The Players Championship: Five players to watch
World ranking: 48
Players starts/cuts made: 7/6
Scoring average/low round: 71.69/65
Best finish: T4 (2010)
Might win because: He’s one of four members of the “Golf Boys,’’ and the other three (Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler) have all won in the past six weeks. Crane’s the front man, too, so why not here, in the PGA Tour’s signature event? (Calm down, the four majors aren’t run by the tour.) Crane has a solid Players record (he went T6, T5, T4 in 2008-10), and already has three top-10s this year. They came in his first four starts, though, and just three of his past 22 rounds have been in the 60s.
World ranking: 18
Players starts/cuts made: 4/4
Scoring average/low round: 71.80/65
Best finish: T26 (2010)
Might win because: He’s been very solid in his biggest tournaments this season: T3 in Abu Dhabi, T13 at Doral, second to Tiger Woods at Bay Hill, T12 at the Masters. On the surface, his T33 in last year’s Players seems ordinary. But he was the 54-hole leader (67-69-68), then imploded with a final-round 79. You know he’d love another shot at being in contention here. Plus, he’s been posting a lot of practice videos on Twitter recently, and it’s cool seeing a tour pro pounding range balls in shorts.
World ranking: 8
Players starts/cuts made: 3/3
Scoring average/low round: 71.42/67
Best finish: T19 (2011)
Might win because: A non-American has finished first or second at the Players in each of the last six years, and he’s as good a choice as any. Has a decent record at TPC Sawgrass, but has been derailed in the final round (78, 76, 72 in his three trips). Kaymer hasn’t played all that much this year: Just three starts each on the PGA Tour and European Tour, with a T9 his best finish. He’s also a combined 8 over in his past five rounds on the PGA Tour, never breaking par. He’s due for a big week.
World ranking: 45
Players starts/cuts made: 8/5
Scoring average/low round: 73.23/66
Best finish: T6 (2011)
Might win because: He’s too good a player to be sputtering along like he has the past few months: two missed cuts, T40 at the Masters, T65 last week in Charlotte. Maybe a return to a venue he likes will do the trick. He owns two top-10s at the Players, and they’ve come in two of the past three years: T9 in 2009, T6 last year. He’d be the fourth Australian to win the Players, joining Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Greg Norman (1994), and Adam Scott (2004).
World ranking: 23
Players starts/cuts made: 5/3
Scoring average/low round: 72.38/64
Best finish: T4 (2011)
Will win because: No American has won since Phil Mickelson in 2007, and Watney has the game to tackle TPC Sawgrass. He hits it long, keeps it straight, makes his share of birdies, and has gotten off to fast starts: 68-69-64 in his opening round at the Players the past three years. He led after 18 holes last year, but it was his only score below 71. Sluggish year so far, with just one top-10 showing in a stroke-play event. That came last week, when he led after 36 holes and settled for eighth. He’ll improve on that this week.