Rory McIlroy keen to add Players Championship title to glittering CV

Len Mattiace

Johnson is 16th in Putts Per Round (28.20) this season, and that will pay big dividends on the tricky putting surfaces in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. May.

Woods and Mickelson rarely played together on Thursdays and Fridays in their heyday, with tournament organizers keeping them apart to spread their top talent across the TV schedules.

Englishman Paul Casey has withdrawn from the Players Championship due to a back injury, the PGA Tour announced on Wednesday.

"I don't want to lose it", Johnson said. That's where I'm going to be focusing on over the next two days here.

Attitude is everything in golf, especially on this Pete Dye-designed course created on land that used to be a swamp. "That's what I'm looking forward to here". Much of that has to do with the water, just not any found on the golf course.

"It was disappointing that I didn't get the (Masters) result I wanted, but I took a lot of positives from the fact that I probably didn't have my best stuff at Augusta and I still was able to play my way into the final group and contend", McIlroy said.

The majors have all been running significantly longer than the Players, but it still serves to illustrate how hard a tournament it is to win. He tied for fourth that year. "Played pretty well a year ago except for 18 and it'll be nice to get back out there and exact some revenge". The first time you get on some Pete Dye courses they're very odd and they set you up at wrong angles, and visually they're just a little bit not what you want to see, but you learn to deal with it and play the way he wants you to play.

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. He needed only 12th place alone last week at Quail Hollow (he tied for 21st). Even more remarkable for the No. 1 player in the world is that he has shot in the 60s just three times in 30 rounds.

"This is a tournament that I sort of struggled starting off with the first couple years I played here", he said at his pre-tournament press conference.

Every threesome that tees off on Thursday will be packed with quality. "Pretty much anyone in the field, if they play well that week, they're going to win". He has missed the cut in four of his eight starts. He has finished out of the top 20 in just over half his appearances, some of those when he was the most dominant player in golf.

McIlroy has not had a bad season, highlighted by a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but this week will be his first high-pressure test since last month's U.S. Masters disappointment.

"If you don't feel too comfortable over the driver, you have some people to stop that golf ball for you before it goes out of bounds", he said.

"I don't want to lose it", Johnson said of No. 1.

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