PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — After posting his best finish at The Players Championship last year, Fairmont native William McGirt returns to TPC Sawgrass after a week’s rest.
McGirt sat out last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, the first of two tournaments in his home state, and is among one of the most prestigious fields in all of golf.
Last year, McGirt sat in a tie for second after the first round with a 5-under 67, and then posted a 75 on Friday and Sunday to finish in a tie for 22nd in the tournament. The highest he finished before then at Pete Dye’s masterpiece came in 2016 and 2013 when he was in a tie for 43rd both times. McGirt has made three cuts in five tries at TPC Sawgrass, and has finished at or under par in the three times he’s made the cut.
“Last year’s results don’t really factor much at (TPC) Sawgrass. It’s a place that magnifies any weakness in your game,” McGirt told The Robesonian. “I actually think you come out better hitting really bad shots than by just barely missing. It’s not my favorite place by any stretch. I’m not a fan of Pete Dye courses.”
The top 50 golfers in the world are in the field this week, and also includes Tiger Woods’ return to the course where he has won The Players twice. Woods last played in the event in 2015.
After coming in a tie for 55th in Charlotte over the weekend and struggling with his putter, Woods said the familiarity he has with TPC Sawgrass won’t lead to what happened at Quail Hollow Club. He also echoed the comments that McGirt had about the course.
“I know what to expect there. I’ve played well in spurts there and I’m really looking forward to getting there and doing a little homework on the golf course,” Woods said. “That’s a golf course you can’t fake it around there. You have to hit it well. … If you are hitting the ball well, it seems like that golf course is pretty easy. But if you are not hitting it well, you’re in some tough spots. Pete Dye really puts it on you on some misses.”
In his off week, McGirt focused on setting himself up for better situations after bad shots.
“I spent a lot of time working on my wedges last week because I almost think you are better off just chipping out and leaving a full shot a lot of times instead of getting it up around the greens and having to chip out here,” he said. “I tend to putt from around the greens a bunch but you really have to be careful because it can make you look silly in a heartbeat.”
For the first two rounds, McGirt is grouped with Zach Johnson and Brian Gay. The group tees off the first tee at 7:54 a.m. in Thursday’s first round.
Woods is paired with Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler on Thursday and Friday. Si Woo Kim is the defending champion of the event and will play with Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer in the first two rounds of the tournament.
McGirt currently sits 102nd in the FedEx Cup rankings.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.