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Tiger Woods: Fragile favorite at The Players Championship

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods Credit: Getty Images

The Players Championship starts Thursday, and once again Tiger Woods seems to be on everybody’s lips. Amazing what a name can do.

Despite the fact that other players are having a much better year than the No. 8-ranked Woods, many still consider him the front-runner at TPC Sawgrass. Maybe it’s because top-ranked golfer Lee Westwood won’t be in the field and the rest simply don’t have Woods’ pedigree. Still, the winner of 14 majors hasn’t exactly had a stellar run since his most recent PGA Tour win, pre-sex scandal, at the BMW in 2009.

He has won the Players — many call it the fifth major — only once, in 2002.

Most recently, there was an outstanding — but still losing — fourth-place performance at the Masters, which Woods used to own. This will be his first outing since Woods injured his left knee in that tournament. Woods played an easy nine holes during Tuesday’s practice round and followed that up with nine on Wednesday, reporting that his knee and his surgically repaired Achilles tendon both felt fine.

Here are three top players who pose a threat to Woods:

No. 2 Martin Kaymer, 26, Germany
The reigning PGA champion’s performance has dropped off after a fast start with a win in Abu Dhabi. He missed the cut at the Masters, but his PGA win last August gives him the juice to contend here.

No. 3 Luke Donald, 33, England
Donald has been amazingly consistent, with top-10 finishes in his last 12 events, including a fourth-place finish at the Masters and a win at the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February.

No. 4 Phil Mickelson, 40, United States
He’s Professor Moriarty to Woods’ Sherlock Holmes. Always a threat at the big ones, Mickelson won the Houston Open, finished second in the Farmers Insurance Open, and tied for ninth in the Wells Fargo last week. He hasn’t missed a cut in his last 16 tourneys.

The Players Championship
TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Purse: $9.5 million (share for winner: $1.71 million)
Defending champion:
Tim Clark (South Africa)
On TV:
Today, 1-7 p.m. TGC
Tomorrow, 1-7 p.m. TGC
Sat., 2-7 p.m. NBC
Sun., 2-7 p.m. NBC

By the numbers: 69th
Tiger Woods’ rank on the PGA Tour money list this season, with $571,363 in five events. Woods tops golf’s all-time money list with $94,728,667.

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