McIlroy aiming for prestigious, profitable Players Championship crown

Outside of the four Majors, the Players Championship is perhaps the most prestigious tournament in golf. The event, played in Sawgrass, is also the most lucrative in the whole sport, with a $10m prize pot and $1.8m going to the winner.

It is a competition, often referred to as the ‘fifth Major’, which interests Rory McIlroy in particular, as the world number one has yet to claim the crown.

But the Northern Irishman comes into the Players Championship on the back of winning another maiden title in the WGC Match Play, and is the 36/5 favourite with Coral to lift the former title.

Following his success in California, McIlroy said: “Match Play is a format that I’ve always enjoyed. I feel it’s a format that I do well in and I excel in. I felt like with this new [group stage] format, it would give me a better chance to make it through to the latter stages.”

“I think it’s always important for me to get my first win Stateside during the year. I won in Dubai at the start of the year and had a couple of good finishes but I never really felt like I got into contention for the last few events. Even though I felt like I played OK at Doral, Bay Hill and Augusta, I never really had a chance to win a tournament.

“I sat here at the start of the week and said I want to give myself chances to win tournaments. So it was nice to do that and get the job done.

“It’s really satisfying to get that first win here, no matter what format it is, it’s always nice to get a trophy. And now we move on to next week and try to do it again.”

Answering about any possible concerns going into the Players Championship, McIlroy added: “I got to the final of the match play a couple of years ago in Tucson and then went the next week and won at Honda. I don’t feel like there will be any sort of fatigue or tiredness after this week.”

The one player that the recently-turned 26-year-old will need to be wary of is fellow youngster Jordan Spieth (21), who destroyed the field in the recent US Masters to claim his first Major.

Texas-born Spieth goes in as the second-favourite for this upcoming event at 15/2, and is odds-on at 5/6 to finish in the top 10.

Other names to look out for include title holder Martin Kaymer (100/1 to defend the trophy, and 6/1 to be in the top 10) and two-time winner Tiger Woods (40/1 and 7/2 respectively), who is beginning to regain form.