The event acts as a nice buffer for the U.S. Open, and the globe's best will be looking to either build on momentum or right the ship after the Masters. Tiger Woods will once again be out of action, meaning stardom is up for grabs if a player can seize the moment and conquer the course.
Before the action gets underway, let's take a look at how some of the most recognizable names will fare this weekend. Given the historical parity, a big name doesn't equate to a big game in Ponte Vedra Beach, so the following players have to bring it in each round.
As it stands, Rory McIlroy enters the proceedings as the odds-on favorite at 12-1 based on his play the past few seasons and his stunning overall numbers despite his relatively young age.
Jason Sobel of Golf Channel described this scenario best:
Rory McIlroy turns 25 today. Solid quarter-century. One of four players since 1930 with two majors before 25. Others? Jack, Seve and Tiger.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) May 4, 2014
The odds are indicative of the expectations for McIlroy despite the fact that he hasn't won on the PGA Tour since 2012. The expectation for McIlroy going into TPC is a top-10 finish, per Golf Channel's Randall Mell:
Rory McIlroy on what looks like his 3rd straight top 10: "It's fine, whatever. You want wins. I don't want to backdoor top 10 it every wk."— Randall Mell (@RandallMellGC) May 4, 2014
Recent history says McIlroy will get his wish. He wound up in eighth place last year after an opening-round 66, and it's hard to see him not starting hot. Consistency has been a major issue for him, so expect some bumps along the way, but McIlroy has the look of a player who can live up to the hype and tally yet another top-10 finish.
Bubba Watson's odds are 28-1, and one might wonder how this year's Masters champ got such a raw deal from the oddsmakers.
But just as recent history is pertinent for McIlroy, it is even more critical for Bubba Watson, who has finished no better than 37th in his last three attempts and missed the cut three times in the past six years. Golf Central illustrates the trend, with a witty comment to boot:
“I’m on a streak; I've made the cut the last 2 years." - Bubba Watson pic.twitter.com/SPJ5D67CQG— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) May 6, 2014
It's easy to think Watson will have a tough time this weekend, but he should not have any issues in the motivation department, as he can steal Woods' No. 1 ranking with a strong showing.
The problem is rather simple in that Watson has done nothing to show he can come off the Masters and play at a high level at TPC. Perhaps the motivation to become world No. 1 and the time off will help, but it's a "prove it" moment for Watson. Until he shows otherwise, expect the traditional struggles.
Phil Mickelson has better odds than Watson at 25-1, primarily thanks to his improved form in recent tournaments after a disastrous showing at the Masters.
Mickelson was a legit contender last weekend at the Wells Fargo Championship thanks to a third-round 63, the lowest mark of his season, as captured by Kelly Tilghman of Golf Channel:
Phil Mickelson shoots season low 63 at Quail Hollow to lead. It's his lowest score since a 60 in Phx last yr en route to victory— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) May 3, 2014
Recent history? Mickelson has 20 starts at TPC, including three top-10 finishes, a win in 2007 and a missed cut last season.
If Mickelson is fully healthy, he's a surefire contender. One problem: He has yet to record back-to-back rounds in the 60s.
Odds are he'll miss out once more, as his impressive 63 at the Wells Fargo Championship was undermined by a 76 on the final day to knock him right out of contention.
Expect nothing more than another up-and-down day for Mickelson.