World’s top three together at Sawgrass

World’s top three together at Sawgrass

World No 1 Rory McIlroy will be joined by world No 2 Jon Rahm and No 3 Brooks Koepka in the marquee grouping for the opening two rounds of the Players Championship this week.

McIlroy is the defending champion at TPC Sawgrass in addition to the current FedExCup champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year.

Other noteable groups will include Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Webb Simpson, Justin Rose plays alongside Adam Scott and Xander Schauffele, while young guns Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, and Matthew Wolff will play together. All three have already won prior to their 23rd birthdays.

The winner of this week’s even in Florida, will receive $2.7m, nearly as much as Tiger Woods earned in his first two seasons as a pro.

Woods, incidentally, will miss The Players for the first time when not recovering from any of his nine surgeries. His agent, Mark Steinberg at Excel Sports Management, said last week, “Back just not ready. Not long term concern.”

Meanwhile, McIlroy managed something nobody has done since Woods two decades ago after racking up his seventh straight top-five finish on the PGA Tour.

But that was scant consolation to him after a mediocre final round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando on Sunday.

McIlroy started the day two strokes behind England’s overnight leader Tyrrell Hatton, but two quick double-bogeys late on the front nine all but ended his chances at Bay Hill in Orlando as he shot a four-over-par 76 to finish equal fifth.

“Two loose shots cost me,” McIlroy said “I stood up here yesterday and said the key was to keep the big numbers off the card and I made two (big numbers) today.”

McIlroy dropped two shots at the par-five sixth, after firing his third shot from a greenside bunker into rocks beyond the green from where he had to take a penalty stroke.

Things went from bad to worse at the par-four ninth when he pulled his drive out-of-bounds for another double and, though there were no more dropped shots on the back nine, the damage had been done.

“There is a lot of similarity between the start of this year and the start of last year, of chances and not converting but knowing the game is pretty much there,” he said after the round.

“I’ll keep knocking on the door.”

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