-million purse is the biggest in pro-golf history.

What to watch for

Soft and wet – Three years into the Players Championship’s move back to March, we now expect a gettable Stadium Course. TPC Sawgrass uses overseeded ryegrass this time of year to keep everything looking green, and the expected rain will make the turf even softer. Players should be able to go low—unless, of course, Mother Nature really bucks her head.

Keep it up – For the first time in history, the top five players in the world are all 29 years old or younger. This quintet has combined for 17 top fives in their last 30 total starts. Three of the five players—Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, and Scottie Scheffler—are 25 or younger.

Every Shot Live – After a successful debut in 2021, the PGA Tour’s Every Shot Live stream returns this season. This service allows fans to watch every shot from every player at TPC Sawgrass. When used properly, it offers a genuinely new and exciting type of viewing experience. Here are a few shots at the Stadium Course we’ll be keeping an eye on this weekend:

Approaches into No. 4 – This short par 4 offers an early-round birdie opportunity, but disaster lurks all around the landing zones, and a dividing contour in the middle of the green puts a premium on approach accuracy.

The fourth hole at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: Andy Johnson

Second shots on No. 9 – Many players will attempt to reach this par 5 in two, but the small, heavily guarded green is an intimidating target. If you like seeing golfers make actual decisions, the ninth fairway at the Stadium Course is the place to go.

The ninth hole at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: Andy Johnson

Tee shots on No. 13 – The *other* par 3 on the back nine, this one has an intricate green and lots of fun pin positions. The Tour also moves the tee around a good bit, so every day brings something new.

The 13th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: Andy Johnson

The finish – You know these holes. Everyone knows these holes. But we still need to mention them because they never get old. The approach into the par-5 16th, the shot into the island-green 17th, and the tee shot on the 18th test players’ commitment to their swings. Overaggressive lines lead to disaster… but sometimes bailouts do, too.

The 16th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Photo: Andy Johnson

The head honcho

On Tuesday, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan gave his annual pre-Players Championship press conference. Normally a dry update on charitable giving and purse increases, this year’s presser covered juicier topics like the threat of the Saudi Arabia-backed Super Golf League and the recent chaos surrounding Phil Mickelson.

In his opening remarks and his answers to questions from reporters, Monahan insisted that the PGA Tour is already moving on from the SGL disturbance. “We have too much momentum and too much to accomplish to be consistently distracted by rumors of other golf leagues and their attempts to disrupt our players, our partners, and most importantly our fans from enjoying the tour and the game we all love so much,” Monahan said. “We are and we always will be focused on legacy, not leverage.”

That last bit is a thinly veiled dig at Mickelson, who spoke of his intention to use “leverage” against the Tour to both John Huggan and Alan Shipnuck. Monahan said on Tuesday that he has not spoken to Mickelson since Shipnuck’s article was published. “The ball is in his court,” Monahan said in response to a question about Mickelson’s status with the Tour. “He has said that he’s stepping away and he wants time for reflection. When he’s ready to come back to the PGA Tour, we’re going to have that conversation.”

Meanwhile, Monahan stopped short of making any confident declarations about the Tour’s legal ability to ban players who join a rival league.

While the commissioner gave his usual polite non-answers to certain uncomfortable questions, his overall tone was significantly more pointed than normal. It was clear that he wanted to project strength. Still, actions speak louder than words. If the Super Golf League launches this year, as it apparently plans to do, Monahan will need to decide whether to follow through on the disciplinary measures he has threatened. Only then will we see whether his show of strength at TPC Sawgrass on Tuesday was just that—a show.

Odds and ends

A handful of other big-name PGA Tour players visited the TPC Sawgrass media center on Tuesday. Here are a few quotes that stood out:

Rory McIlroy on what the PGA Tour could do better: “I think the one thing that the Tour in general could do a better job at is transparency…. I’ve always felt that a few of the bans or suspensions, I think that should all be announced. I think that should be more transparent.”

Jon Rahm on which aspect of the game is most important at TPC Sawgrass: “This is one of the hardest weeks to decide on just one because every part of your game needs to be good. It’s demanding off the tee. It’s demanding on the approach shots. If you miss the green, you’d better be in the right spot. It’s depending all throughout. That’s what makes it such a great golf course.”

Xander Schauffele on the importance of the Players Championship: “A lot of people want to win this tournament, not just because there is a $20 million purse, but because it’s considered our fifth major, and majors are sacred to us. Every year we come here the stands seem to be bigger, everything seems to be bigger…. Overall you make big tournaments by just making everything more magnitude and more important. This is a very important week for us.”

The Latest from The Fried Egg

To prepare for this week’s action, check out our video on the history, design, and evolution of Pete Dye’s Stadium Course.

TPC Sawgrass Isn’t Completely Random—It’s Just Different – Pete Dye’s Stadium Course produces some of the most unpredictable results on the PGA Tour. Joseph LaMagna digs into why that’s the case.

Paulie’s Picks: The Players Championship – Even with harsh weather in the forecast, Fried Egg fantasy-golf guy Paulie is looking at players who would thrive at TPC Sawgrass in any conditions.

The Fried Egg Podcast: Four Things About the Players Championship – Sean Martin of PGATour.com joins Andy Johnson to talk all things Players. Listen on iTunes and Spotify.

The Shotgun Start – Andy and Brendan discuss Jay Monahan’s press conference, Jon Rahm’s comments on course setup, and Rory McIlroy’s plea to make suspensions public before giving Players Championship picks. Listen on iTunes and Spotify.

Tee Times

The Players Championship boasts its strongest field to date. Spin the wheel and you’re likely to land on an entertaining group.

The DP World Tour is in South Africa for something called the MyGolfLife Open.

Yuka Saso, Danielle Kang, and Patty Tavatanakit headline the Honda LPGA Thailand on the LPGA Tour.

Quick Hooks

Apparel company Greyson has signed Justin Thomas as an ambassador. Thomas was dropped by longtime sponsor Ralph Lauren last winter after being caught on a hot mic using a homophobic slur at Kapalua.

Speaking of JT, Sean Martin wrote a fun piece about the ball-striking fiesta that was Thomas’s victory at last year’s Players.