There's a very good chance that Tiger Woods loses his spot as the No. 1 player in the world this week at the Players Championship. The defending champ would have been the favorite at TPC Sawgrass if not for the back surgery that will have him on the shelf for most of the season. Tiger's always the favorite, in everything he enters, because the oddsmakers know how much money rushes towards the singular superstar of the game.
But with Tiger still out and in jeopardy of losing his perch in the rankings, it's his Nike stablemate, Rory McIlroy, who will likely start the tournament as the favorite to win golf's fifth major. McIlroy began the Masters as a co-favorite with Adam Scott, a position he quickly relinquished to Scott after an underwhelming start at Augusta.
The Players Championship
The Players Championship
There's a lot of discussion about the ascendant group of players 30 and younger, a super-talented set who's taking over the game as Tiger and Phil approach the sunset of their careers. Most of the time, all the names are grouped together and listed off to emphasize just how much young talent is on Tour right now. But there's one player who is clearly better than all the others and has separated himself, and that's McIlroy. There are a lot of marketable young players, but Rory, with two majors already in tow, has the most talent, most promise, and the best shot at becoming the dominant player of the next generation.
Now he just needs to start winning again. He's having a good season, back contending regularly after the dismal 2013 year. But he's got a pretty shaky track record on this Pete Dye course and has struggled to put four solid rounds together all year, especially up on the greens. His putting has let him down on several occasions, and he's working with Dave Stockton on tweaking his stroke to try and find something consistent and reliable. Between the PGA and Euro Tours, he should have at least one win, and probably two this year. A win would cement his status as the favorite at every upcoming major without Tiger, and with Tour struggling to get any momentum, it's time for the game's next superstar to come through.
Just behind Rory is Scott, who can actually take over that No. 1 spot after repeated failed attempts through the first quarter of the year. We haven't seen Scott since the Masters, and his form over the past 12 months suggests that he should be on or near the first page of the leaderboard throughout the weekend. It was at this venue where he first broke out, winning as a fresh-faced 23-year-old a decade ago. After that, we thought we'd see at least one major title from the Aussie well before he was 30, but he lost his game for a bit and also squandered chances when he had them at the majors. Now he's on the edge of becoming the top player in the world, and it will be shocking if he doesn't make a run at a second Players title.
Adam Scott/Photo credit: Rob Carr
Of the top eight guys favored by the oddsmakers, only Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson are Americans. There are 93 (of 144) players from the USA playing this week, but it's an event that draws the best in the world and clearly there's a lot of European power in Ponte Vedra. Masters champ Bubba Watson is a little farther down the board than expected, coming in at 28/1. Bubba said on Tuesday that this course does not suit his eye, and as a player who relies solely on shot shape and that eye, he's probably not a great option this week.
Here are the odds for this year's field, via Bovada:
|Brendon De Jonge||100/1|
|Bo Van Pelt||125/1|
|Charles Howell III||125/1|
|Ted Potter Jr.||350/1|