As the final round of the 2012 Players Championship is underway, the three men atop Sunday's leaderboard all have a strong chance of winning the biggest event of their respective careers. What is even more interesting for Kevin Na, Matt Kuchar, and Rickie Fowler is what a victory today could mean for their immediate future on the PGA Tour.
Kevin Na has been a winner on tour in the past -- notably at last year's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open -- but hasn't had much luck prior to or since that victory in 2011. Na is perhaps better known for his characteristically-slow playing style, which has made him the butt of many jokes and the scorn of tournament officials and playing partners. Then, of course, there was that time when he had some tree trouble in San Antonio. A win for him this week at The Players Championship would erase the negative stigma often associated with Kevin Na, if at least for a little while.
Rickie Fowler is a young golfer on the rise in his professional career, and it couldn't have come at a better time. Like Na, Fowler had also been associated with negativity for his inability to finish golf tournaments, often succumbing to the pressure of a final round. At last week's Wells Fargo Championship, however, Fowler finally silenced his critics by capturing his first professional tour victory while defeating The Next Big Thing (Rory McIlory) head-to-head in a playoff on Sunday. Was last week simply a fluke for the brightly-colored Fowler? A win this week at the TPC Sawgrass would answer yet another question.
And then there is the crafty veteran Matt Kuchar, who at one point was the young-golfer-all-abuzz not too long ago. Commonly known as Mr. Nice Guy on tour by his fellow competitors and fans alike, Kuchar has seemingly paid his dues and continues to place himself in contention at the world's biggest tournaments. With three PGA Tour wins since turning professional in 2000, Kuchar still searches for that career-defining moment with a victory at one of the season's biggest events, if not a major. While this tournament is no Masters or U.S. Open contest, winning the Players would still serve as the moment he -- and his fans -- have patiently been waiting for.
Fowler tees off this afternoon at 2:34 p.m. EST just before the final pairing of Na and Kuchar, set to go at 2:45 p.m. EST.