No golfer has won the Players Championship back-to-back, however Rory McIlroy has a strong chance of becoming the first man to achieve that feat this weekend.
The defending champion rolls into Sawgrass with a scintillating seven-consecutive top-five finishes – only Tiger Woods has had longer streaks over the past 20 years.
During last year’s Players victory, the Northern Irishman struck 80 per cent of his greens on the way to a one-shot win over America’s Jim Furyk.
It was a triumph that kick-started a dominant four-win season, culminating in being named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Now ranked number one in the world, McIlroy continues to set himself apart from the field with ruthless consistency and accurate shot selection.
His start to the 2019 season is vastly similar to 2020’s. Last year, he was T4, T5, T4, 2 and T6 in his first five starts.
So far this year, he has recorded T3, T5, 5 and T5 finishes.
It’s remarkably consistent form and, as a result, unrealistic expectations start to hang over his prospects each weekend. As world number one and a four-time major winner, fans expect McIlroy to be hovering around the sharp end of the leaderboard at each tournament.
It’s high-pressure stakes that the player is used to, and besides his inhuman-like qualities on the course, he is only a human at the end of the day. All he can do is his best.
At the Arnold Palmer Invitational last weekend, there were shades of disappointment when he finished fifth, four shots behind winner Tyrrell Hatton.
Sitting two strokes off the lead entering the final round, McIlroy was unable to get his clubs firing and struck a disappointing four-over 76.
It was the fourth Sunday in a row that he was unable to convert one of those