THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP has come to be unofficially accepted as golf’s fifth major and this year all but two of the world’s top 30 ranked golfers will take to the tough but spectacular stadium style TPC Sawgrass course.
Missing in 2010 will be world numbers three and fifteen, Steve Stricker and Retief Goosen respectively, who are both out because of injury.
But there should be more than enough playing talent, drama and storylines to cover the four days at the Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, course.
Australian television coverage of the event begins at 3am (EST) on Fox on Friday.
Probably the first item to focus on is the fact that this weekend Phil Mickelson has a very good chance to take the World No 1 crown from Tiger Woods.
All (all?) Crazy Phil has to do is win the event and have Woods finish outside the top five.
The way Woods has been swinging of late, the last bit might be the easiest.
But it is a very different and tough course and picking a winner is never easy.
The 2010 champion could very well be European. The defending champion is Swede Henrick Stenson, who won last year by four strokes over Ian Poulter. Throw in Lee Westwood and you wouldn’t be surprised to see one of those three leading at some stage.
And whilst it was the “oldies” – those 40 and 50 year olds – who were getting all the headlines just a few weeks back at the Masters, lately it has been the “teenagers” getting all the results and the publicity.
Ireland’s Rory McIlroy will be full of confidence after his come from behind win at Quail Hollow and Ryo Ishikawa’s has been shooting record low rounds in Japan.
Hopefully though, it will be an Australian who comes up trumps in Florida.
Australia has a 13 strong contingent this year. Led by world no 14 Geoff Ogilvy, it includes Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley, Greg Chalmers, Jason Day, Mathew Goggin, Nathan Green, Marc Leishman, James Nitties, Nick O’Hern, Rod Pampling, Adam Scott and John Senden.
The tournament has been good to Australia over the years. In 2010 we not only have the largest international contingent but can also boast Aussies have won the tournament four times – more than any other country outside the US.
Those wins have come from Steve Elkington – who is one of only five players who have won The Players more than once – (1991 & 1997), Greg Norman (1994) and most recently Adam Scott in 2004.
Aged 23 years, 8 months and 12 days, Scott became the youngest winner of the event after shooting rounds of 65, 72, 69 & 72 for a total of 12 under, 276, one shot ahead of Ireland’s Padraig Harrington.
Of the other Aussie contenders this week, Marc Leishman and James Nitties are among 17 players who will make their debut at the championship.
They will be vying for a total prize purse of $USD9,500,000 with $USD1,710,000 going to the winner.