Top 10 Players to Watch at the Players Championship

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIMay 5, 2014

Top 10 Players to Watch at the Players Championship

0 of 10

    Tiger Woods will not be on hand to defend his title at the Players Championship this week at TPC Sawgrass. He will be at home recovering from back surgery and will not return to the tour for several weeks. 

    Although the Players is not considered a major championship, it offers a $10 million purse with $1.8 million going to the winner. The PGA Championship is the only other tournament matching that amount of prize money.  

    The field for the Players is always one of the strongest for any tournament all year long, and it is played on one of the most difficult golf courses.

    It definitely has the look and feel of a major championship and is most assuredly the quintessential tournament in the month of May.

    With Woods not a factor, whom should you watch this week? 

No 10 Jordan Spieth

1 of 10

    Looking back a few weeks to Augusta National, Jordan Spieth finished runner-up to Bubba Watson at the Masters.

    He scratched and clawed his way around the iconic course and except for a couple loose shots gave Watson a good battle.

    He does not fold under the pressure in the big events, and it is only a matter of time before he wins a major.

    In 13 starts this season, he has two runners-up and five top-10 finishes.

    Even if he does not win, he is always fun to watch.

No. 9 Jim Furyk

2 of 10

    Jim Furyk fired a final round seven-under par 65 to put himself in contention to win the Wells Fargo Championship.

    He has made every cut in his eight starts this season, with three top-10 finishes and six top-25's.

    He is trending in the right direction, finishing T-6, T-14, T-7 and solo second in his last four starts.

    Furyk is a veteran that has never won a Players Championship, but has the perfect game for TPC Sawgrass.


No. 8 Lee Westwood

3 of 10

    Lee Westwood missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship, but was T-7 at the Masters and won in Malaysia.

    He has finished inside the top 10 in 11 of the last 21 major championships and is due to win a big event.

    Westwood has 40 worldwide wins and is always a strong competitor in the Ryder Cup.

    With his accuracy off the tee and superior ball striking skills, he just needs to see a few putts go in early in the week to be a major factor on the weekend. 

No. 7 J.B. Holmes

4 of 10

    J.B. Holmes has come back from brain surgery and a broken ankle. He is once again at the top of the pecking order on the PGA Tour.

    His prodigious length with the driver is only surpassed by the long-hitting Bubba Watson.

    If he can continue to roll his ball well on the difficult TPC Sawgrass greens, he has a good chance to win this week.

No. 6 Patrick Reed

5 of 10

    Patrick Reed will not be intimidated by the tight driving lanes and firm greens of TPC Sawgrass.

    He is a risk taker. If he can get on a roll Thursday and Friday at the Players, he will be fun to watch on the weekend.

    He doesn't lack for confidence, never met a pin placement he didn't like and will attack even the most difficult hole.

    Reed is another of the young guys trying to reach the top of the PGA Tour.

    A win at the Players would back up his strong statements after his win at the WGC-Cadillac.

No. 5 Dustin Johnson

6 of 10

    Dustin Johnson has kicked his game into a much higher gear this season. In eight starts, he has five top-10 finishes, including one win and two runners-up.

    He is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup standings and has moved to No. 13 in the world.

    Although he withdrew from the Shell Houston Open and missed the cut at the Masters, he is a player who should do well at TPC Sawgrass.

    His length will allow him to hit short irons into the greens and dominate the par-fives. 

No. 4 Justin Rose

7 of 10

    Justin Rose missed two months at the beginning of the season recovering from an injury.

    It appears his game is coming around. After missing his only cut of the year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he finished T-14 at the Masters, T-8 at the Zurich Classic and fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    The 2013 U.S. Open Champion is one of the best ball-strikers on tour and has the length to perform well at TPC Sawgrass.

    We could see Rose return to the winner's circle this week at the Players Championship. 

No. 3 Matt Kuchar

8 of 10

    Matt Kuchar won the 2012 Players Championship and is having one of his best seasons ever.

    He is third in the FedEx Cup standings and the No. 5-ranked player in the world.

    Kuchar has always been one of the most consistent players on tour and has eight top-10 finishes in 11 starts this season.

    His last four starts include a T-4 at the Valero Texas Open, runner-up in the Shell Houston Open, T-5 at the Masters and a win at the RBC Heritage.

    He is playing at a very high level right now and has good memories from his win at TPC Sawgrass in 2012.

No. 2 Phil Mickelson

9 of 10

    Phil Mickelson is not having one of his best years on the PGA Tour.

    He has had to withdraw from two tournaments due to injury and missed two cuts in his 11 starts.

    He has only earned $649,000 this season and is No. 83 in the FedEx Cup.

    All those statistics mean that "Phil the Thrill" should do very well at the Players this week.

    He was near the lead after a first-round, five-under-par 67 on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Championship before moving out of contention on Friday with a second-round, three-over-par 75.

    In the third round on Saturday, he posted the low round of the day, a nine-under-par 63 to be back among the leaders. 

    Phil, being Phil, gave most of it back on Sunday, with a final-round, four-over-par 76 that left him at seven under par for the tournament and T-11.

    He still does not have a top-10 finish this season.

    He won the Players Championship in 2007. It could be time for him to win it again.

    Win or lose, he is always exciting to watch.

No. 1 Rory McIlroy

10 of 10

    Rory McIlroy just turned 25 years old and is trying to find his game.

    His last win on the PGA Tour came at the 2012 BMW Championship when he was in the process of winning the money titles on both the PGA and European Tours. 

    Since becoming the No. 1 player in the world, he has fallen to No. 11 on the Official World Golf Rankings.

    He did win the Australian Open in December last year over Adam Scott.

    He seems to be getting very close to his old form. With three top-10 finishes in his last three starts, he is putting himself in contention again.

    Winning a big tournament like the Players Championship could be just what the doctor ordered to get him back to demolishing the field in major championships.