PGA Tournament Picks and Predictions

Sergio Garcia of Spain takes a divot as he hits from the 10th fairway during a practice round for The Players Championship golf tournament Wednesday

Rory McIlroy might be a good bet on a number of different fronts this week.

To keep the attention of fans (and golf bettors) in a crowded sports marketplace, the PGA Tour has one "anchor" tournament each month from March to September.

In his first hit-out since defeating England's Justin Rose in a nail-biting Masters playoff, Garcia will no doubt draw on his stellar record at TPC Sawgrass.

2013: Tiger Woods. Event played like a U.S. Open with Garcia struggling at the close and Woods winning from the scorer's trailer.

There's a return of a popular innovation this week at the Players Championship, where a host of major champions visited the revamped "Sky Zone".

Jordan Spieth was asked why, when the conversations turns to the best player in the world, he is not mentioned more often because he doesn't possess the power and length that current No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Day or Rory McIlroy do.

Jakarta governor Ahok jailed two years for blasphemy
Ahok continues to protest the charges and is set to appeal. "They sentenced him because they were pressured by the masses". But a short distance away, the atmosphere among the governor's critics - a coalition of Islamic groups - was one of anger.

When he won The Players Championship last year against the strongest field in golf - he was the first wire-to-wire victor at the TPC Sawgrass in 33 years - it was his seventh victory in 10 months. This year, we expect similar fireworks to go off in Ponte Vedra - thanks to one of the most special courses we will see all season, TPC Sawgrass.

Laying up? That wasn't the idea, and the hope, when the hole was redone following last year's championship. All I know is that they shortened the 12th hole into a driveable par 4, which usually adds excitement. But the Ranking says he's not the greatest right now two days before the start of The Players.

Now he is talking about "rebuilding to try and get back to the top of the world". The ones not are Belgium's Thomas Pieters and American Brandt Snedeker, who is injured.

Is there a less predictable big tournament than the Players? The players who have combined to win the last 45 PGA Tour events will be teeing off. Of the 21 other PGA Tour events that have been in operation during that span, only one has failed to produce a repeat champion: the Dean and Deluca Invitational.

Johnson makes the task look like Everest. He was 28 a year ago.

Spieth is enjoying a solid season, if not quite as spectacular as two years ago.

North Korea takes another American hostage
In his public confession, he said he had spied for South Korean intelligence and had tried to spread religion among North Koreans. Seoul has said the dialogues are not related to South Korea policy.

Newly-crowned Masters champion Sergio Garcia has emerged as Johnson's likeliest challenger, at least at this week. He's the all-time leading money-winner at the tournament, won in 2008 and was second in 2007 & '15.

Many of those guys are either already in the Hall or well on their way. He's T-24 and T-3 in his last two starts here, and coming off a T-5 in New Orleans, he could be due a big win at The Players. Hadwin was most recently 72 at the Texas Open and was 39 here in 2016 after missing the cut in his 2015 debut. K.J. Choi, the 2011 victor, missed the cut.

David Hearn (+41700 & +400) Mackenzie Hughes (+52600 & +550) round out the options.

Jason Day's victory in the 2016 Players Championship, his seventh title in his last 17 tournaments, was no ordinary win. Hughes, T31 last week, is playing this tournament for the first time. The par-5 16th hole offers players perhaps a final opportunity to post a red number.

"This is a golf course where I've had to rein in my game over the years", McIlroy said. I like Hearn among the Canadian players.

"I think I will go for it", boasted 2014 champion Martin Kaymer, before backing off, even slightly.

Mattis cites good talks with Turkey on fighting IS in Syria
However, consideration of Turkey's opposition to arm the Kurdish forces delayed a decision by the Obama administration. Kurdish forces are on the move to take back Raqqa, the city ISIS declared its capital.

Johnson paces the FedExCup standings while Justin Thomas (three wins), Japan's Hideki Matsuyama (2) and Brendan Steele, victor of the season-opening Safeway Open, are the only other players to have held the lead in the FedExCup standings this season.


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