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The Players Championship

Tournament Preview

Game's top 30 players on hand as THE PLAYERS Championship opens
With the top 30 players in the world on hand and $9.5 million in prize money waiting at the end of the weekend, The Players Championship, which kicks off Thursday at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida, feels like the fifth Major.

Featuring the largest prize of any tournament on the PGA Tour, the Players launches its 31st year at the TPC at Sawgrass and its 40th year of existence.

Matt Kuchar took the crown in 2012, finishing 13-under to rake in $1.71 million, finishing two strokes ahead of a quartet that included Americans Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson and Ben Curtis, along with Scotland's Martin Laird.

Kuchar will attempt to become the first player to ever win the title in back-to-back years. He's also in the most impressive group of the opening day, paired with No. 1 Tiger Woods and No. 2 Brandt Snedeker at 1:49 p.m.

"I'm so excited to be back, it's hard to believe that it's been a year," Kuchar said in his official pre-tournament interview on Tuesday. "I've been playing some good golf. It's been a nice start to my year. They tell me nobody's defended the title. I think it's going to be fun to at least try to defend the title."

Not only is the prize money prestigious, but so is the list of former champions.Jack Nickalus won the title three times in the tournament's first five years of existence, and other multi-time winners include Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Hal Sutton and Davis Love III.

In all, there are 145 players on hand, including rookie Derek Ernst, who shocked the world with his win at the Wells Fargo Championship last week in North Carolina.
Ernst tees off at 8:18 a.m. (Eastern time) on Thursday in a trio that also includes Angel Cabrera.

Also in the mix is Masters champion Adam Scott, making his first appearance since winning at Augusta. Scott will tee off from the 10th hole at 8:39 a.m. along with Steve Stricker and former No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

"I've had a really nice break, to be honest, since the Masters, which I had planned anyway, but it was even better because I was floating around on the clouds the last three weeks," Scott said on Wednesday.

"I feel like I've played really well here and had amazing support, so I'm excited about playing this week. I hopefully can take my head out of the clouds and come back down to earth and play some good golf."

09 May , 2013 Thursday

Castro's record-tying 63 leads TPC after Day 1

There were plenty of big names and low scores at the first round of The Players Championship Thursday in Florida, but the lowest of them all came from a virtual unknown.

Georgia Tech 2007 grad Roberto Castro dazzled the field by tying a course record with a 9-under 63 to take a three-stroke lead into the tournament's second day on Friday.
Had Castro sunk a 13-foot birdie putt on No. 9, he would have broken the course record, but instead has to be content to share it with legends Fred Couples (1992) and Greg Norman (1994).

Castro was 4-under through nine thanks to an eagle on the par-5, 532-yard No. 2, then bettered that by shooting 5-under on the back nine thanks to five birdies, including three straight to end his round.

This is Castro's first time playing the TPC.

He was hardly alone in having a strong start. Former No. 1 Rory McIlroy and Zach Johnson are three strokes back at 66, and Tiger Woods is in a field of six players at 5-under which includes Steve Stricker, Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson.

The spectacularly erratic McIlroy was anything but on Thursday, nailing five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine to stay within three of the lead.

Johnson actually made seven birdies, but a bogey on No. 14 kept him from breaking the tie for second.

Likewise Woods could have been in the second-place grouping, but he bogeyed No. 18.
Masters champion Adam Scott fired a 3-under 69, bogeying on his first hole of the day before settling down.

10 May , 2013 Friday

Sergio Garcia up one stroke on Tiger Woods through two rounds at TPC

Sergio Garcia was the man atop the leaderboard at The Players Championship with a dazzling 11-under on Friday, but he wasn't the talk of the tournament.

That's what happens when you've got a Tiger on your tail.

Garcia's lead was just one over world-ranked No. 1 Tiger Woods, who shot his second straight 67 to drop to 10-under for the tournament, one shot back of the lead.

While Woods is always at the forefront of the attention when he is anywhere near the top of the leaderboard, Garcia's 7-under 65 was the top round of the day
Garcia bogeyed No. 1 on Friday, then hit five straight birdies and six in seven holes to capture the public's attention. He finished the round with birdies on No. 16 and 18 as well.

Woods was more erratic, with two bogeys offset by an eagle on No. 2. The two men will tee off together Saturday at 2:40 p.m. Eastern time. Garcia was the champion here in 2008, Woods in 2002.

It's hardly a two-man race at the midway point, however. Fifteen other players are within five strokes of the lead, including defending champion Matt Kuchar, Masters winner Adam Scott and former No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

Kevin Chappell, Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson are are all two back at 9-under. The 26-year-old Chappell could have been tied with Woods for second, but he bogeyed No. 18 after starting the back nine with three birdies and an eagle.

Swede Stenson could have been in the lead had he not recorded two bogeys in the final five holes. Prior to that, he was 6-under through the first 13.

Kuchar, seeking to become the first man to ever repeat as TPC champion, fired a 66 to improve to 7-under, notching eight birdies. He's tied for ninth with Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson and Scott, who shot a 68.

After being in the thick of things on Thursday, McIlroy and Stricker both cooled off in Round 2. Stricker shot a 71, thanks in large part to a double bogey on No. 14, while McIlroy floundered with three straight bogeys to close out the front nine.

11 May , 2013 Saturday

Rain interrupts third round of TPC

Rain delayed action by as much as two hours and in many cases kept players from finishing their rounds on Saturday at The Players Championship in Florida.

When the weather had cleared, Swedish rookie David Lingmerth was the unlikely leader, at 12-under through 53 holes thanks to a 4-under on Saturday, getting off the course with an eagle on 16 and a birdie on 17.

Another Swede, Henrik Stenson, was a 1-under through 16 holes to reach 10-under, forging a three-way tie with Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, who had to close out after the 14th hole. Woods was at even par for the day, Garcia one over.

Three more players were within three strokes of the lead at 9-under, including red-hot Jeff Maggert, who completed his round and fired a 6-under 66. Maggert was 5-under on the front 9, notching five birdies in a six-hole stretch, and only missing out on joining Woods, Garcia and STenson at 10-under when he bogeyed 18.

12 May , 2013 Sunday

Tiger Woods notches crown at TPC; fourth title of 2013

Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia engaged in a war of words pertaining to playing etiquette on Saturday during a lengthy rain delay at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

In Sunday's final round, Woods instead declared war on the course while Garcia imploded in bizarre fashion, giving the world's No. 1 player his fourth title of the year, and first on this course since 2002.

The two players were tied going into the 17th hole on Sunday, but while Woods parred it, Garcia sent his ball into the water, then a second one into the same drink, finishing the hole with an unlikely quadruple bogey.

Woods shot another par on 18 while Garcia triple bogeyed. The last threat to Woods came from Sweden's David Lingmerth, who missed a long putt that could have forced a playoff.

Lingmerth led after rain shortened his Day Three to 17 holes, but managed just an even par on Sunday to finish at 11-under.

Woods ultimately won by two strokes at 13-under, shooting a fourth-round 70 to earn $1.71 million and 600 FedEx points. He managed this despite an ugly double bogey on No. 14 to let the competition have a chance to catch up.

Lingmerth wound up in a three-way tie for third second with Americans Kevin Streelman and Jeff Maggert. Streelman was 5-under over the final 11 holes on Sunday, while Maggert blew his chances of catching Woods with a costly double bogey on No. 17.

Garcia's closing meltdown dropped him all the way into a tie for eighth at 7-under, grouped along with Ben Crane, Rory McIlroy, Brandt Snedeker, Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood and Marc Leishman.

Former No. 1 McIlory fell out of contention with a string of three bogeys in four holes on the front nine, then hit four birdies in five holes to get back in the mix on Sunday.
Defending champion Matt Kuchar continued a weekend meltdown by shooting a 4-over 76, five of those strokes on a miserable final two holes.

Masters champion Adam Scott shot a 1-under 71 to finish tied for 19th at 5-under.

Tournament Recap

Tiger Woods adds to red-hot 2013 with latest big win

It's been four years since Tiger Woods has won as many as four tournaments in a single season, and not surprisingly, the exact same amount of time since he's been ranked No. 1 in the world.

Woods was spectacular early and solid late to take the title at the Players Championship Sunday in Florida, finishing 13-under to take a two-stroke victory over his three closest competitors.

It might be a Major, but with $1.7 million and 600 Fedex points on the line, Woods proved he can still compete with the best of them, coming from behind to take the crown away from Sergio Garcia and David Lingmerth.

Lingmerth proved to be the surprise of the tournament, shooting under 70 for the first three rounds before finishing at par on Sunday for a 11-under.

The 25-year-old graduate of the University of Arkansas had missed the cut at his last five events before coming in second on Sunday and winning more than $700,000.

American Kevin Streelman flew under the radar most of the tournament, as he has most of the season despite being ranked No. 10 on the money list.

Streelman never had more than two bogeys in any one round and has now finished in the Top 6 of his last three events, taking third at the RBC Heritage and sixth at the Wells Fargo Championship.

Former No. 1 Rory McIlroy finished tied for eighth, giving him his third Top 10 finish in the last four tournaments after a very slow start. For a second straight tournament, however, McIlory was amazing on day one (6-under this weekend, 5-under at Wells Fargo), then ho-hum the rest of the way - 3-over at TPC and 2-over at Wells Fargo.

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