FedExCup: Who needs a major move at TPC SawgrassLA QUINTA, CA - JANUARY 19: Sean O'Hair hits his tee shot on the second hole during the third round of the Humana Challenge In Partnership With The Clinton Foundation on the Palmer Private Course at PGA West on January 19, 2013 in La Quinta, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)May 07, 2013
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- This week’s PGA TOUR stop, THE PLAYERS Championship, at TPC Sawgrass annually boasts one of the strongest field in golf and one of the year’s biggest opportunities to make a splash in the season-long race for the FedExCup.
The top 93 in the latest FedExCup standings (and 97 of the top 100) will all be teeing it up at TPC Sawgrass this week as well as a number of others who will be looking for their big break in the 2013 FedExCup race. Those others, 43 ranked 100th or worse in the latest standings, will try to jump start their 2013 campaigns in the second of five events that awards 600 points to their champions.
Since the FedExCup took on its current format in 2009, 29 players have made moves of 20-or-more points up the ranks at TPC Sawgrass. Of that number, nearly three-fourths (21 to be exact) have gone on to finish the PGA TOUR season inside the top 125 and qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs.
Long story short: This event, which is the second of 18 in the second half of the 2013 PGA TOUR Season is a key one for competitors hoping to make a run at golf’s richest prize in the fall. Historically, players have been able to make waves at TPC Sawgrass and carry that momentum throughout the season and into the Playoffs.
An interesting group featuring a former FedExCup champion and a multitude of established pros will be vying to join that club this year.
Below are 10 of those competitors who could use a solid showing this week at TPC Sawgrass to get their 2013 campaigns on the right track.
Zach Johnson Current FedExCup rank: 100th Potential rank with a win: 9th | Top 10: 71st or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 8 | Top 10s: 2 Best PLAYERS finish: T2, 2012 Last PLAYERS start: 2012, T2
Nine-time TOUR winner Zach Johnson has averaged nearly five top-10 finishes for the last nine seasons but has yet to even crack the top 20 in a full-field event this season. Johnson, currently No. 100 in the FedExCup standings, is at his lowest point since the end of the 2009 season. A year ago, Johnson finished second at TPC Sawgrass then won in his next start two weeks later at the Crowne Plaza Invitational to jump start his journey to East Lake.
Padraig Harrington Current FedExCup rank: 114th Potential rank with a win: 12th | Top 10: 85th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 12 | Top 10s: 2 Best PLAYERS finish: 2nd, 2004
Last PLAYERS start: 2012, MC
Hard to believe it's been nearly a decade since Padraig Harrington shot a back-nine 30, finishing birdie-birdie-eagle-par-birdie to nearly catch Adam Scot at the 2004 PLAYERS. Instead, he settled for second, matching his '03 finish at TPC Sawgrass. Harrington has struggled in Ponte Vedra since then with five missed cuts and no top-25 finishes in eight starts. Harrington has shown flashes of his old self in Phoenix and San Antonio this year but has yet to put it together consistently enough to threaten on a weekend yet this year.
Vijay Singh Current FedExCup rank: 117th Potential rank with a win: 14th | Top 10: 88th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 20 | Top 10s: 4 Best PLAYERS finish: 2nd, 2001 Last PLAYERS start: 2012, MC
Still seeking to win his first PLAYERS, the 2008 FedExCup champion will make his 21st start in Ponte Vedra Beach this week. Since 2001, Singh has survived six cuts at TPC Sawgrass and converted them into five top-15 finishes. If he can make it to the weekend again this year, we could see Singh back in the FedExCup picture this season.
Sean O'Hair Current FedExCup rank: 136th Potential rank with a win: 15th | Top 10: 102nd or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 7 | Top 10s: 0
Best PLAYERS finish: 11th, 2007 Last PLAYERS start: 2012, MC
Sunday has been O'Hair's enemy at TPC Sawgrass. He's played the final round of THE PLAYERS four times shooting 78-76-73-72 in those four goes -- each was his high round of the week. The most famous, or infamous, of these came in 2007 when O'Hair was the 54-hole leader and was in the mix down the stretch before quadruple-bogeying No. 17 and bogeying the 18th to fall to 11th. He's got three top-25s in his last six starts here, though, and should be a player to watch this week.
Louis Oosthuizen Current FedExCup rank: 139th Potential rank with a win: 15th | Top 10: 105th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 2 | Top 10s: 0 Best PLAYERS finish: MC, 2012
Last PLAYERS start: 2012, MC
TPC Sawgrass should fit the game of a ball-strkier like Oosthuizen, but it just hasn't come to be in his two trips to THE PLAYERS. Oosthuizen is 0-for-2 against the cut line at TPC Sawgrass but may need to make something happen this week to turn his season around. A year after finishing seventh in the final FedExCup standings, Oostuhizen enters this week at No. 139 after making just three cuts in his six 2013 starts.
Martin Kaymer Current FedExCup rank: 141st Potential rank with a win: 15th | Top 10: 106th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 4 | Top 10s: 0 Best PLAYERS finish: T15, 2012 Last PLAYERS start: 2012, T15
The former world No. 1 has been enigmatic in his starts on the PGA TOUR. He makes more than 70 percent of his cuts but finshes inside the top 10 a surprisingly-low one-in-seven starts. While he has yet to crack a top-10 at TPC Sawgrass, he's trending upward going T55, T34, T19 and T15 in four trips to TPC Sawgrass. What's more, he's shot par-or-better in 10 of his last 12 rounds here. Look for Kaymer to make a significant move this week.
David Toms Current FedExCup rank: 144th Potential rank with a win: 15th | Top 10: 109th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 20 | Top 10s: 3 Best PLAYERS finish: 2nd, 2011
Last PLAYERS start: 2012, T10
David Toms has come a long way from the player who missed his first six cuts at THE PLAYERS (datting from 1992-98). He's posted three top-10 finishes in the last four years at TPC Sawgrass -- a boast no one else can make -- and has finished inside the top 20 six times since 1999. Off to a relatively slow start in 2013, Toms' best finish, and only top-30, was a tie for 13th at the Masters Tournament in April.
Casey Wittenberg Current FedExCup rank: 159th Potential rank with a win: 17th | Top 10: 122nd or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 0 | Top 10s: 0 Best PLAYERS finish: N/A Last PLAYERS start: N/A
Casey Wittenberg will make his PLAYERS debut this week and try to do something that hasn't been done since 2007: Make a PLAYERS cut the year after winning the Web.com Tour money title. Wittenberg arrives at TPC Sawgrass after making two cuts in three starts, though neither resulted in a top-50 finish. His last one of those came in the first week of February.
David Mathis Current FedExCup rank: 192nd Potential rank with a win: 23rd | Top 10: 154th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 1 | Top 10s: 0 Best PLAYERS finish: T15, 2012
Last PLAYERS start: 2012, T15
David Mathis has some great memorie of this property. On the Dye's Valley course, he won the inaugural Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open as a Web.com Tour Member in 2010. Then last year, in his first PLAYERS start, Mathis carded four rounds of par-or-better en route to a tie for 15th. Perhaps those good vibes will help him break out of his current slump of eight consecutive missed cuts. Still seeking his first-ever trip to the FedExCup Playoffs, Mathis could pick himself up off the map and take the first step this week.
Jonathan Byrd Current FedExCup rank: 220th Potential rank with a win: 26th | Top 10: 168th or higher Starts at THE PLAYERS: 10 | Top 10s: 0 Best PLAYERS finish: T12, 2012 Last PLAYERS start: 2012, T12
Still shaking off the rust after a wrist injury knocked him out for the end of 2012 and the early portions of 2013, Byrd travels to TPC Sawgrass, where he's made five cuts in the last six years. It make take more time for Byrd to return to form -- he has just one sub-70 round in 13 played so far --- but if he gets the putter rolling this week, we could see an early return to contention for Byrd.