Tuesday, May 6, 2008

THE PLAYERS Championship - Is It The 5th Major?

The TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL hosts the 2008 Players Championship this week. Even without wounded Tiger Woods and Will Mackenzie it's the strongest field of the year. It typically is a strong field and the question of whether the tournament has "Major cred" has become a common theme. Let's reexamine it's credentials to be placed in such lofty company.

144 players will tee off this week giving it a major field size as opposed to the choosy Masters. 24 of the top 25 players in the world are entered with Woods being the foil to perfect attendance. 45 of the top 50 are in. An amazing 101 of the competitors have combined for 414 P.G.A. Tour victories. That's cred. 25 Major champions are playing. If that doesn't give it a Major feel, what does?

The TPC Sawgrass plays to a par 72 over 7,215 yards. Major length, but not stupid length for length's sake. It was rated the 12th most difficult of the 55 courses played on Tour last year. The controversial par three 17th gives the course it's signature hole, like it or hate. The 18th is no picnic and serves as a potential tournament maker or breaker. This average golfer loves tough finishing holes. The networks love 'em as well. It keeps people watching for the "just in case".

Only one European has won The Players, Sandy Lyle in 1987. No one has ever successfully defended their crown in the tournament. Newly minted President's Cup captain Fred Couples is entered as a replacement for the aforementioned Mackenzie. Couples has won the event in 1984 and 1996. In 1999, playing the island green 17th, Couples hit his first ball in the water, teed it up again, and knocked his 3rd in the cup for a routine par. Tiger Woods has just one win here in 2001. Fourteen Players rookies will tee it up on Thursday. Last week's Tour winner Anthony Kim will be the youngest player at 22, Fred Funk, winner in 2005, the oldest at 51.

Last year Sean O'Hair, trailing Phil Mickelson by two strokes, drowned two balls in the water on 17 to dash any hopes of catching Phil. Dramatic and gutsy. I love to see a golfer playing for 1st. Phil defends and will be a strong pick. A number of players call Ponte Vedra Beach home though and claim Sawgrass as their home course. Chief among them Vijay Singh.

Tomorrow we'll doff the thinking cap and make some picks.

Til' next,

No comments:

Post a Comment