With a stacked field and a difficult course, The Players Championship is one of the more difficult tournaments to project.
It is hailed as the unofficial fifth major, and it offers players the richest purse of any golf tournament.
Played on TPC Sawgrass, contenders must be accurate off the tee and precise in their approach shots. The rough is difficult, with sand bunkers and water hazards making a high score on any hole a possibility.
The favorites for this event (all odds according to Bovada as of May 7) are the usual suspects, but I'm certainly not on board with all of them.
At 7-1, Tiger Woods leads the way. He is followed by Masters champ Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy who are both at 16-1.
Luke Donald, 18-1, and Phil Mickelson, 22-1, round out the top five.
Find out which of these guys made my list of top contenders for the 2013 Players Championship.
First, some guys deserve a special explanation for their omission. Rory McIlroy will not be featured on this list because he has yet to figure this course out. He has played The Players three times and has yet to make a cut.
Also, defending champ Matt Kuchar has figured out this course, and he's been in solid form this year, but no player has ever successfully defended his title at this event.
I like the chances of these next three guys much more.
*All stats via PGATour.com.
Top Contenders for The Players Championship
Graeme McDowell, 33-1
Graeme McDowell is in great form, and he has the game to succeed here. However, he has yet to find a lot of success at Sawgrass.
He missed the cut last year, was 33rd in 2011 and 26th in 2010. He is ready for his Sawgrass breakthrough.
His last time out, McDowell battled high winds in the final round of the Heritage and used his marvelous short game to take the victory.
McDowell missed the cut at the Masters in his tournament before that, but Augusta, with its premium on distance, does not set up as well for McDowell as this course.
In his four tour tournaments prior to the Masters, McDowell had three top 10s.
McDowell is seventh in driving accuracy and sixth in strokes gained-putting. This will pay off huge for him at Sawgrass, and he will be battling for the title Sunday.
Sergio Garcia, 28-1
It is dangerous to ever predict Sergio Garcia to contend. The guy almost always finds a way to derail himself—like he did at the Masters this year after finding himself in the lead with an opening-round 66 and then firing a 76 in the second.
Garcia still finished in eighth as he rebounded nicely, but the question remains: Can he play a complete tournament?
I think he is close. He's been in great form. Garcia is third on the tour in scoring average this year. In his six PGA events this year he has not finished lower than 17th—not including his withdrawal at Bay Hill.
When Garcia is playing well, he can score on this course. Since 2006, he has four finishes inside the top 14. That includes a second in 2007 and winning the tournament in 2008.
At 28-1, Garcia is a great pick.
Tiger Woods, 7-1
Considering Woods has won three of his six tour tournaments this year, he should be the favorite in every tournament. However, his history at this course suggests otherwise.
Woods won his second in a row at Sawgrass in 2001. Since then, he's finished in the top 10 just once.
Woods was 40th here last year, and he was forced to withdraw in the two previous years.
Woods has been struggling to hit the fairways off the tee this year, and it could cost him. However, distance is not at a premium at this course, and he will be able to manage the course while playing smart off the tee.
The greens at Sawgrass are hard and fast. This is good news for Woods. He's been dialed in with distance control and he leads the tour in strokes gained-putting.
While he hasn't had much success at Sawgrass, he will be right in the thick of it come Sunday.
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