Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida – The summer major season kicks of for real this week with the playing of the 2016 Players Championship.

After a five week lull in the world of professional golf after the Masters Tournament, golf’s elite are once again back in action, in the first major event of what promises to be a hectic and exciting summer.

In the next four months or so, the game’s best players will, in addition to this week’s unofficial fifth major, play in three majors and compete for an Olympic Gold Medal.

But first, it’s the annual visit to the Players’ Club at Sawgrass and the 43rd playing of the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

Making a list of potential tournament winners isn’t difficult for the 2016 Players Championship, as the event traditionally has one of the strongest field’s of the year.  This year is no exception as the field includes the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking and 46 of the Top 50.

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New Orleans, Louisiana – The big question heading into  the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans is will the recent domination of foreign-born players continue?

After a strong start for American players in the fall portion of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season, eight of the past 13 events have been won by players whose passport doesn’t say born in the U.S.A.

This week’s foreign contingent is lead by Australia’s Jason Day, the number one player in the Official World Golf Ranking. The defending PGA champion is one of a small group of three players entered who rank in the top 10 players in the world.

Joining the World #1 is American Rickie Fowler, the current fifth ranked player in the world and defending champion Justin Rose of England, who sits 10th in the world rankings.

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San Antonio, Texas – The PGA Tour returns to the great state of Texas this week for the playing of the 2016 Valero Texas Open.

While all of the Top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are taking the week off, the tournament still features six players ranked in the Top 20 in the world.

Leading the list of contenders is last week’s winner of the RBC Heritage Classic, Branden Grace of South Africa. The 11th ranked player in the world will be looking to become the third player this week to win back-to-back events on the PGA Tour.

Adam Scott was the first to accomplish the feat, winning in consecutive weeks at the Honda Classic and the Cadillac Championships. Jason Day matched the achievement of his fellow Aussie by winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Dell Match Play events.

Grace’s win continued a strong showing by foreign-born players on the PGA Tour this season, with 12 of the 23 events completed so far in the 2015-2016 season being won by players born outside of the U.S.A.

Other top ranked players in the field include Patrick Reed (#13 in the Official World Golf Ranking), Brandt Snedeker (16th), Zach Johnson (17th), Brooks Koepka (18th) and Phil Mickelson, the 19th ranked player in the world.

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Hilton Head, SC – After the excitement and pressure of the year’s first major, the tour returns to a more normal rhythm at the 2016 RBC Heritage Classic.

Typically, as the golf world recovers from it’s annual pilgrimage to Augusta National, the field at the Heritage is a little less daunting. And there’s no exception this year, with only four of the top 20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking participating.

Headlining the field is World number one Jason Day of Australia. The reigning PGA champion comes in off a disappointing 10th place finish in the Masters and will be looking to get back to his winning ways that saw him win his last two starts prior to 2016’s first major.

Other top ranked players in the field include the 15th ranked Brandt Snedeker, who had a top 10 at Augusta, defending Open champion Zach Johnson, ranked 17th, and South African Branden Grace, the 14th ranked player in the world.

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Augusta, Ga – On the eve of the 2016 Masters Tournament, one of the great things about the first major of the year is how it celebrates the tournament’s history and traditions.  Whether it’s the Champion’s Dinner, the Par-3 Contest, the $2 Pimento Cheese Sandwiches or the Green Jacket itself, the Augusta National membership knows how to celebrate it’s glorious past.

One part of the tradition is that a solid showing in the previous year’s tournament gives a player an automatic invite to the next year’s event.  In past years as many as the Top 24 and ties were invited back the following year.  As the scope and world-wide appeal of the event has increased, the available places has decreased, first to 16 and now to 12 and ties.  But it’s still something to shoot for.

So to match that tradition our 2016 Masters picks focuses on selecting the 12 players who will be in the top 12 come Sunday evening.  Most of the names are predictable, but maybe some of the positions won’t be.

Here are the 12 players who will receive the first invites to the 2017 Masters Tournament.

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Houston, Texas – The PGA Tour returns to the home of NASA this week for the 2016 Shell Houston Open.

In addition to all the money, FedEx Cup points and perks that goes to the winner, it’s also the last chance for a previously unqualified player to receive a invitation to next week’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National.

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Austin, Texas – The 2016 WGC Match Play Championship has a new name and a new home.

After 16 years with Accenture as the title sponsor and a brief one year flirtation with Cadillac, computer giant Dell has assumed sponsorship of the unique event for the next four years.

And for the first time the world’s best will go head to head in the great state of Texas, as Austin Country Club will serve as host of the World Golf Championship Dell Match Play thru 2019.

But who is the favorite?  In a year where many of the top players in the world have been inconsistent, to be generous, the 2016 WGC Match Play Championship could be one of the most wide-open in years.  And with a format that breeds upsets, who knows what will happen.

For the second consecutive year, the first rounds will be played in pools, with the 64 players divided into 16 four-player groupings.  Players will play each of the other golfers in their group, and the 16 pool winners will advance to the knockout stage.

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Orlando, Florida – As the lead-up to Augusta, and the year’s first major, kicks into high gear, the PGA Tour returns to Bay Hill for the 2016 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

This year’s build-up to the annual pilgrimage to Arnie’s place is dominated by two players attempting to complete rare trifectas.

Two-time defending champion Matt Every looks to become only the second player in tournament history to win the tournament in three consecutive years after wins in 2014 and 2015. He’s looking to match the feat of eight time Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Tiger Woods, who won the first four of his titles in consecutive years from 2000-2003.

Australian Adam Scott is looking for a three-peat of his own, as he attempts to win his third consecutive PGA Tour start after wins at the WGC-Cadillac Championships and the Honda Classic. The recent success has lifted Scott back into the Top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, as he ranks #6 heading into the week.

Every and Scott will face a strong field that includes five of the top 10 players in the world. In addition to the Australian, other top players in the field include Rory McIlroy (#2), Jason Day (#3), Henrik Stenson (#7) and Justin Rose (#8).

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Palm Harbor, Florida – It was a year ago that an underachieving Jordan Spieth, ranked in 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking at the time, jump-started an historic season with a victory at the Valspar Championship. The now number one player in the world is hoping that pattern repeats itself, as the tour returns to Innisbrook resort for the 2016 Valspar Championship.

Like last season, the reigning Masters and U.S. Open champion is struggling a bit after an early season victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He has a T17, a T21 and a missed cut in last three PGA Tour starts, and is hoping a return to a place with happy memories will kick start his season, in the lead-up to Augusta.

The 22-year old highlights a predictably weaker field, a week after the first World Golf Championship event of the season and a week before Arnold Palmer’s event at Bay Hill. Only six of the Top 20 players in the field are entered to challenge the famed Copperhead course.

The list of elite talent includes Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (currently 7th in the Official World Golf Ranking); last year’s Valspar runner-up, Patrick Reed (10th); Englishman Danny Willet, who finished T3 at last week’s WGC event (11th); and South Africans Branden Grace (12th) and Louis Oosthuizen (18th).

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Miami, Fla – The Best players in the world are in Miami this week for the first World Golf Championships event of the season. So that means it’s time for our 2016 Cadillac Championship picks.

This will be the first time this season that all the world’s best will be assembled at one event, and it will no doubt go along way towards determining the favorite for the year’s first major. Hard to believe that Augusta is only five weeks away.

But picking a winner in this wacky 2015-2016 season won’t be easy.

Dustin Johnson is the defending champion, but like many of the Top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking this season, his play has been anything but consistent.  Even the so-called “Big Four” of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler, have had their share of highs and lows so far in 2016.

Among the top five in the world, Bubba Watson, winner of his last start in Los Angeles, is probably in the best form, and that, coupled with his stellar record at Doral, probably makes him the early-line favorite.

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