May 9 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- No one has ever successfully defended at THE PLAYERS Championship, where Matt Kuchar will begin his quest to become the first to do so this afternoon.
With pristine conditions -- sunny skies, hardly a breath of wind -- scoring has been good so far in the opening round at TPC Sawgrass. Will it continue? Here is a look at who and what to watch for this afternoon.
Lee Westwood (1:18 p.m. ET): The Englishman has knocked on the door a few times here -- most recently in 2010 when he was in contention going into Sunday before shooting 74 to finish fourth. He also finished fifth and sixth in 1998 and 1999 and given his ball-striking abilities should be a factor again.
Phil Mickelson (1:28 p.m. ET): As difficult as this tournament -- or Mickelson -- is to predict, Lefty has been largely consistent if nothing else since his win here in 2007. He's finished in the top 25 every other year the last five and for his career has eight top 25s in the event.
Webb Simpson (1:28 p.m. ET): The reigning U.S. Open champion admitted to a lack of confidence earlier this season. Then he finished second at Hilton Head, where he lost in a playoff. He's missed three of four cuts here, however.
Sergio Garcia (1:39 p.m. ET): The 2008 champion (he also finished second the year before) has just one finish in the top 20 since, but he has played well this year with three top 10s. His ball-striking should work well here, but with Garcia it all comes down to how well he putts.
Luke Donald (1:39 p.m. ET): The former world No. 1 finished sixth last year and tied for fourth the year before with all of last last eight rounds and 11 of his last 12 on the Stadium Course at par or better.
Tiger Woods (1:49 p.m. ET): For all his accomplishments, Woods has won THE PLAYERS just once, in 2001. Though he has three wins this season, he has just one top 10 here since that lone victory a dozen years ago.
Matt Kuchar (1:49 p.m. ET):The defending champion has finished in the top 15 in three of the last four years and in 2004 he tied for 16th. This season, Kuchar has four top 10s, including a win.
Brandt Snedeker (1:49 p.m. ET): He was admittedly exhausted after being in contention at the Masters and subsequently missed the cut in Hilton Head. He was also one of the hottest players in the game before getting injured in February. Snedeker has struggled here, missing the cut each of the last four years.