The Players Championship…Who wins?…How hard is #17

May 10, 2007 | Drew Forrester

It seems weird that the 2007 Players Championship is set to begin tomorrow…in early May…for years, the event was held in late March, a few weeks before the Masters.  It was always looked upon as golf’s 5th major, but iffy weather and TV competition in the form of the NCAA basketball tournament made the Tour look to May as a recipe for improving the event.

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is one of the nation’s most well-known holes…mainly because amateurs love seeing pro’s hit a ball into the drink…and when the wind blows in Ponte Vedra Beach, FLA and the players get to that tee with a 145-yard shot, it becomes the most difficult par-3 tee-shot in all of golf.  And only from 145 or 150 yards.

Last year, 68 players made the 2-day cut and do you know how many of them played #17 in even-par for the four-day tournament?  Fourteen.  Yep, 54 of the 68 couldn’t play a 150-yard hole in even par four straight days.  That means #17 is one tough son-of-a-gun.

So who wins this year?  Tiger’s coming off a win in Charlotte and as much as he’s the favorite EVERY week in which he plays, I don’t see him winning this week.  Vijay lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and practices at Sawgrass when he’s home, but I don’t see him there on Sunday either.  Mickelson?  Nah.  Adam Scott, a previous winner?  Nope.

Let’s look at a couple of guys who could use a “big win” like this to solidify themselves as legit stars on Tour.  Here are five names for you.

> Rory Sabatini – played well last week in Charlotte and had a chance at The Masters in April.  Tough, gritty competitor who likes the hard golf courses and the big events (even though he’s never won one).

> J.J. Henry – Ryder Cup rookie last year who can play with anyone on Tour when his putter is cooperating.  Fearless in an unpredictable kind of way…almost in the same mold as Fred Couples.

> Bubba Watson – He’s never won a PGA Tour event and logic tells you this won’t be the week, but when a guy can hit it as far as he hits it – and relatively straight – you never know when lightning can get lodged in that bottle.

> Ben Curtis – I don’t know why this name popped into my head, but it did.  Won twice last year – out of the blue – and seems to hang around and make a nuisance of himself at these kinds of events.  He won the British Open several years ago and had to show his Tour ID badge to get into the locker room on Sunday morning…that’s how obscure he was/is.

My pick to win this week:

Brett Wetterich – had a decent 36-hole run at The Masters and has been solid most of the season…doesn’t get a lot of respect from the players out on Tour because of his flat swing and sometimes-abrasive nature, but a win at Sawgrass will cement him as legit with all of his peers, including Tiger.

Hit ’em straight –