Players Championship 2012 : Full Preview of the World's Top 10 at TPC Sawgrass

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIMay 9, 2012

Players Championship 2012 : Full Preview of the World's Top 10 at TPC Sawgrass

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    The 30th Players Championship will tee off on Thursday from one of the most diabolically difficult golf courses in the world, TPC Sawgrass. 

    The Players Championship is commonly referred to as the “Fifth Major”.  It will host one of the best fields of any tournament all year.  It offers a $9.5 million dollar purse with $1.7 million to the winner alone.

    One thing for sure about professional golfers, if you offer them enough money they will come.

    There have been 19 PGA Tour events thus far in 2012 with 17 different winners.  Only Hunter Mahan has two wins this year. 

    Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson, all have wins this year and I would not be surprised if one of these players survived the “world’s most terrifying tee shot” at No. 17’s island green to pick up the big check on Sunday evening.

    Never has a golf hole struck more fear into professional golfers than the 17th at TPC Sawgrass.

    The following is a preview of the top ten ranked golfers in the world and how they may fare at the 2012 Players Championship.

No. 10: Phil Mickelson

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    Phil has had a very good start to the 2012 season. 

    In addition to winning the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach and besting Tiger Woods by 11 shots.

    He had a runner-up at the Northern Trust at Riviera, and a third place finish at the Masters this year. 

    He has had four top-ten’s, earned $2.5 million and is fourth in the FedEx Cup standing.

    He also was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Monday night.

    Phil has had himself a pretty good year thus far.

    With four majors and 41 PGA Tour wins, Phil appears to be at the top of his game again and is a factor every time he tees it up. 

    Although he has only had three top-tens in 19 appearances at TPC Sawgrass, he did win the 2007 Players.

No. 9: Webb Simpson

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    Webb Simpson had a fantastic season in 2011. 

    He had two wins, three second place finishes, 12 top-tens and was second on the PGA Tour Money List.

    He has not been quite as strong in 2012 but he has made 11 straight cuts and had four top-tens.

    This will be just his fourth start in the Players Championship.  He missed the cut in 2009 and 2010 and posted a not so impressive T-60 in 2011.

    Something tells me he might fare slightly better in 2012.

No. 8: Martin Kaymer

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    Where have you gone Martin Kaymer?

    It wasn’t all that long ago that Kaymer was the No. 1 player in the world winning majors and WGC events.

    Swing changes in late 2010 and early 2011 have not worked and he has recently gone back to hitting his safe fade. 

    TPC Sawgrass is not a golf course for someone unsure of his golf swing or golf game.

No. 7: Tiger Woods

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    We all remember him, right?  He always wears the red shirt on Sundays.

    The guy has won a few majors (14), several PGA Tour events (72), was No. 1 in the world for a few weeks (623 weeks to be exact) and has made a ton of money ($96.6 million) on the PGA Tour.

    He still can play a little, even won an event this year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. 

    Just because he hasn’t played well in his last two starts, T-40 at the Masters and missed the cut at the Wells Fargo, doesn’t mean he can’t win the Players.

    He never cared for this course even though he did win here in 2001. 

    But then he won everywhere back then.

No. 6: Steve Stricker

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    Steve Stricker has missed the cut seven times and only has one top-ten in over 15 starts at the Players.

    TPC Sawgrass demands accurate driving and a control type golf game. 

    Stricker should be an obvious choice for this event.

    He already has a win in 2012 but if historical data is an indicator don’t look for Steve Stricker to be holding the trophy this week.

No. 5: Hunter Mahan

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    Hunter Mahan is definitely at the top of his game. 

    He has not missed a cut in 2012 and is the only player with two wins.

    This will be the seventh time that he has been in the field at the Players.

    His best performance at TPC Sawgrass was a T-6 top-ten finish in 2011.

    Hunter Mahan stock is definitely trending upward.

    I would not be surprised if he added a Players trophy to his mantle.

No. 4: Bubba Watson

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    Don’t need to say much about Bubba because he has decided to take a couple weeks off.

    He is soaking in the glow from his Master’s win and experiencing life as a new father.

    Who needs a Player’s trophy when you have a new baby and a Green Jacket at home.

No. 3: Lee Westwood

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    Lee Westwood is right there with Luke Donald as the “Best Players to Never Win A Major”. 

    Westwood is a force on the European Tour, wins all the time. 

    He already has a win in the Masters in 2012, the Indonesian Masters, as in Jakarta.

    Lee travels all over the world and performs well he just doesn’t win much in the U. S. or in the majors.

    Wasn’t it just last year that he blew off the Players Championship? 

    He and his buddy Chubby Chandler were complaining that it just didn’t fit their schedule.  It was simply too far to go to play on that old Florida swamp land, By Jove!

    $9.5 million dollar purses, five year exemptions, and $10 million dollar FedEx Cup Playoffs, seem to draw even “mad dogs and Englishmen” to the PGA Tour sooner or later. 

    If you pay big money, even the most obstinate golf professionals, will come.

    For the last five years he and Luke Donald have been by far the most consistent golfers on the planet. 

    Maybe this is his time to win some big events starting with the 2012 Players Championship.

No. 2: Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald needs to win the Players Championship.

    He won everything that there was to win in 2011 except a major title.

    The Players is not a major, but it is pretty darn close to one.

    Luke does not get the respect in the media or around golf circles for being the most consistent player week in and week out.

    He already has a win in 2012.  A win this week would help elevate his stock in the eyes of golf fans and possibly give him the boost in confidence to get a major win later this year.

No. 1: Rory McIlroy

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    With his runner-up finish at the Wells Fargo, Rory jumped back over Luke Donald to reclaim the No. 1 world golf ranking. 

    He has played in just five events on the PGA Tour in 2012 and has four top-tens with a win, two seconds, and a third place finish. 

    Those are “Tigeresque” type numbers folks.  This kid is for real.

    Right now he has to be the favorite in every event that he enters even thought his record at TPC Sawgrass has been anything but spectacular.

    This 23 year old is maturing as we speak and has the variety of shots and all around game to compete and win at the Players.