PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., May 11 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods, having slipped almost all the way out of the top 10 in the world rankings, returns to competition Thursday looking for his first win in 20 months.
Woods and 144 other players will begin play in the Players Championship, which -- with a total purse of $9.5 million -- is the most lucrative tournament on the PGA Tour.
Two of the top 10 players in the world -- No. 1 Lee Westwood and No. 6 Rory McIlroy -- are skipping the event but the rest of the sport's leading stars will be present at the TPC-Sawgrass course.
Woods has not played since the Masters, where he finished tied for fourth for the second straight year. After challenging to win at the Augusta National in 2010, Woods had only two other top 10 finishes all season.
He had been scheduled to play last week at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C., but he withdrew due to knee and ankle strains suffered during the final round of the Masters.
Woods has fallen to No. 8 in the world rankings.
He will begin play in the morning wave of players Thursday in the company of Martin Kaymer and Matt Kuchar. Phil Mickelson, ranked fourth in the world and the leading American in those rankings, will be paired with Gary Woodland and Martin Laird.
Lucas Glover, who won last week for the first time since capturing the 2009 U.S. Open, will play in a group that includes Paul Casey and Ernie Els. Bubba Watson, the winner two weeks ago in New Orleans, will be in a threesome with Luke Donald and Mark Wilson. Watson and Wilson are the only multiple winners on the tour this year.