Sawgrass - Six to watch

Open race as Tiger misses traditional 'fifth major'

Last Updated: 06/05/08 12:24pm

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Mickelson: Defending champion

Mickelson: Defending champion

Sky Bet

While the cat's away the mice can play. With the world No 1 currently recuperating from surgery, this week's Players Championship in Florida becomes a 'Tiger Free Zone'.

Not that Tiger's record at TPC Sawgrass is anything special - by his standards. Just one victory in 11 attempts and no top-10 finishes from his last six starts.

But with golf's leading professionals not having to constantly look over their shoulders to check if a certain Tiger is on the prowl, this week's main challengers should all be able to sleep a little easier in Ponte Vedra.

However, with $1.62m up for grabs to the eventual champion, out of a total purse of $9m, it is still likely to be tense out there on the fairways of the PGA Tour's flagship venue.

So who can be expected to challenge at golf's 'fifth major'?

Jim Furyk: Time for one of the game's most under-rated players to step out of the shadows and secure his biggest title since the 2003 US Open. A brace of top-five finishes at Sawgrass during the past five years, plus a top-10 finish last week at Quail Hollow. Turns 38 next Monday and the Players Championship crown would make the perfect birthday present.

Padraig Harrington: Europe's top star has matured into a 'big match player' over the past year. Tied for fifth at Augusta last month and posted back-to-back runner-up finishes at Sawgrass earlier this decade.

Phil Mickelson: The defending champion tees-up in pretty good shape having finished just outside the top-10 in South Carolina last week. 'Leftie' could make history this week, if he becomes the first player in the tournament's 34-year existence to lift back-to-back titles.

Sean O'Hair: One of the game's emerging stars with Major possibilities. The 25-year-old led after 54 holes last year only to fall away on the final day. However, it was only his second appearance at Sawgrass and he showed his liking for a tough venue.

Adam Scott: A former champion at Ponte Vedra and a winner on both European and PGA Tours already this year. The Australian won the Byron Nelson Championship two weeks ago and posted another top-10 finish in South Carolina on Sunday.

Vijay Singh: Can the 45-year-old Fijian claim one of the few titles to have eluded him over the years? His best Sawgrass finish was second in 2001 - the year Tiger won.

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