Every golfer at The Players Championship will, no doubt, say that Pete Dye is a mean-spirited designer with a sense of humor like Godzilla. That’s because TPC Sawgrass has enough humps, bumps, hollows, water and sand for five normal golf courses.
There are lies where golfers need sky hooks to hit their shots. This place is just not normal. Not nice. And definitely not something you’d introduce to your mother. Yet someone will survive it for the victory.
The question is who? It couldn’t get any closer. Martin Kaymer and Jordan Spieth are tied at 12-under par. Both agree that the Saturday round was a little like a Ryder Cup match. Both know Sunday will be tough. Both are looking over their shoulders at Sergio Garcia because he has already won this event, and they both know Garcia can be explosive.
Although we think of Garcia and Kaymer as young, they are both much older than Spieth. John Senden is older than all three.
Everybody but Spieth has veteran experience and veteran thinking in big events while Spieth does not.
Now, making matters more complicated, anyone six shots from the lead has an outside chance to win.
That includes Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink. Lee Westwood and David Hearn. Gary Woodland and George McNeill. Senden, Garcia and Jones. While it’s unlikely both Kaymer and Spieth will play poorly, if they do, those nine golfers will be ready to pounce.
Jordan Spieth said he knew he would have to shoot a lower score Sunday than he did Saturday. But that may not be accurate. Often, the wicked denizen that is TPC Sawgrass rewards someone who hovers around par in the last round.
Often golfers get caught up in playing each other and someone a couple shots behind them shoots a low score. Spieth and Kaymer have to be cautious of that.
To date, the most accurate in fairways of the leaders is John Senden followed down the list by Lee Westwood and Gary Woodland, then Sergio Garcia. Neither Kaymer or Spieth are in the top 20.
Greens in regulation leader is a five-way tie, including Martin Kaymer, followed by leaderboard candidates John Senden, Jim Furyk, Jordan Spieth and Sergio Garcia. All are in the top ten.
None of the golfers on the top of the leaderboard are leading in the putting categories. But as Martin Kaymer said after the first round, it’s about ball-striking at TPC Sawgrass, not about putting.
It’s important to note that the stats have yet to lift a trophy.
So who will win it?
It’s impossible to measure heart. But we know the two leaders have it. We really know Martin Kaymer has it because of the putt he made to win the Ryder Cup and because he won the PGA in a playoff. We know Garcia has it because he has kept getting up off the mat time after time, and he has been very successful as an international player. He has also won The Players.
All that said, full disclosure. In a preview article for a newspaper in Ponte Vedra Beach, I picked Martin Kaymer to win The Players. It's the craziest pick I have ever made. Even I thought I was nuts. The pick was made the evening Matt Kuchar holed out from the bunker to win at Hilton Head. So I have to stick with it: Martin Kaymer.
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from theUSGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.