The 2013 Players Championship gets underway on Thursday and the odds-on favorites in the field don't exactly have consistent track records at TPC Sawgrass.
Different golfers have raised the trophy at this prestigious event 19 consecutive times, which makes choosing the very elite players to win an even trickier task. If there were ever a week to bet on golf, this would not be the one given the inevitable parity of this stacked slew of world-class competitors.
Below is a breakdown of the top four contenders in the oddsmakers' eyes, including what to expect from each of them in Ponte Vedra Beach this week.
Note: Odds were obtained from Bovada. All statistics and information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATour.com.
Tiger Woods (7-1)
It's hard to make a strong case for Woods in this tournament, considering he's only won once in 15 starts and finished 40th last year after withdrawing the previous two times.
The 2013 season has been a different story for Woods, though.
At no other point in his career has he putted better and he leads the Tour in strokes gained putting. His flatstick wasn't quite as hot at The Masters, but the loss there is more attributable to that fateful ricochet off the No. 15 pin and subsequent improper drop.
Woods' previous three starts still include two of his three victories on the year and his tie for fourth at Augusta National. Even by his extraordinarily high standards, that isn't bad at all.
As long as Woods continues to strike it as he did at The Masters, he should be in the thick of contention on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how sharp he is after the long layoff between the year's maiden major and this tournament.
The big problem with Woods is that his driving accuracy has suddenly gotten away from him again, and if he's out of position on this course, it will prove costly. Still, he should manage a top-five finish.
Adam Scott (16-1)
No one can blame Scott for relaxing after finally notching his first major win at Augusta. The question is whether he can translate that into success at The Players.
The emotional high of being the first Australian to capture the green jacket has to be taking a toll—especially due to how redemptive it was.
After blowing a four-stroke lead with four holes to go at the 2012 British Open, Scott put on a remarkable ball-striking display that even his mediocre putting couldn't prevent. Once he holed several clutch putts down the stretch, his first major championship was inevitable.
The PGA Tour's official Twitter page highlighted just how much the sweet-swinging Scott was feeling it all week:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Adam Scott led the Masters field in Greens in Regulation (76.4%), the first champ to do so since Phil Mickelson (73.6%) in 2004.4/16/2013, 9:35:02 PM
If Scott can maintain that form, he should be in the mix again at TPC Sawgrass, but likely not finish much better than the Top 10. After all, he became the youngest Players champion ever at age 23 in 2004, so seeing him win again would break the trend of first-time winners.
Rory McIlroy (18-1)
It's about time that McIlroy got into the winners circle in 2013. The 24-year-old Northern Irishman is simply too talented not to be winning tournaments with regularity. Part of the problem is not participating in events with enough regularity.
Despite three missed cuts and no under-par rounds in his previous appearances at this venue, there is reason to believe McIlroy can make a much better run.
Some courses simply don't suit a player's eye. Such is the case for McIlroy at Pete Dye's challenging layout.
The new Nike clubs aren't giving McIlroy any problems. In fact, it's the distances from 150 yards and closer that are giving him the most trouble. The relatively short course in Ponte Vedra Beach should give him ample opportunities to fire at the flags.
Last week at the Wells Fargo Championship, McIlroy placed in the top 10 but putted poorly on the bumpy greens. With smoother surfaces here and the fresh competitive experience under his belt by playing his second consecutive tournament, he should fare no worse than the top 20.
It seems that this could be another breakout, tour-de-force performance from McIlroy, but it could also be simply another letdown.
Consistency is a problem, although anyone would take the incredible heights that McIlroy has been able to reach in his two major triumphs. In what is often dubbed the "fifth major," perhaps it's time for the prodigy to take center stage once again.
Luke Donald (18-1)
A tie for fourth in 2011 and a sixth-place finish last year gives Donald, by far, the best recent results of the players ahead of him in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Distance isn't a must at TPC Sawgrass, and that isn't Donald's forte. His short game is second to almost none and it's a big reason why he rose to No. 1 in the world.
The last tournament Donald competed in was the RBC Heritage, where he finished in a tie for third. Golf Channel's Jason Sobel provided some sarcastic and witty commentary in accentuating the strong points of Donald's game:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
Luke Donald is going low on a short course with fast greens. This should serve as the least surprising tweet you read all day.4/21/2013, 6:36:00 PM
The Players Championship is renowned for its slippery slopes on its putting surfaces, which gives a player like Donald a big advantage. It goes a long way in explaining his recent success here.
Majors' victories continue to elude Donald, but perhaps the Englishman can use a win at this event as a means to catapult him to success on the even bigger stages. If Donald doesn't emerge victorious on Sunday, he should be extremely close.
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