Handicapping a Tigerless TPC

Greg GiardiniContributor IMay 7, 2008

This weekend is the self-proclaimed "5th Major" on the PGA Tour, the Players Championship. Tiger Woods, still recovering from post-Masters knee surgery, will not be in the field.

However, the TPC will still have one of the best fields of the year at TPC Sawgrass, highlighted by defending champion Phil Mickelson. Phil, though, has not been playing his best golf and is still recovering from the dreadful weekend he had at Augusta last month.

The dark horse this week could be last year's runner up, Sean O'Hair who went shot for shot with Phil on Sunday before putting two balls in the water on the island 17th. Perhaps, with some more seasoning and a big win at the PODS Championship earlier this season, he could find his stroke and take home the title.

Another former champion to watch for this week is Adam Scott, who has been firing low rounds all year. If not for a nasty cold right before Augusta that set his game back he might be considered the main front runner.

The trendy pick this week would be last week's winner, the 22 year-old phenom Anthony Kim. Kim has one of the prettiest swings in the game and has the poise of a grizzled veteran as evidenced by his 66-69 weekend rounds on the difficult Quail Hollow Course last week. The win also catapulted him up the Fed Ex Cup rankings making him a serious contender at the end of the season.

Everyone's favorite South African, Ernie Els is always a perennial front runner, but other than the win at the Honda Classic, his game has been wildly up and down. He has ranged from dominant to barely being able to break 80.

This could finally be the year for Vijay Singh, who calls TPC Sawgrass his home course, yet has never won this tournament. In fact he only has a few Top 10's in his career at the Players. You'd think that by playing nearly 200 practice rounds a year he'd know the course a little better.

Trevor Immelman might be a popular pick this week, but since winning the Master's he's been non-existent, but you can't blame him for the whirlwind that occurs after winning such a prestigious tournament. Hopefully he can bounce back and put together four solid rounds.

If push came to shove I would have to go with the lefty, Mickelson, to capture another title. But with the final three holes being so treacherous, someone else might sneak out with a win a la Craig Perks.

We will have to watch and see who can claim the ultimate Players prize and gain the advantage heading into the US Open.