THE PLAYERS Championship 2017: 5 groups to watch in Rounds 1 & 2

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports /
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Here are five groups to watch on Thursday and Friday in the first two rounds of THE PLAYERS Championship from the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

THE PLAYERS Championship, often referred to as golf’s unofficial fifth major, gets underway Thursday morning from the famed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and there’s a lot of firepower in this field. Often one of the strongest fields on the PGA Tour schedule (or any tour in the world for that matter) throughout the year, this edition of THE PLAYERS features 146 competitors, including 48 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Only Brandt Snedeker (No. 27), who withdrew last week due to an hand injury suffered at The Masters, and Thomas Pieters (No. 25), who decided just not to play, are absent.

Another notable absence this week is Tiger Woods. I know there’s a lot of you out there who might be wondering why I’m mentioning El Tigre, seeing as he hasn’t been a factor on tour in quite some time, but him not being there does ruin a little continuity. Had Woods been able to tee it up, the field would have featured every winner of the last 28 PLAYERS and major championships. But even with the former world No. 1 on the sidelines, the field still has all the guys who have combined to win the last 45 PGA Tour events. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

While there are a few threesomes (and one twosome) that, with no offense to them, aren’t exactly headline news, there are a number of groupings in the first two rounds this year that are very exciting. You’ve got three former FedExCup winners in Jim Furyk, Billy Horschel and Vijay Singh in a group together. You’ve got a gritty group with a couple of major champions in Zach Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Paul Casey. You’ve got a phenomenal South African duo in Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel grouped with Smylie Kaufman, who was able to get himself into the final round last year at The Masters, so that could be a lot of fun. And then you’ve got a powerful trio in Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka. Think the media will get a few fun quotes from that group?

As much fun as those will be, they don’t quite crack the top five groups to watch at THE PLAYERS this year. Let’s take a look at those that did make the cut.