Is The Players missing something without Westwood and McIlroy

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World No. 1 Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are not competing in this week's Players Championship. Is the tournament missing something with their absences? Jason Sobel and Randall Mell weigh in with their opinions.

By JASON SOBEL

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Yes. We hear it year after year, often from those who work in the Ponte Vedra Beach offices adjacent to TPC Sawgrass. The Players Championship annually boasts – all together now! – the best tournament field in golf.

That’s true this year, too, but unlike past editions of the event that have featured as many as 99 of the top 100 on the Official World Golf Ranking, there will be some glaring omissions this week.

Lee Westwood is No. 1 in the world; Rory McIlroy is five spots further back – and neither one will be competing in the PGA Tour’s flagship event.

You don’t lose players of that caliber and not miss their presence.

Even if their reasons for eschewing the tournament seem vindictive – both Westwood and McIlroy have contended that being limited in appearances wouldn’t allow for proper pre-tournament preparation in advance of The Players – their absences shine a spotlight on a growing problem for the PGA Tour. Namely, the game’s best international players don’t need it anymore.

Once the opening round begins, thoughts of this twosome will dissipate, but it’s definitely disadvantageous for discussions to be dominated by the two big-name players who aren’t here this week rather than the 156 who are.

By RANDALL MELL

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – No. We sometimes stand so close to something, that we can’t see the big picture.

We’re so close now, the holes in the field at this week’s The Players Championship seem large with Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy missing. Westwood, after all, is the No. 1 player in the world. McIlroy is No. 6. There’s no way you can argue that the event is better without them, but five years from now, what are you going to remember? Who won this week? Or who wasn’t here?

The Players Championship has more than enough stars in this week’s field to overcome the loss of Westwood and McIlroy. Besides, this is one of those weeks where the stage also becomes the star. Pete Dye’s TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course has a personality as large as any player in the field.

Let’s see how this week plays out. What if Phil Mickelson wins again? It’s looking like an ultra long shot, but what if Woods breaks his winless spell here? What if Bubba Watson wins for the fourth time in less than a year. What if Rickie Fowler or Matteo Manassero break through for their first PGA Tour victories? This Players Championship could end up being the best ever.