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The Players Championship 2017: Sergio Garcia looks to defend Masters title on familiar course

The Players Championship signifies many things on the PGA Tour, which is why it has grown into one of the biggest events of the year.

Since moving to its current May slot, The Players has ushered in the summer months with a fresh introduction to the busy major championship season. No slouch itself, the tournament is often referred to as the season's "fifth major."

Boasting the strongest field of the year, The Players should have every golf fan's attention — even if they have been in hibernation since the Masters. The Players week is frequently one of the most exciting on the PGA Tour each year.

Players Championship odds, picks
There are a number of intriguing players headlining this week's field, but Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm seem to be the most dangerous threats to win.

Johnson, surprisingly, has never recorded a top-25 finish here in eight attempts. That's shocking considering his immense length off the tee should help him feast on TPC Sawgrass' four short par 5s. Johnson has three wins and a runner-up finish in his last four starts. Something has to give this week.

Rahm, like Johnson, has been in contention seemingly every time he enters an event. The rookie has five top-five finishes this year, including a win at Torrey Pines. He is consistent tee-to-green, which is why he ranks 15th in bogey avoidance. Don't be surprised if Rahm adds his second win of the season this week.

Fowler has peppered Players leaderboards since earning his Tour card. After winning here in dramatic fashion in 2015, he responded with a missed cut last year. That, however, was likely an anomaly as he had a rough stretch last summer. He is back in form this season with six straight top-16 finishes.

McIlroy and Spieth are both enigmas entering the week. Spieth has gone five starts without recording a top 10 following a win at Pebble Beach. He slid down the leaderboard at Augusta, and his driving accuracy is a concern here.

McIlroy, on the other hand, just flat out hasn't played much this year.

With just five starts in 2017, McIlroy is going to have to rely on his practice form to guide him around the course. Four of his five starts have resulted in top 10s though, so at least he's in good form.

PICK: Sergio Garcia has owned the hallowed fairways of TPC Sawgrass since his victory in 2008. Since then, he has a t-12 (2011), a t-8 (2013), a third-place finish (2014) and a runner-up in 2015. The reigning Masters champion is The Players Championship's all-time leading money winner, and he should be well-rested after taking over a month off after capturing his first major title.

Who are this week's sleepers?
No one cries sleeper more than Martin Kaymer. The two-time major winner, and former Players champion, is rarely talked about amongst the game's top players. That is partly due to his propensity to disappear for long stretches, but Kaymer has been consistent in Europe over the last couple seasons. If his putter is working, he could rise to the top again this week.

Matt Kuchar, Justin Thomas and Tyrrell Hatton are also dangerous players that could prevail this week.

Where is the 2017 Players Championship played?
Famed TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) will once again take up its annual spot as host to this renowned event. The Pete Dye design offers plenty of risk-reward opportunities with four reachable par 5s matched with treacherous par 3s. 

The island green at No. 17 is one of the most iconic holes in all of golf. Though most players need just a wedge to reach the putting surface, plenty will find the lake surrounding the tiny, heart-shaped green.

Holes 8-11 will be a key stretch. No. 8 is a long par 3 that has given players fits in the past. If they can scrape out a par there, they then get two par fives (9 and 11) with a short par 4 sandwiched in between.


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