It may not be a major in name, but The Players Championship is unquestionably one of the biggest and most prestigious golf tournaments in the world.
Winning at a course as challenging as TPC Sawgrass is a major feather in the cap of any golfer, and it also gives them a great deal of momentum ahead of the season's final three majors.
Many of the greatest golfers in the history of the sport have won this tournament, including Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Here is a closer look at the current leaderboard as well as some of the golfers who have an opportunity to join elite company.
Live Players Championship Leaderboard
Top Golfers to Watch
Big-hitting lefty Bubba Watson is in the midst of his best professional season with two victories already to his credit, including the second green jacket of his career. Watson has never fared particularly well at The Players Championship, but the No. 1 ranking is in play if he can find a way to finish in the top two.
Watson has never finished better than 37th in this tournament, however, and he is more than willing to admit that he has struggled to figure out the course, according to Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports.
Around this golf course it's very challenging for me. When I look down No. 1 and No. 10, just to give you an example, when you look down those, it's hard to tell the fairway and the rough. It all kind of blends in together. To me, I don't like to look at a tree and aim at a tree. I like to see the lay of the land and that's how I hit my shots. So it's very difficult when you look at a golf course like that. So it makes it difficult for me.
This tournament figures to be a grind for Watson, but he shouldn't be discounted as a contender. No golfer is in better form right now than Watson, and momentum can lead to some incredible accomplishments in the game of golf.
The key at TPC Sawgrass is seemingly staying out of trouble and avoiding massive mistakes. A bogey here or there isn't necessarily a big deal, but doubles and triples have been known to sink top guys in the past.
If Watson can play consistently this week, then he should at least be in the mix.
Although Adam Scott has yet to win a tournament this season, his steady and consistent play has most definitely carried over from 2013. Scott has made the cut in all six of the events he has competed in, and he has finished in the top 10 in half of them.
The 33-year-old Aussie was unable to finish the job at The Masters after a hot start, but he should still enter The Players Championship with plenty of confidence. Scott won this event back in 2004, and he has plenty of incentive to perform well this week.
With Woods still out of the mix due to injury, the No. 1 ranking is very much up for grabs. As seen in this tweet courtesy of the PGA Tour, Scott clearly stands the best chance of ascending to that top spot:
4 different players can become World No. 1 at #THEPLAYERS: Adam Scott: Top 16 Henrik Stenson: Top 6 Bubba Watson: 2nd alone Matt Kuchar: Win— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 7, 2014
Scott has finished inside the top 16 in all but one of his starts this year, which bodes well for his chances of taking his spot atop the pinnacle of the golf world.
It will be interesting to see how Scott handles the pressure, but he has grown so much in that regard over the years that it's unlikely he will allow it to get to him.
As one of the few top contenders in this event to play a tournament since The Masters, Matt Kuchar figures to find his groove quickly at TPC Sawgrass. Kuchar followed up an excellent top-five finish at Augusta National by winning the RBC Heritage.
Which star is most likely to win The Players Championship?
Kuchar has finished fifth or better in each of his past four outings, and he has posted a top-10 result in eight of his 11 tournaments played so far this season. Even though Kuchar doesn't always come out on top, he is essentially always in position to make a late charge.
It can certainly be argued that Kuchar is playing better than anyone right now, which is why the No. 1 ranking is within reach for him as well. He'll have to work a bit harder than Scott since he has to win the tournament, but Kuchar has as good of a chance as anyone.
Reaching No. 1 in the rankings is a huge deal, and it is something that Kuchar would love to accomplish, according to Golf Central:
“I think all of us that are out here dream of being No. 1… It’s cool to have that chance right now” – Matt Kuchar pic.twitter.com/VTvJqdn5vw— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) May 7, 2014
Kuchar won The Players Championship just two years ago, and he has all the tools necessary to do it again. There are a lot of top contenders that bear watching in this tournament, but Kuchar may be the man to beat.
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