When you have 144 of the best golfers in one place like The Players Championship, and 45 of them are within the top 50 in the world, it’s difficult to have featured groups. After all, everyone in the field is worthy of being featured in a group if they are in the field at TPC Sawgrass. I’ll share with you who I want to watch, you can share you favorites in the comment section.
Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson
Phil Mickelson hasn’t had a stellar season to this point of the 2014 season, but showed some promise last week, firing a 63 at Quail Hollow. Phil won the Players in 2007, but the thought on everyone’s mind, is he going to be ready to compete at Pinehurst? Everyone who is of my age remembers Payne Stewart consoling the young Phil after beating him in the 1999 US Open and is rooting for him to get the monkey off his back to complete the career slam.
Sergio Garcia will have to erase the memories of his escapade at the 17th hole on Sunday last year and focus on 2008 when he took home the Players Trophy. He won’t have Tiger Woods in the field this year to get inside his head. Dustin Johnson is always a threat when he tees it up on Thursday in any tournament, but has had little success at Ponte Vedra Beach. He has yet to post a top 25 at TPC Sawgrass, but has four top-ten finishes on the year, including a WGC win Shanghai.
Jordan Spieth, Graeme McDowell, Zach Johnson
TPC Sawgrass is a lot like Augusta National, and is not a golf course where first-timers find a ton of success. But I am very interested to see how Jordan Spieth handles the Pete Dye layout. He come is with little pressure, and no one is expecting him to win, but I am betting that a Sunday victory is certainly on his mind. After all, he did finish second at Augusta.
TPC Sawgrass is not a place where Graeme McDowell has had a lot of success, and the Ulstermen has missed the last two cuts here. He does have five top ten finishes on the 2014 season, but I think he struggles with the layout. Zach Johnson has cooled considerably since his miraculous chip shot that beat Tiger, and his win at the big-boy course in Hawaii. Zach has six top 25 finishes at Sawgrass that includes a second place tie in 2012.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Harris English
We all know that TPC Sawgrass is a ball-strikers golf course, and this group has three candidates. Rory is a head-scratcher here, he is a great ball-striker, but has had little success in Ponte Vedra. He missed his first three cuts, but finished tied for eighth last year. He also had a T 8 finish at Quail Hollow last week, and has done everything this year, but win. Rory has chosen to do all of his prep work in South Florida before teeing it up on Thursday.
Justin Rose has the game for a win at Sawgrass, but has never posted a top ten here. I think the US Open champ is still nursing a sore shoulder, and is still not 100%. He did finish tied for fifth at the Wells Fargo last week, so maybe he is ready to make a run up to a defense of his US Open title. Harris English had some early success in 2014, but like FedEx Cup points leader, Jimmy Walker, has not proved he can win someplace other than the West Coast.