Reigning Champion Rory McIlroy leads strong contingent of international stars into THE PLAYERS Championship 2021

McIlroy will be joined by Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland at TPC Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida – THE PLAYERS Championship announced today that 2019 champion Rory McIlroy will return to TPC Sawgrass the week of March 9-14, 2021, to defend his title after holding it for nearly two years. The two-time FedExCup Champion will be joined by a host of international stars, including the likes of Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland.

McIlroy, who posted 16-under 272 to defeat Jim Furyk for his lone title at THE PLAYERS, will enter the 2021 event as the longest-tenured defending champion following the cancelation of the 2020 championship due to the onset of COVID-19. The 31-year-old missed the cut in his first three starts at THE PLAYERS in 2009, 2010 and 2012 but has notched four top-10s in his last seven appearances.

McIlroy is currently No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking and has recorded six top-25 finishes in seven starts thus far in the PGA TOUR’s 2020-21 season – including a T5 at the Masters Tournament in November. The native of Northern Ireland has never successfully defended a title on TOUR and will be looking to become the first player to do so in the history of THE PLAYERS Championship.

Rahm, a five-time TOUR winner, is coming off a 2019-20 season where he notched wins at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide and the BMW Championship, and wound up finishing fourth in the FedExCup. While the 26-year-old has yet to win during the TOUR’s 2020-21 season, he has recorded five top-10 finishes in eight starts, including a season-best T2 at the ZOZO Championship last October.

The former Arizona State golfer will be making his fourth career start at THE PLAYERS, where he owns just one top-25 finish – a T12 in 2019. That year, rounds of 69-68-64—201 (15-under) put Rahm atop the 54-hole leaderboard before a final-round 76 left him five shots back of McIlroy.

Hatton, who entered THE PLAYERS 2020 fresh off his first PGA TOUR victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard the Sunday prior, has since risen to No. 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, thanks to European Tour victories at the 2020 BMW PGA Championship and 2021 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The 29-year-old Englishman will be making his fourth career start at THE PLAYERS, where he has made the cut just once, finishing T41 in his 2017 debut. Hatton has yet to break 70 in eight career rounds at TPC Sawgrass.

Viktor Hovland will be getting a second chance at a PLAYERS debut in 2021 after having his week in Ponte Vedra Beach cut short in 2020. The Norwegian won the 2020 Puerto Rico Open and Mayakoba Golf Classic presented by UNIFIN and is currently the top-ranked international player in the FedExCup standings at No. 4.

The 23-year-old, who starred alongside fellow PGA TOUR winner Matthew Wolff while in college at Oklahoma State, has posted T2 and T5 finishes in his last two starts at the Farmers Insurance Open and Genesis Invitational, respectively.

Other notable international players currently committed to THE PLAYERS 2021 include Justin Rose (England), Joaquin Niemann (Chile), Carlos Ortiz (Mexico), Matthew Fitzpatrick (England), Sungjae Im (South Korea), Paul Casey (England) and THE PLAYERS 2017 champion Si Woo Kim (South Korea).