Sawgrass set to level the playing field again

Players putt on the island green at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Picture: Getty
Players putt on the island green at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Picture: Getty
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Imagine the odds that could have been offered on this at the start of the year. Going into the second weekend in May, Michelle Wie has made more money on her tour than Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson combined have made on theirs.

Some of that is to do with Wie finding her form, having some fun and playing to her potential. A large part, obviously, is due to Woods hardly playing at all because of a back injury that led to surgery. In just three PGA Tour starts, Woods missed a 54-hole cut in San Diego, withdrew in the middle of the final round at Honda and tied for 25th at Doral.

Then there’s Mickelson. The PGA Tour record book shows he’s never gone this deep into the season as a pro without a single top 10. Mickelson has coped with a pair of injuries that forced him to withdraw from two tournaments. He also has been more unpredictable than usual.

Skewed statistics aside, it provides a snapshot on what kind of fickle season this has been on the PGA Tour. Through 25 tournaments in the wraparound season, seven winners were not among the top 100 in the world while only two winners were in the top 10.

What better place to celebrate – or bemoan – parity than at The Players Championship, the tournament that starts tomorrow and is said to be the most difficult to predict. “There’s no favourite. There’s no style of golf here that has to win,” said Kevin Chappell, the American world No 110. “It’s the ultimate test of making it yours. You create your game plan, and whoever establishes that game plan and sticks to it the best is going to win.”

Mickelson won in 2007. He hasn’t finished in the top 10 at Sawgrass since. The list of winners is almost as impressive as the list of those who have never won – Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington.

“This golf course does not love anybody,” NBC Sports analyst Johnny Miller said. “You go to Firestone, you go to Torrey Pines, you go to Doral, you go to those courses ... Phil and Tiger, it loves those guys. But this course will chew you up and spit you out from year to year. I just think it’s a course that no one ever gets feeling really comfy out there.”

Add that to a year of parity and this year could be more mysterious than ever.