Golf: Heightened expectations in Florida sans Tiger Woods

 09 May 2014 - 11:24

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Players Championship in  Florida yesterday.

Florida: With reigning champion Tiger Woods skipping this week’s Players Championship where any of four golfers could replace him as world number one, there is a palpable sense of expectation at the TPC Sawgrass in Florida.
Top-ranked Woods has been sidelined since having surgery for a pinched nerve in his back at the end of March and, in his absence, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Masters champion Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar all have a chance to dethrone him.
Add to that the fact that this week’s $10m event boasts the strongest field in golf in what is widely regarded as the unofficial fifth major, and you have all the makings of a tournament for the fans to savour.
Since 1982, the Players Championship has been held on the par-72 Stadium Course, the diabolical Pete Dye layout which has continually frustrated contenders over the years while also rewarding good play by golfers of all types.
“We have such strong fields here,” American world number eight Phil Mickelson, the 2007 champion, told reporters while preparing for yesterday’s’s opening round in the PGA Tour’s flagship event.
“A lot of top players have won this tournament, have played their best golf and I think this course can bring that out.  “It’s not easy to win this tournament, and it seems to bring out the best players.” Australian world number two Scott has the best chance this week to dislodge Woods from the top spot, needing to finish no worse than joint 16th at the TPC Sawgrass. “There’s no doubt he plays a huge impact on a golf tournament,” said Scott. “He is obviously the No. 1 player in the world and one of sport’s biggest people. It’s obvious when he’s not around, I think.”REUTERS