There’s never been a better time to be a golf fan. Competition at the top of the tree has been fantastic for a while but it just keeps improving – and that means we are in for a treat this week.
All the big names, including a fit-again Dustin Johnson, will be at Sawgrass for The Players Championship, which thoroughly deserves its reputation as the unofficial fifth Major.
It shares a special appeal with the Masters in that it is held on the same course every year, while the design – that par five 16th, the famous 17th – always makes for an exciting finish.
Because it is familiar, it’s the type of course where players can really flourish, so we can expect fireworks right from Thursday’s first round.
The return of Johnson, who missed Augusta with an 11th-hour injury, means it is essentially the Masters field plus the world No1.
Johnson will arrive in magnificent form after he just missed out on a fourth PGA Tour title in his last four starts by the slimmest of margins at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday.
He has been in the top three at eight of his last nine tournaments. That is a quite incredible run and he looks to be finding golf very easy at the moment.
I can’t say I’m surprised that he hit the ground running on his comeback because he is nerveless, but it’s great for golf and the prospect of this week’s action that he is already back on his game.
Can Rory enjoy the Garcia effect?
Rory McIlroy is set to be among his rivals at The Players Championship as the Northern Irishman seeks a first win since how own spell out with injury early in the year.
McIlroy has shown form – he has been top 10 in six of the seven events since he last won – but it’s time for him to step up.
Like a thoroughbred who is running fourth in the Derby, you’re just waiting for him to make that burst. It has to happen soon.
Happiness in his personal life has been credited with helping Sergio Garcia make his Major breakthrough at the Masters.
Perhaps Rory’s marriage last month will have a similar effect. Contentment off the course is a wonderful thing.
Garcia will also be at Sawgrass. It’ll be his first appearance since Augusta, and I feel that triumph has belatedly confirmed him as one of the world’s top five or six players.
New world No52 Brian Harman will be there too, thanks to his brilliant victory at the Wells Fargo.
Johnson, Pat Perez and Jon Rahm applied the pressure down the back nine but Harman really went for it at the last and sank a 30-foot birdie putt to clinch a one-shot win that is huge for him.
Rahm played beautifully too. The youngster reminded us that he has the traditional traits of a Spanish player – a great short game and putting – but is also very powerful and can dominate courses like Dustin Johnson.
I think Nick Dougherty summed up the inaugural GolfSixes best when he said: “It’s not instead of, it’s as well as.”
I enjoyed the innovative six-hole event, which took place at the weekend and featured pairs representing their countries, shot-clocks, music and pyrotechnics.
You couldn’t have it replace the 18-hole game every week, but the players embraced it, it proved a huge success and it’s great to see the European Tour being enterprising and broadening their horizons with a format that appeals to both new audiences and existing golf fans.