May 8 2013
Sergio Garcia is the all-time leading earner at THE PLAYERS. (Lecka/Getty Images)
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
The most popular question I field from one-and-doners at the beginning of the year is "When do I play Tiger and Phil?" It's a query that wasn't necessary in the recent past. Woods ranked first in average earnings per event from 2005-2009 and Mickelson sat inside the top five for six consecutive years through 2009. Gamers' margin of error consisted only of forgetting to play either.
Time have changed. Woods went winless in 2010 and 2011 while Mickelson picked off just one victory in each of the last three seasons. From 2010-12, 25 different golfers ranked inside the top 10 in average earnings per event. Five cracked the list exactly twice, including Mickelson (2010, ninth; 2012, 10th). The category leaders of each season made an aggregate of six starts -- Gregory Havret (2010, two), Darren Clarke (2011, three) and David Lynn (2012, one).
Woods populates that sample size just once, checking at third in 2012. His return to form (and No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking) has cooled my email server. Still, as the aforementioned question relates to this week's PLAYERS Championship, the answer is "not now."
Despite its richest prize money on the PGA TOUR, THE PLAYERS simply isn't the event where you're going to burn Woods or Mickelson. Gamers' objective for both is to snipe a victory. Woods has 77 career titles and Mickelson 41, but each has come out on top just once at TPC Sawgrass.
Of the 37 golfers that have reached seven figures in career earnings at this event, 21 are in the field this week. Seven of the top eight are scheduled to play, including Mickelson (second) and Woods (fifth). The highest ranked without a victory at TPC Sawgrass is David Toms at 13th. Of course, he came close in 2011, losing in a playoff to K.J. Choi (12th in earnings).
With 19 events in the books, THE PLAYERS concludes the first half of the 40-tournament schedule. You've likely burned a handful of otherwise viable options, but just about anyone who's anyone in the game will tee it up in this wide-open event, so your choices are many.
Jim Furyk sits atop my Power Rankings, but I exhausted him at the Tampa Bay Championship where he tied for seventh. Adam Scott is No. 2 in the feature, but this is his first start since winning the Masters. While I'm obviously confident about his chances this week, I'm still going to give him time to settle into his new stature.
Cutting right to the chase, I'm plugging in Sergio Garcia. He's sixth in my Power Rankings and he's the all-time earnings leader at THE PLAYERS. He's also banked more at this tournament than any other in his career. After admitting a sore back following his second round at Quail Hollow and intimating that he might withdraw, he'd go on to hit only 19 greens in regulation on the weekend, but he, indeed, finished and shared 16th place. Now with a few days off from competition and favorable weather expected on a course where he's enjoyed success -- he hasn't missed a cut in his last nine appearances -- he's as smart a selection as any in a tournament at which no one dominates.
Last week: Webb Simpson; T32; $37,073.33
Overall record: 17-for-19
Top 5s: 5
Top 10s: 9
Top 25s: 13
Missed cuts: 2