What it Takes to Win


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The Players
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. ' Sizing up the top-10 on the leaderboard going into the final round of The Players Championship:

  • Alex Cejka (-11) ' Look whos going to pull on Supermans cape? Or is he? Cejka said after Saturday's round that he was going to wear a red shirt and black pants in his final-round pairing with Tiger Woods. Of course, Woods claims power red as his signature color in final rounds.
    Apparently, he was joking, or he saw the danger in that. It backfired for Luke Donald at the PGA Championship three years ago. Donald was tied for the lead with Woods starting the final round. Woods won shooting 68 with Donald shooting 74. Rocco Mediate fared well wearing red in the Monday playoff with Woods in last summer's U.S. Open but still lost.
    Whatever he wears, Cejka needs an attitude that he won't back down playing besides Woods.
    The lowdown: Cejka is tied for first in driving accuracy this week. Three of the last four winners of The Players Championship have led the field in driving accuracy. If Cejka keeps playing from the middle of fairway, he protects his five-shot lead and wins.
  • Tiger Woods (-6) ' Earlier in the week, NBC-TV analyst Johnny Miller said that Phil Mickelson told him players were emboldened by the notion that Woods has to putt great just to beat them by a single shot these days. Miller said Mickelsons not alone. He said Tour pros see vulnerability in Woods since he has returned from knee surgery.
    Woods is tied for 51st in driving accuracy this week, but hes scrambling spectacularly. Still, he wont make up five shots Sunday with wayward tee shots. Hell need Cejkas help to win.
    The lowdown: Almost everyone but Cejka seemed intent on helping Woods win on Saturday. Woods shot 70 and rocketed 20 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for second. If Cejka isnt sharp with his driver, Woods scrambles to victory.
    Ian Poulter
    Ian Poulter started the day two back, but finished among a large group five in arrears. (Getty Images)
  • Ian Poulter (-6) ' Two shots behind Cejka at days start, Poulter couldnt manage a birdie in the third round and shot 75.
    The lowdown: Poulter once said he could see golfs future with Tiger and himself at the top, above everyone else. Though he said the quote was misinterpreted, Saturday showed why his notion brought so much derision.
  • Retief Goosen (-6) ' Goosens proven himself as a clutch putter on fast greens, winning a pair of U.S. Opens. At 40, he seems rejuvenated. He won the Transitions Championship two months ago and finished third at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am earlier this year.
    The lowdown: At his age, given his brief switch earlier this season to a belly putter, Goosen doesnt appear to be the same nerveless wonder he was in his prime.
  • Jonathan Byrd (-6) ' With last weeks tie for fifth on the treacherously fast track at Quail Hollow, Byrds looking dangerous. He played the final four holes Saturday at The Players in 2 under. Hes closing hard, a good sign.
    The lowdown: Final-round pressure will test his short game, and he isnt the finest of Tour scramblers.
  • Ben Crane (-6) ' Nobody closed harder on Saturday. Crane played the final three holes in 3 under with an eagle at the 16th and a rare birdie at the 18th.
    The lowdown: Winless in four years, Cranes final-round nerves are an issue.
  • Henrik Stenson (-6) ' A sloppy finish Saturday cost him. He bogeyed three of the final five holes, including a three-putt from 7 feet at the 17th hole.
    The lowdown: Anyone who can strip down to his underwear to hit a shot from a hazard the way Stenson did at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral earlier this spring is pretty much fearless.
  • Brian Davis (-5) ' Survived the final four holes Saturday without a mistake, playing them in 1 under.
    The lowdown: Six shots is too far back with so many other proven players in the mix.
  • Kevin Na (-5) ' Shot 40 on the back nine Saturday with an eagle and a birdie.
    The lowdown: Something came loose with the pressure ratcheting up in the third round.
  • John Mallinger (-5) ' Second in the field in scrambling.

    The lowdown: It will take more than scrambling for Mallinger to win.
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