It's hard to find very many under-the-radar competitors entering the 2013 Players Championship. This tournament, widely recognized as the biggest event in golf outside of the four major events, is as high stakes as it gets without the "major" label, and only the very best in the world are permitted to play.
However, there are several players who aren't being discussed as favorites this week that could very well surprise everyone based on how their games translate to Pete Dye's challenging TPC Sawgrass.
Last year's winner Matt Kuchar, though, points out that the following players and everyone else in the field needs to have close to their A-game in all facets this week (h/t Amanda Balionis of PGATour.com):
Amanda Balionis @Amanda_Balionis
"At this place you pretty much need everything. This place kind of tests it all." - Matt Kuchar on @TPCSawgrass2013-5-7 21:06:41
Here is a breakdown of three talented golfers to keep a keen eye on when the action begins on Thursday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Note: All statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.
Definitely one of the biggest characters on Tour, there is no questioning Weekley's passion for the game—it's evident in his world-class ball-striking. Given how precise he is with his irons and the ability to keep it on the short grass, Weekley's game can adapt to almost any course.
The only thing standing in the way of massive success is his putter, which has failed him time and again this season. He ranks just 177th in strokes gained putting, which has to be maddening considering how he's been striping it.
Weekley's outlook, though, continues to be a positive one, and he intimated during last week's Wells Fargo Championship that he might be turning a corner (h/t to the PGA Tour's official Twitter page):
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
.@BooWeekley (-4): "Speed's gotten a lot better with my putter. I've been working pretty hard at it and finally it's starting to click."2013-5-2 16:22:12
Though he faded after an opening-round 68, Weekley's performance on the greens was a slight improvement, as he finished tied for 33rd in the field.
That's far from spectacular, but at TPC Sawgrass, even a slight progression from there—combined with the enhanced confidence he testified to in Charlotte—may be enough to allow him to be a surprise contender at The Players Championship.
Ted Potter Jr.
Talk about a journeyman and an inspiring story. When Potter won the Greenbrier Classic last year in a playoff, it truly was like something out of a Hollywood movie script.
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel documented the trials and tribulations the veteran has endured in finally making it to golf's biggest stage:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
How far has Ted Potter, Jr. come in recent years? In 2004, he played 24 events on the Nationwide Tour. Missed every cut, never broke 70.2012-7-8 22:01:19
That relentlessness allows Potter to grind it out and get more out of his rounds than most players would. He has to compensate frequently since courses are only getting longer, and distance is not one of his strengths.
Fortunately for Potter, being a bomber isn't necessarily rewarded at TPC Sawgrass as many other PGA venues. It's all about shot-making, and given Potter's accuracy off the tee, he shouldn't be at too much of a disadvantage.
Potter has established himself as one of the best putters on Tour, and now that he's gotten back on track in his past two events after missing four consecutive cuts, he is the perfect sleeper pick this week.
It's been a mighty struggle for Tringale as of late. Since finishing in solo third at the Tampa Bay Championship, he has collapsed into poor form, missing his past three cuts.
However, this could be the perfect time for him to bounce back. As Kuchar said, the players who perform the best need a little bit of everything to successfully manage the difficult course.
Tringale doesn't have any glaring weaknesses in his game, but he could benefit from being just a little better in terms of proximity to the hole on his approach shots. He doesn't convert many birdies, but that's more due to the fact that he's too far away to begin with.
What the young American has gained this season is positive experience on the weekends. His stroke average over those eight rounds is 69.3, which is exceptional.
Conditions should still be at least somewhat wet from the five inches of rain this past week, and that would lend itself to Tringale firing at more flags.
Given that the past 19 Players Championships have yielded different winners, Tringale would be among the dark horses to consider despite the form he's shown in recent weeks.