No ones ever won back-to-back titles here. Of course, the moment someone utters the phrase'no ones ever'Tiger becomes the first ever, as in first to ever win four professional majors in succession or first to win three different events three straight years.
Ernie Els agreed that it was a valid point when it was suggested that maybe his trip to Dubai might hurt his chances to win here. I hit the wall last Saturday, he said. Even in Fridays 67, I began to lose concentration. But sleeping at home in Orlando helped, and I took it easy the last three days. So I feel really good now. Ernie added that he actually felt he had to prove something to himself at Dubai because hed been so wobbly in the final round at Doral. For the record, it was a 15 hour trip going over to Dubai, and 17 coming back.
Matt Gogels returning to action after a three week layoff, while his good friend, Carl Paulson, is just trying to jumpstart a trying season. Paulson contracted viral meningitis in January and spent four frightening days in the hospital. Thankfully, he recovered, but then his Dad underwent triple bypass surgery so Carl spent two weeks in Virginia Beach helping out his family.
David Toms enters the week slightly under the radar screen. I just havent put four rounds together yet, he said. But my game feels good.
Hal Suttons the oldest champ at The Players. He won in 2000 at age 41. He agreed that with modern equipment and the manner in which todays youngsters attack the game, its getting tougher for the over 40 set to compete on a regular basis. But he added that the slaughter factors not as big here at this course where you have to hit straight from point A to point B. The roster of past champs bears that out, as some, like Tiger and Freddy, have been bombers, while others, like Justin, Lee Janzen and Hal, have been medium length hitters who rely more on accuracy.
Tiger plays so well in the big tournaments on the tough courses because he mauls the par fives and then grinds out tough par after tough par. From his winning total of 14 under at The Players a year ago, 11 came on the five pars. Said Toms, A lot of great players Ive played with arent there mentally on every single shot like Tiger. Sutton added, Tigers not the dominant player he is because hes powerful. Hes dominant because of his mental toughness and his course management, and hes powerful on top of that. Tiger also has an ingenious short game that allows him to gamble and recover when he misfires.
Mike Sposa offered a list of must-dos on this golf course. You must drive it well. You must be precise with what youre aiming at because a lot of times you wont be going at pins. And you must, absolutely must, avoid shortsiding yourself. Theres no ginchin it here, Sposa said. The best player here wins.
Phil Mickelson gets kudos for trying even if he doesnt always win. But for him to say after The Bay Hill debacle that it was always Tigers event to win is off base. If Im not mistaken, Phil had the one shot lead early Sunday on the back side. At that point, it was his tournament to win, dont you agree?