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On the Tee: Players Championship

by | CBSSports.com Senior Golf Columnist
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World No. 1 Rory McIlroy will have his ranking to defend while looking for a Players title. (Getty Images)  
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy will have his ranking to defend while looking for a Players title. (Getty Images)  

Everything you need to know about The Players Championship:

Nuts and bolts

Hole by hole | Past champions

Defending the throne

Just when it seemed as though the Tank's career was starting to wind down, he won the biggest title of his decorated career.

The most successful Asian player in the U.S. tour's history, K.J. Choi knocked off fellow 40-something David Toms to win the Players Championship at TPOC Sawgrass last year, when the latter missed a three-footer in sudden death.

In a way, it was the fulfillment of a dream.

The South Korean lived in the Jacksonville, Fla., area when he first came to the U.S. and practiced at Sawgrass, although looking back, he said his unpolished game back then wasn't good enough to break par.

His eighth PGA Tour title proved he could play just about anywhere. He cracked 72 each of the four days, in fact.

"For me to shoot under par every day on this course this week, it's like a miracle, to be honest with you," Choi said.

Toms and Choi finished at 13 under and adjourned to the tricky 17th, with the famous island green. Both players found dry land, but Toms three-putted to hand the title to Choi, a deflating end to the day, for sure.

"No excuses, no spike marks, no ball marks, no nothing," said Toms, one of the better putters of the past decade. "Maybe a lot of pressure. But other than that, there was no excuse."

Choi hadn't won on the PGA Tour in three years and Toms hadn't won in five. But the week had a happy postscript: Toms won seven days later to erase both the sting and stigma.

Venue and you

Like with nearly every TPC venue, the whole idea is for the public to come and play. But it's going to cost you a bundle to take a trip around Pete Dye's famous Stadium Course, to be sure. Rates for the week after the tournament is concluded run around $395, which puts it is among the priciest daily fee venues in the country.

Track and field

Much of the focus last year at Sawgrass was on the absence of Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, who were not members on the PGA Tour and elected to skip the circuit's flagship event. Both joined the tour in 2012 and will be on hand, but curiously, the field-strength numbers have remained exactly the same. For the second consecutive year, the Sawgrass pairing sheet will feature 13 of the top 15 players and 44 of the top 50 in the current world ranking. Sawgrass received 80 world-ranking points last year, most of any non-major.

Three whacks from short range

Whether our choice of words is exactly right, the field is missing six players from the top 50, missing because of injury or apathy. Bubba Watson, who lives two hours away in Orlando, skipped the event to spend time with his infant son, while players such as Dustin Johnson had to withdraw because of injury. Either way, as outlined above, 44 of the top 50 in the world are on hand, and Watson's the lone man in the top dozen who isn't at Sawgrass.

There's been some pretty healthy final-round headers happening as it relates to 54-hole leaders (Webb Simpson blew the lead last week) in 2012 and you can look for that trend to continue based on some rather daunting history. Since the Players Championship moved to TPC Sawgrass in 1982, only 11 of 30 players who held the 54-hole lead have gone on to victory. Included in the misfire category is last year's third-round leader, Graeme McDowell, who plunged to a 79 in the final round and was never a factor.

Is your head on a swivel? With his victory at the Honda Classic in the first week of March, Rory McIlroy moved to No. 1 in the world, unseating Luke Donald. They have swapped positions four more times since then, with Rory taking the top spot back with his T2 finish last week in Charlotte. When the field projections are released later this week, former No. 1 Lee Westwood is expected to be on the list of players who can jump back into the pole position with a victory, too. The No. 1 position has changed hands nine times since October, 2010. Dizzying.

Odds and evens

Odds on winning, via Golfodds.com and the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino Rory McIlroy, 10/1; Lee Westwood, 12/1; Luke Donald, 15/1; Tiger Woods, 20/1; Phil Mickelson, 20/1; Steve Stricker, 30/1; Hunter Mahan, 30/1; Adam Scott, 30/1; Sergio Garcia, 30/1; Webb Simpson, 30/1; Jason Dufner, 40/1; Matt Kuchar, 40/1; Louis Oosthuizen, 40/1; Rickie Fowler, 40/1; Jason Day, 40/1; Nick Watney, 40/1; Justin Rose, 40/1; Jim Furyk, 40/1

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