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The Players Championship

The Players Championship is upon us. This PGA Tour tournament is the only major non-major event that is one of the highlights of the golfing calendar and this year is no different.

Created in 1974, it was àpropos that Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural tournament and was followed by many other multiple champions like Hal Sutton, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples! If 2014 is any indication of past years, it is going to be an outstanding event.

This tournament has a short history, but gathers an elite field every year.  The tournament runs at the same time with the final round being played on Mother’s Day.  It has a permanent home at TPC Sawgrass since 1982 at the stadium course, but this year the conditions are apparently not up to snuff.

Designed by 88-year-old Pete Dye, this 7,215-yard course has plenty of challenges with many strategically placed bunkers and lightning-fast greens. This year, the 137-yard par-three 17th hole called the “Island Green” will play its normal role as spoiler. Regardless of the course conditions, the field will be tough and relentless.

This year’s field is very strong. Many of the pundits are picking Rory McIlroy as the man to beat, however I am not so sure. He and another favourite, Phil Mickelson, are having challenges closing tournaments and may not be the top choice.

Therefore, if you are wondering, here are some other potential challengers that need consideration:

  • Rory McIlroy – is ready for a win. He has the complete package to score well and handle the press. His erratic play is slowly diminishing.
  • Phil Mickelson – played well at Wells Fargo, but as with McIlroy, his erratic play makes for great copy, but it is driving golfing fans crazy.
  • Adam Scott – is an unknown this year.  He has not played enough to really be considered a favourite, but his history puts him in the mix.
  • Matt Kuchar – is playing great this year. He has won already and has the temperament to handle the pressure.
  • Sergio Garcia – is the streakiest player in the field. If his putter gets hot he will be the player to beat. He is playing great this year and has conquered his mental challenges of old.
  • Justin Rose – is hot going into the Players Championship. He finished eight and fifth in his last two tournaments. He knows how to finish and if it close, he is strong down the stretch.
  • Luke Donald – is playing very well this year. Finishing second at the RBC Heritage and is ready for a big win. He is slowing making his way back to the top of the golfing world and the Players Championship might be the boost he needs.
  • Lee Westwood – is my dark horse. He is always solid and has a short game suited for Sawgrass. His play has been cold this year, but his seventh place finish at The Masters is an indication that he just might rise to the top.

The Players Championship is the richest tournament on tour. It always draws a world-class field and this year is no different. As the weekend unfolds, the golfing world will be watching the Fifth Major for all the drama and excitement that top tournaments produce. If you are wondering – Rory McIlroy is my choice as the 2014 Players Champion.

The Grateful Golfer, Pundit Arena.

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