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TPC Sawgrass Preview

   by ASA - 05/07/2008

The Players Championship at Sawgrass, highlighted by the historic 17th Hole, takes center stage on the PGA Tour this weekend. The par-3 17th is one of the most famous holes in golf, both because of its island-like setting and its affect on the outcome. There are few, if any, holes that bring more anxiety to golfers than this one. How it is played could go a long way toward determining the winner.

Here are a few more tidbits on No. 17 as well as more news and notes from around the Tour:

The TPC at Sawgrass has had 26 winners. Of those 26 winners, only two have made a bogey on the 17th on Sunday. It’s the hole that could be the difference between winning the crown or slicing it into the pond.

Only one European player has ever taken first at THE PLAYERS in 34 years. That doesn’t bode well for the 21 Europeans in the field this weekend. This contingent consists of Padraig Harrington (+1500), Sergio Garcia (+2500), Luke Donald (+4000), Justin Rose (+5500) and Jose Maria Olazabal (+12500). Also teeing it up will be Bernhard Langar, Jesper Parnevik and Lee Westwood.

The TPC has a history of bringing out the best. Every golfer who has won since the start of the 2007 season, with the exception of the sidelined Tiger Woods, will be competing this weekend. Overall, the field consists of 101 golfers who have won on the PGA Tour.

Phil Mickelson (+650) is the favorite to win this weekend but, based on history, will have his work cut out for himself. Mickelson held off a late Sergio Garcia rally to finish 11-under and win last year’s TPC by two strokes. That finish will work against him this year as no player has ever won back-to-back Players Championships.

The young guns of the PGA Tour have started to spread their wings over recent tournaments. Eight tournaments have been won by golfers under 30 years old, including four of the last five. Johnson Wagner, 28, won the Shell Houston Open in early April. Trevor Immelman, 28, won the Masters. Adam Scott, 27, won the Byron Nelson two weeks ago. And Anthony Kim, 22, won the Wachovia last week and is the youngest golfer in the field this weekend.

Two of the weekly prohibitive favorites will be playing on their home courses. Jim Furyk (+1200) and Vijay Singh (+1500) both reside in Ponte Verda Beach, Fla., the home of the TPC at Sawgrass. Neither player has been able to use this home-course edge to their advantage, though, as Singh’s best finish is second in 2001 and Furyk’s is a tie for third in 2006.

Australians are perhaps the biggest threat to the Americans to take home the title. Adam Scott won the title in 2004 and has fellow Aussies Robert Allenby, Geoff Ogilvy and Jon Senden providing support. Six total Australia natives finished in the top 25 last week at the Wachovia.

The TPC figures to be a hotly contested, wipe open tournament. There are numerous quality options out there for your betting pleasure. One thing is for sure: Be sure to tune in late Sunday to catch the havoc the 17th Hole could have on the leaderboard.

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