The window is open again after having closed it on my fingers at the Masters. Tiger came close to making me look clairvoyant but just couldnt get a clutch putt to drop. Now, he doesnt even give me a chance to jinx him again as hes off rehabbing his bum knee.
So its on to Ponte Vedra, home of the most menacing par 3 in all the game, especially when the wind is causing problems. Yours truly has played it one time and lets just say that I tied Sean OHairs Sunday effort of a year ago. But enough about my pitiful game, lets move on to equally poor prognostications, shall we?
Adam Scott (3-1): The top choice on the board may come as a very big surprise but Ill explain why in a second. The 2004 winner has two worldwide victories this year and has been pretty consistent throughout the year. He even cut short a surfing vacation at home in Australia to collect the win in Dallas. He said he didnt want to watch his good play go to waste and I can think of no other way of wasting it than wiping out on the beautiful shores of the Gold Coast.
Phil Mickelson (4-1): So why isnt Lefty the top choice? Well heres a little something you may not know about The PLAYERS ' no man has successfully defended his title. Lefty claimed last week that hes grown somewhere between a half-inch to an inch in the last year, which I think is right there along the lines of his boast at the beginning of 2007 that he had lost 30 pounds but gained 15 pounds of muscle. Anyway, this new discovery has led to Phil maybe ironing out his recent putting issues. However, I dont think he can beat history.
Vijay Singh (6-1): Dont you think its about time THE BIG FIJIAN won this thing? The man spends 25 hours a day on that driving range honing his game and making poor Shawn do his job. The closest he came was 2001 when he finished second to Tiger. He also had 2006 in his sights but shot a final-round 77. But one other thing Im wondering ' if I moved him to the top spot, would it get me an invite to that awesome party he has at his house? I can be bribed!!
Jim Furyk (8-1): Heres another player that most thought would have won this event by now. He also lives right down the street from the gates and uses his constant straight driving to keep it out of trouble. You might have to close your eyes when he swings the club but Im sure 105% of us would like to hit the fairway as often as he does (70%).
Sergio Garcia (12-1): I compared his putter combinations to Sonic drink combinations in the Masters Odds and maybe, just maybe, hes figured something out. Hes been working with noted short-game guru Stan Utley and he thinks he has everything under control. Its about time he scores again on U.S. soil, as his last win here was 2005. If he can keep that flatstick under control like he did here last year, there could be a huge fiesta on Sunday night.
Padraig Harrington (15-1): Paddy was close here with runner-up finishes in 2003 and 2004 but hasnt been under 70 in his last 9 rounds. So really, there isnt any reason to put him in this category, right? Well, thats sort of what could have been said about Trevor Immelman and Im not getting blindsided by that again!
Anthony Kim (25-1): He pretty much killed any chances of winning this event when he demolished the field at Wachovia last week. Lets face it, nobody but Tiger goes back-to-back anymore. Anthonys first foray around Sawgrass was forgettable as he went 78-83 to miss the cut by a mile. But you have to admit that the snappy blue Wachovia jacket will look good in his closet. Now, can I have a loan?
Trevor Immelman (30-1): I nearly forgot about Trevor again but since hes won the Masters, his play has been rather forgettable. Hes missed the cut in each of his two events since donning the green jacket and dealing with the maelstrom of media that goes with it. So hopefully on his trip down from Charlotte, he stopped by whatever location in Augusta that he left his game so he can have a good week here. However, hes never made the cut at Sawgrass in three attempts so Id say hes still going to be checking milk cartons for the picture of his game.
Brandt Snedeker (35-1): Sneds captured everyones heart at the Masters and then went all Dick Vermeil on us and thus, sending every armchair Bob Rotella into convulsions about what letting it go would mean to his reputation. Hey, the kid can flat-out play. And for all the ladies out there, hell probably even sit through a chick-flick with you. Id call that well rounded.
Boo Weekley (40-1): Excellent ball striker? Check. Can recover from a bad hole? Check (just witness how he held on to his lead at Verizon). Biscuits, grits, and sweet tea for breakfast? Double check. Boos excellent adventure continues and if he cant win this event then Id at least like to watch him wrassle one of the resident gators at Sawgrass.
Fred Couples (60-1): Freddy nearly ended up in the off the board category below but thankfully, Kims victory got him into the field. The TOUR would have looked real foolish to have put the two-time PLAYERS Champion on their online field list on Saturday only to have to remove him and place him on the alternate list had someone that wasnt already eligible gone and won Wachovia.
Mike Weir/Stephen Ames (75-1): Canadas Stanley Cup losing streak is now at 15 but a win would make it two out of three by our North of the Border neighbors at Sawgrass.
Fred Funk (100-1): Freddy would probably say I could add a zero or two to that and it would be about right but hes on there simply because Id love to see him re-create maybe the best celebration after a winning putt that Ive ever seen after winning the 2005 PLAYERS.
OFF THE BOARD
Tiger Woods: No. 1s knee finally said enough was enough and Tiger decided to get it taken care of. Funny thing is that hes probably not too sorry that hes missing this tournament. You see, hes only won it once in 2001 and has been outside the top 10 each time since then. So hell continue his rehab and continue to get QT with Elin and Sam and sit back to watch everyone else get frustrated by the Sawgrass layout.
John Daly: Big John is spending PLAYERS week in Italy playing on the European Tour. Yes, they require shirts and shoes on those courses, unlike the one we saw him on last Monday in Arkansas (Click HERE if youve been in a cave and havent seen it). But I do have one question. He missed the cut in Spain last week and Im guessing hell miss in Italy this week. So is he going to get the full tourist effect? You know, go to a bullfight, check out the nude beaches, maybe check out a few art museums in Italia. Ciao!
Theres only one prop that matters this week. The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is roughly 135 yards. The first time I saw it in person, I figured it for a good hard pitching wedge. When I finally got to tee it up at that monster, I thought about hitting the wedge but ultimately settled for an 8. It was maybe the crispest, purest 8 Ive ever hit. And naturally hit the back half of the green and skipped into the water. One Moe-Larry-Curly routine from the drop area later and I walked off the proud owner of a Quad. Someday, Ill get my revenge. But as for this week, heres the fields number to beat. If the wind blows like it did in the first round last year, this number could be topped on Day 1:
Over/Under number of shots in the water at the 17th ' 75