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Mickelson’s shot at #1 and a preview of The PLAYERS

May 5th, 2010 · 3 Comments

I woke up from the hangover following Phil Mickelson’s astounding win and Rory McIlroy’s breathtaking performance at Quail Hollow to discover that this is, indeed, the week of THE PLAYERS.

First things first. THE PLAYERS is not the fifth major as everyone knows by now, and nothing that Ponte Vedra does will ever make it so. And so, ironically, an event that wanted to be famous for being a major is now famous for not being one. If you wish to read further about its non-majorness, I refer you to my columns in 2008 and 2009.

Tiger vs. Phil failed to materialize at Quail Hollow as golf’s top 2 ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum, Woods missing the cut, and Mickelson finishing solo second. But what did take place was a narrowing of the gap between first and second in the WGR. Mickelson, at 9.66, now trails Woods, at 11.17, by only 1.51 points. If he wins this week, those 80 big points would add about 1.85 or so to his average, elevating him to about 11.51.

To maintain his position at the top Woods, by my calculations, would have to finish solo seventh or better. Considering his play last week and his track record at Sawgrass (he has only two top eights in 12 tries), it is unlikely that Woods’ will remain at the top should Mickelson win his second PLAYERS. The problem is that Mickelson has only three top eights in 16 appearances at Sawgrass.

All eyes will be focused on Rory McIlroy, who celebrated his 20th birthday last year by missing the cut in his inaugural PLAYERS with rounds of 74-77. I would not expect a repeat as he is coming off a win and should be full of confidence. He tends to have streaks lasting 2-3 months where he plays very well or very poorly. His victory at Quail Hollow followed a horrible four tournament stretch (40t, 65t, MC, MC), so maybe he’s off on another run, such as the one at the end of 2009 that produced these results: 5t, 4, 2, 3, WD, 3, 6t.

The professional oddsmakers at Ladbrokes have Woods at 7/1, the longest odds I can ever remember seeing for the player who has historically won about one in every 3-4 starts, with seasons where the ratio was much better. So, if you are a Woods fan, think he can bounceback from last week’s debacle, and are convinced he can handle Sawgrass as he did in 2000-01 when he finished 2-1, then this is your chance for a decent payday.

The second favorite is Mickelson, who is listed at 8/1. After winning The PLAYERS in 2007 shortly after pairing up with Butch Harmon, he’s gone 21t and 55t in the last two, not once breaking 70 in eight rounds. But, based on his last two starts (W, 2) and his win in ’07, he seems like a good bet.

Recent winners McIlroy, Ernie Els, and Jim Furyk are all listed at 20/1. Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, and Ian Poulter, all from Europe, are next at 25/1. Henrik Stenson, who has been all but invisible this season, is listed at 40/1. At these odds, I recommend that you consult your gut and pick one or two.

I could spend untold hours handicapping the rest of the field, the end product being a form chart that’s a little better than throwing darts at a dartboard. But hey, this is not a major, so why bother?

Tags: PGA Tour


3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cam // May 6, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Woods will struggle again this week. I think the only reason he did so well at the Masters is because he loves the course and its a tournament he has had success at, more than once.
    While his play last week was a shock and I thought he would make the cut, I didnt think he would be able to match his Masters result.
    This week, playing an event where his record isn’t flash (by Tiger standards), I don’t think we should expect anything great.
    I think Phil is the safe bet this week, although with the opportunity to take the number 1 ranking going through his mind, it’s just as likely he will screw it up like he usually does when everyone expects him to do well.
    Whatever happens, it’s gonna be great to watch. Looking forward to it.

  • 2 BD // May 6, 2010 at 5:52 am

    I share the skepticism over the odds given on Tiger’s winning this thing. If I had to bet $50 on either Phil or Tiger, I’d definitely take Phil this week.

    As for the PLAYER’S — do we have to capitalize it? — not being a major, it seems like this topic gets a lot more discussion than it really deserves. Does anybody really, seriously consider it a major? It’s sort of like calling Washington D.C. a state. As much as you may want it to be, it just ain’t. It also seems like it would be impractical to designate it as a major anytime in the future. If you did it retroactively, career majors totals would be affected. Even if you did it only prospectively, it would mean there would be 5 majors, making it easier for players in the future to pile up major wins. If you substituted it for the PGA, you would suddenly have half of the majors being contested on the same two courses every year.

    None of the foregoing is exactly a novel insight, which is sort of the point. The whole discussion has been played out over and over and it seems to me that the people arguing in favor of treating the Players’ as a major are mainly just interested in having the debate, not in actually changing the lineup of majors.

  • 3 Phil // May 6, 2010 at 7:01 am

    BD, agree on the all caps issue. I disabled my caps lock, so it is a pain to type in PLAYERS – its as if the tour is shouting out for major status. In addition to your arguments is another biggie – having too majors within 150 miles a travesty to fans who might want to watch one live. Interesting point about debating its status. This one should have died out long ago.

    Cam – Good observation – will the chance to become #1 be Phil’s undoing? He certainly did nothing with his big chance in the second half of 2008. As always, with Phil, who knows?

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