Shane Lowry has a golden opportunity at the $12.5 million Players Championship to take a giant leap in his bid for a Ryder Cup spot.
uropean skipper Pádraig Harrington is thrilled how his team is shaping up so far and he sees the Open champion as a player who can join the likes of Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Tyrrell Hatton in contending for a spot on the plane to Wisconsin.
"Shane's statistical percentage of making the team has only been growing exponentially so far this season," Harrington said.
"His form is excellent. He is doing everything I could ask of him at this stage. I just want him to make it easy on me."
While Rory McIlroy is the red-hot favourite to become the first man to successfully defend The Players as he tees off with world No 2 Jon Rahm and No 3 Brooks Koepka (5.51pm Irish time), Lowry is just waiting for a hot week with the putter to roar right into the Ryder Cup frame.
He tied for 21st in his last outing at the Honda Classic and after skipping the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, he's had time to reset and prepare for Sawgrass, where he partners Chilean star Joaquin Niemann and American Aaron Wise (4.13pm Irish time).
Graeme McDowell, who tees it up with Chez Reavie and Daniel Berger (12.35pm Irish time), will also have high hopes of putting in a good performance at a course where he was leading by a shot with a round to go in 2011 but shot 79 to end up tied 33rd.
"You just have to man up and hit the shots out here," Lowry said on his second appearance at Sawgrass in 2016, when he finished a career-best tied 16th behind Jason Day.
The winner will take home $2.25m (€2m) on Sunday but there will be nothing for the rank-and-file European Tour regulars to play for until the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama at the end of April.
Following the postponement last week of this week's Magical Kenya Open due to coronavirus concerns, the European Tour and the Asian Tour yesterday postponed next week's Hero Indian Open after the latest public health travel advisories announced by the Indian government.
The European Tour later confirmed the Czech Masters (August 20-23) and three Challenge Tour events promoted by the same company have also been cancelled due to the coronavirus - the Prague Golf Challenge (May 7-10), the D+D REAL Czech Challenge (June 4-7), and the D+D REAL Slovakia Challenge (July 2-5).
Meanwhile, the World Golf Hall of Fame announced yesterday that 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods will be one of the 2021 inductees.
- Players Championship, Live, Sky Sports, 11.30am