Ewen Murray takes a closer look at some of the British contenders who could impress at the Players Championship.

We have a contingent of British players right now that can really contend here at The Players. When Sandy Lyle won in 1987, there wasn’t anywhere near as many British and Irish players competing at this event.

There have been some great winners over the years and has been some surprises, and maybe this year there is time for a British surprise.

Matt Fitzpatrick comes to mind, especially coming in off that fine finish at Bay Hill. He’s not actually a full member of the PGA Tour but went straight top of the non-members list with that finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He is a player that I enjoy watching, because he doesn’t do anything spectacularly well but does everything soundly, which is what you have to do around here. Distance off the tee is handy to have anywhere, but it’s not a prime necessity to play this golf course.

Matt Wallace is in a similar position to Fitzpatrick and it’s important for these players to take advantage of an opportunity they get to play on the PGA Tour. He is a very special player and always plays to win.

Wallace is a good all-round, strong player and although he didn’t have the consistency all of last year, he has added that to his game. Now he needs to get back on the winning trail and certainly has the quality to do that.

Tommy Fleetwood arrives here on the back of 15 consecutive cuts made on the PGA Tour. There will eventually be a week where things don’t go well, but he has found the ability to turn average weeks into top 10s and that’s a sign of a top player.

He has a lot of consistency and is another one where there’s no thrills and spills, but he drives the ball well, gets his irons close and is a sound chipper and putter. You’ve got to think the like of him, Fitzpatrick and a few of other British players have a real chance.

Tyrrell Hatton is a player that will never back off if he gets himself in contention. He’s a really good iron play, a sound driver and one of the best putters out there.

15th is his best finish so far this year on this but if he can have a decent first couple of days, then he’s another of the contingent you can make a case for.

Usual suspects

It will worry Rory McIlroy that he has been in the final group a number of times in the last group and not won any of them. He has five top-10s in his first six starts this year suggests nothing is wrong, but there has to be something wrong when you’re a player of his quality and record and not turning these close ones into victories.

Winning is difficult and there are an awful lot of good players out there, but there’s something missing from McIlroy’s game. I still think it’s his short irons, given how well he drives the ball and the fact his long irons are as good as any player out on the tour.

I don’t think he’s giving himself enough chances given the amount he’s hitting short irons into the green, which could be his missing link. He has been very close and it must be frustrating for him to get close so many times and not have a victory this year so far.

The battle for world No 1 is intriguing at the moment because there are so many people involved in that right now, and you can include McIlroy and Tiger Woods in that picture.

Justin Rose is like many players in that he talks about peaking for major championships, which is an incredibly hard thing to do. The only thing that can put you in great shape when you arrive at Augusta next month is not a run of decent performance, but a win under your belt.

Rose has already done that and you know exactly what you’re going to get from him at the start of every week. He’s a superb golfer in every department and if he puts well, he could also be right up there this week.

I think this is a better golf course in March than it is in May. I think we’ll see a return to the great Players Championships. That’s not me saying there haven’t been any decent ones in May, but for me the best Players Championships have come in March.

Watch the Players Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel – Sky Sports The Players.

(c) Sky News 2019: Players Championship: Ewen Murray looks at the British contenders