The Players Championship might not be a major tournament, but for the best golfers in the world, the event at TPC Sawgrass certainly carries plenty of notoriety.
All of the biggest names in golf will take the course this weekend looking to chalk up an impressive victory over their rivals—building on their strong form at the Masters or trying to rectify their mistakes at Augusta National in time for the U.S. Open next month.
Tiger Woods, United States
Woods' quest for another Masters' green jacket might have come to an abrupt halt with a controversial, two-stroke penalty, but there's no doubting that his stellar form throughout 2013 has him poised for a very strong remainder of the season.
Only perhaps not to much at the Players Championship this week.
Woods doesn't have a great record at TPC Sawgrass and finished outside the top 35 last year. The long course and tight angles don't bode well for players like Woods, and the abundance of water better suits shot-makers more than it does the big hitters.
Even accounting for his strong form in 2013, it would be very surprising if Woods finished anywhere near the top 10, let alone close to the winner this week.
Projected finish: T-21st
Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland
McIlroy had one of the more incredible seasons in 2012 as he ascended to the top of the world. As seemingly only McIlroy knows best, his collapse throughout 2013—that has already seen him lose the No. 1 overall ranking to Woods—has shown that he's still a long way from being a consistent champion on the tour and a lock for every tournament.
A big contract with Nike hasn't helped the Northern Irishman, and he'll no doubt come to the Players Championship this week desperate to find success.
There were some signs of life at the recent Wells Fargo Championship from McIlroy, and he'll likely be looking to use that to launch a strong run here—something that may well happen if he gets on a roll.
For once he's in a good place mentally. McIlroy has shown that he is capable of mixing it up with (and beating) any field of players on any course in the world.
His success at the Valero Texas Open as well shouldn't go unnoticed, and I think he'll bounce back with a relatively strong performance in this one. He won't win, but he won't completely disappoint either, and given the season he's had so far this year, that may well feel like a win.
Projected finish: 8th
Phil Mickelson, United States
Having won the Players Championship before in 2007, Mickelson knows exactly what is required to win on the difficult course and has proven he can get it done. However, given his form line in 2013, it's very hard to predict just what type of performance Lefty will deliver this year.
Mickelson was on fire early at the Wells Fargo Championship (tied for the lead heading into the final day) but shot a poor last round to finish in a tie for third. It's been that type of year for Lefty, who has the inconsistencies of winning in Phoenix and a top-three finish in Doral contrasted with his struggling performance at Augusta National in April.
So what should we expect from Mickelson here? Greatness or mediocrity?
I'm leaning more towards the first one, with the veteran's solid game and ability to go for the big shot when required potentially being able to reap big rewards on this course.
Mickelson has been hitting well enough over the past few weeks to suggest he'll be strong here, and with one or two big shots, he may well walk away victorious.
Projected finish: Winner
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