We saw 2010 become the first Players Championship played under par since 1996, and the PGA is doing it’s best to return TPC Sawgrass to it’s grueling personality.
Officials have been busy altering TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship this week, beefing up the burms on holes 4, 13, 16, 17 and 18 and adding new pin placement. They’ve compensated by trimming the rough from 3 inches to 2.5, but it will still be a really difficult place to play this weekend.
Still, the field this weekend gives the impression that the “fifth major” will still have some really good golf. A lot of the top names sat out last year, but 29 of the top 30 players on the FexEx Cup standings are here, including nine of the top 10 OWGR players. Save for Bubba Watson, very tournament winner in 2012 will be playing this weekend and winning here will have the feel of winning a major.
Despite a miserable finish to the Masters in April, PGA Futures Odds continue to back Rory McIlroy. Players Championship Betting Lines are favoring him to win at 9/1, just better than Lee Westwood and Luke Donald (14/1).
If you’re going to pick him, though, do it by faith because history is against him. He already admitted he doesn’t like TPC Sawgrass, and the numbers back him up. He hasn’t made it to the weekend in any of his three appearances, missing the cut in 2009 and 2010, and sitting out last year.
Meanwhile, Westwood appears to have a really good crack at it.
Unlike McIlroy, Westwood’s game suits the course nicely and he’s finished inside the top-10 three times. He tied for fourth in 2010, but like McIlroy, skipped the tourney this year. He’s never missed the cut in five medal play events, and finished inside the top 5 four times.
Keep an eye out for Hunter Mahan, though, who is low on the odds list, but could be in line for a breakout. He tied for 53rd last week in Charlotte, but that might actually be a good sign. In his two previous wins this year, Mahan preceded those weeks with a T24 and T42.
And because I know everyone will be asking, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are tied with 20/1 odds to win the tournament.