Players Championship - a form analysis
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 The Players Championship | Preview | 06 May 2014
The Players Championship is one of the must watch tournaments of world golf. The excitement of the closing few holes at the TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vera Beach in the north east of Florida has provided many spills and thrills over the years and there is every reason to believe it will be the same in 2014.
With the world number one and six, Tiger Woods and Jason Day, absent through injury, a little of the normal gloss has been taken off the event but those who are lining up provide a who’s who of men’s professional golf.
Let’s take a look at some of the leading contenders and assess their chances
Scott not only starts the favourite this week because of his world standing but because of his win the event in 2004 and several other good finishes at the TPC Sawgrass. He has put together several solid tournaments in 2014 and while this will be only his 7th event of the year, his ’less is more schedule’ has played a large part in his increased success in recent seasons. He has had three weeks off since the Masters but should be ready to go.
Stenson is another former winner of the event who after a slow start to the season is beginning to find the sort of form that made him one of the best performed players in the world in 2013. He tied for 14th with Scott at Augusta National recently and then finished 5th at the Volvo China Open admittedly against a much weaker field. In eight starts at Sawgrass, Stenson has one win and three other top tens so the golf course is no problem.
Kuchar was finally rewarded for his consistency when successful at the recent RBC Heritage event at Hilton Head. Kuchar won The Players Championship two years ago and has generally played well in the event and it is hard to imagine he won’t be there or thereabouts on Sunday.
Watson has been in great form this year with two wins and two runner-up finishes in his last six completed starts including that great week at Augusta National. This however is not a golf course that appears to fit Watson’s eye with a best of 37th in his six starts at TPC Sawgrass to date.
Garcia is yet another former winner of this event and a man who has a great record generally at Sawgrass. He has missed only two cuts in 14 starts and in addition to his victory in 2008 he has also been runner-up on one occasion. Prior to a surprising missed cut at the Masters, Garcia was in superb form and is a real chance to contend when it matters this week.
Mickelson’s results have been mixed for much of this season but there were signs last week in Charlotte that perhaps things were about to get better. The leftie won this event in 2007 but surprisingly there have been no top tens since. Perhaps he might be a better bet at the US Open at Pinehurst in a few weeks time.
Rose is in great form this year but his record in this event is almost too bad to be true. In ten starts at the TPC Sawgrass he has yet to record a top twenty so despite the quality of his current play it is hard to get excited about his chances.
McIlroy finally came to terms with the TPC Sawgrass when 8th last year after missing his first three cuts there. McIlroy has put together several impressive tournaments in recent weeks, four top tens in his last five starts indicating a game ready to contend here.
Donald appears to be playing his way into form and has regularly played this event well including when runner-up in 2005. Donald finished runner-up at the Heritage tournament two weeks ago and I don’t think is too far from winning form.
Spieth was brilliant on debut at Augusta National recently and although this will be his first time in this event he showed with his effort at Augusta National that should be no issue. Twelve months ago he could not get a start in this event, now he is the world number eight. He has not played a lot of PGA Tour events in Florida but he is such a talent he could well contend and possibly win.
Furyk has really played well this season culminating in a near miss at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. His form in this event has been mixed but there has been the occasional top five and given his increased confidence of late he might be a chance at slightly longer odds.
Westwood appears to be getting back to his best with an 8th place at the Masters recently and a win in Malaysia immediately after. He has occasionally done very well in this event including when 8th last year when his game was not as good as it is now. He did miss the cut last week in Charlotte but there is something about the manner in which he is beginning to play that suggests his chances are not forlorn here.
Johnson’s form has been inconsistent of late but there has been enough to indicate he might do well this week. He does enjoy a good record at The Players including when runner-up two years ago. His last round of 72 last week when 14th in Charlotte consisted of two double bogeys so his week was perhaps better than it appeared.
Fowler’s swing changes are kicking in as his recent good tournaments would suggest. Fowler did miss the cut here last year and on two other occasions but in 2012 finished runner-up. A mixed record for sure but enough to suggest he is not out of this.
Streelman might not appear an obvious choice but he did finish runner-up last year when in the middle of a great run of form. He is perhaps not quite at that same level now but he has played solidly this season and having previously shown he can handle The TPC Sawgrass, might be a long shot chance.
If Walker can find the game he possessed earlier this season then an amazing fourth win of the season is not behind him. Walker has actually done quite well in this event, finishing 15th last year at a time when he was nowhere near the player he is now.
My selections picks
Most likely: – Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia
Mid range prospects: – Rory McIlroy, Jim Furyk and Luke Donald
Longshot value: – Lee Westwood, Kevin Streelman and Jimmy Walker