Can Fowler achieve first-ever successful defence at TPC?
AMERICAN Rickie Fowler heads into his title defence at this week's Players Championship on the ultra challenging layout at the TPC Sawgrass well aware that no one has ever won the prestigious tournament in consecutive seasons.
Part of the reason for this is the combination of a difficult course, a brutal three-hole closing stretch and the strongest field in golf at the PGA Tour's flagship event, which is widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major.
This week's field is as potent as ever with 29 of the game's top 30 golfers set to tee off in today's opening round on the par-72 Stadium Course at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
"It's one of the toughest courses we play all year, and probably the toughest field that we play all year," world number five Fowler told reporters when asked why the Players Championship had never produced a back-to-back champion.
He won last year's title in sensational fashion, beating fellow American Kevin Kisner and Spaniard Sergio Garcia in a play-off after finishing the final six holes of regulation in six-under par.
This week, he will have to contend with players such as world number one Jason Day and second-ranked Jordan Spieth, who are both eager to add the Players Championship to their already impressive golfing resumes.
US Open champion Spieth returns to PGA Tour competition for the first time since his shocking final-round meltdown at last month's Masters, where he threw away the title after being five strokes ahead with nine holes to play.