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Players' rookies hope for success at Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – There are a lot of firsts in life that are memorable like riding a bike or a first kiss. 

Hopefully for 22 golfers set to tee it up at The Players Championship for the first time, it is just as memorable. 

Speaking at the annual first-timers media availability on Wednesday morning, several of the golfers said that the move from May to March is an advantage for them because everyone in the field is learning or relearning the course. 

“A lot of the guys that I’ve played this week are saying ‘normally it’s different’ or ‘I can’t believe we are back this far,’” said first-timer Wyndham Clark. “So, I think that’s to my advantage because I haven’t experienced the firm and fast that you get in May.”

Wanting to win The Players Championship is one thing, but moving you and your family to Jacksonville to do it is another. 

First-timer Sam Ryder did just that, coming here from his hometown of Winter Park for an opportunity that he said is too good to pass up.

“When you get status on the PGA Tour or the Web.com Tour, you get access to the practice facility here which is one of the best in the world,” said Ryder. “That’s one of the best perks you get so that was a huge factor.”

Another first timer who will be sleeping in his own bed this week is Sam Saunders. Even though it is his first time competing in The Players, he has some great memories of playing here years ago. 

“The last tournament I played here was when I was 16 years old in the Collegians World Tour and the Junior Players out here,” said 31-year old Saunders.  “But I did win. I chipped in on the 18th hole to win, so I’ve got really good memories of winning on the 18th hole here. Hopefully I can recreate a little bit of that on just a slightly bigger stage this week.”

Andrew Putnam is a double first-timer this week. In addition to playing the tournament for the very first time, Putnam and his wife became parents for the first time just last week. Pepper Putnam is going to bring some “spice in our lives” as Andrew told us.  

“I’m trying to figure out how to manage all of the emotions,” said Putnam. “Part of me wants to be home and part of me is glad to be here.  There’s a lot of new beginnings this week being a father for the first time so, yeah it’s an exciting week for me.”