Punch Shot: Which 'outsider' most likely to win at Sawgrass?

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 7, 2013, 1:34 pm

Since 2000, only four players (Tiger Woods, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson)  have been ranked inside the top 10 in the world when they won The Players Championship. In fact, during that span the average OWGR position of a Players winner has been 35.8.

So we ask: Which player outside the top 30 in the world has the best chance to win this week?


Freddie Jacobson.

The Junkman has only one top-10 in nine career starts at TPC Sawgrass, but he’s never been this consistent or sharp with his game. Since missing the cut in his first start of the season in Phoenix, he hasn’t finished worse than 25th, with three top-10s.

Jacobson never will overpower a course – at 284.4 yards per drive, he ranks 103rd in driving distance – and at TPC Sawgrass, he won’t have to. No, what will matter this week is that he’s fourth in putting, sixth in scoring average and 13th in scrambling. Indeed, Jacobson fits the A-to-B, plodder type that has excelled at The Players in the past few years.


It’s pronounced TOR-be-yorn OO-les-en. American golf fans should get used to saying Thorbjorn Olesen’s name because he has all the markings of a Players champion.

Although Olesen, who recently took up special temporary status on the PGA Tour, has gotten off to an eventful start this season – he injured himself riding a camel earlier this year and suffered a second injury when he was in a car crash during the Shell Houston Open – he already has two top-10 finishes (seventh at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for sixth in his first Masters).

He also has the type of complete game that plays well at demanding ballparks like TPC Sawgrass. He’s 24th on Tour in driving distance, 26th in putts inside 10 feet and 45th in eagles.

He also fits the mold of recent Players Championship winners. Think Tim Clark with more power or Henrik Stenson with a better driver.  After a few years of seasoning on the European Tour he also enjoys a level of experience that most “rookies” don’t have.

For the injury-prone Dane, the only thing he has to improve on is his handling of courtesy cars and camel-riding skills. But at No. 33 in the Official World Golf Ranking, U.S. audiences should get used to saying his name – it’s OO-les-en.


Maybe I'm looking too much for The Matt Kuchar Story II, but I see this being a big week for another former phenom whose game fell on some hard times for a while, but has bounced back to become one of the PGA Tour's most consistent players.

My pick to win is Charles Howell III.

It's about time. Nobody in the world is more snake-bitten than Chucky Threesticks. He has only two career wins – the last one coming a half-dozen years ago. But he owns 14 runner-up finishes.

Now, sure, a few of those can be blamed on his own failures down the stretch. But there's a whole lot of bad luck in there, too. You have to be really good to consistently come so close.

So far this season, it's been more of the same. Howell has five top-10s in 13 starts, including one at Quail Hollow this past weekend. It's time for his luck to change. Yeah, I know he hasn't made a cut at The Players since 2007 and has never finished inside the top 30. I don't care. Maybe it takes a course where he's never succeeded for everything to finally go his way.

If it happens, of course, the Augusta native will clinch a return to the Masters next year. And the only thing better than that is not having to answer the incessant questions about trying to get back there again.


I’ll double down on Billy Horschel.

Yeah, he has never played The Players Championship before, but don’t tell him it's a liability. Actually, please do tell him, because it will only make him more determined, and his resolve seems to be his greatest asset.

Horschel, ranked No. 49 in the world, is on a roll with four consecutive top-10 finishes, including his maiden PGA Tour victory in his last start at the Zurich Classic. While Horschel hasn’t played The Players before, he’s hitting a lot of greens these days and that bodes well at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course. In fact, Horschel is doing everything well of late. He’s eighth in ball striking, ninth in total driving, 14th in strokes gained-putting. He just might be No. 1 in confidence right now, if the Tour could measure that.

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Romo turns in even in PGA Tour debut

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 3:00 pm

After stumbling out of the gates, Tony Romo has found his footing in his PGA Tour debut.

Playing in the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship on a sponsor exemption, Romo shot an even-par 36 for his opening nine holes in the Dominican Republic. The former NFL quarterback bogeyed his first two holes, but steadied the ship with three birdies from Nos. 4-8 while playing alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

The early highlight of the round came at the par-4 fifth hole, where Romo drained a putt from across the green for his second straight birdie:

Romo has played as an amateur partner in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and has played individually in U.S. Open local qualifiers and mini-tour events as an amateur. But this marks his first attempt to gauge his game against the best players in the world who are not in Austin for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

Romo, who plays to a plus-0.3 handicap, said earlier in the week that he expected some jitters once it came time to put a tee in the ground.

"You'll be nervous on Thursday on the first tee. Just going to be," Romo said. "I've got to get through the first three or four holes. If I can handle the nerves on the first three or four holes, I think that I'll settle in and hopefully just play the way I've been playing."

Click here to watch live first-round action on Golf Channel.

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Kim's missing clubs show up at sporting goods store

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 1:58 pm

More than a month after they were lost on an American Airlines flight, the clubs I.K. Kim used to win last year's Ricoh Women's British Open turned up on the sale rack of a California sporting goods store.

Kim's clubs became lost in late January when she flew from Miami to San Diego, with the airline suggesting she simply rent a new set. A few weeks later, Kim shot a "What's in the bag" television segment which according to a Golfweek report caught the eye of three good samaritans in the San Diego area.

The three men recognized Kim's clubs for sale at a local Play It Again Sports, with the major winner's tools listed at $60 each. The store even had Kim's tour bag, complete with her LPGA player badge. Kim filmed the reunion with her bag - containing wedges and a few hybrids, minus the head covers - at the Carlsbad police station:

Kim was back in southern California this week for the Kia Classic, where she'll begin play Thursday morning at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

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New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”