Nick Dougherty: Why Tiger Woods can impress again at The Players


Nick Dougherty discusses what makes the Players Championship so special and explains why Tiger Woods has a great chance of a third TPC Sawgrass victory.

The Players is built as the ‘fifth major’ and the event that, outside of the majors, the players all really want to win. The players think so highly of the tournament and for me it probably sits alongside, if not higher, than the World Golf Championships.

Having said that, I think the four majors are super special in their own right and to add to that number would take away from them, because all of a sudden you will have more events.

If you start adding more majors then it’s going to be hard for players to compete in all of them, as the players’ seasons and schedules are already choc-a-block with the way the game is currently going.

Each major has a character it has earnt over the years and The Players does too, although I think the fact it’s the flagship event for the PGA Tour is credit enough to the tournament.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s one the players really want to say they’ve won. It’s the players’ tournament and at the home of the PGA Tour, so I just think that in its own right that gives it enough of a special meaning without having to upgrade it.

Sawgrass is one of those courses that captures the imagination and is a great test for the players, with the final three holes in particular offering so much drama.

The 16th is a great eagle opportunity but water is in play with the second shot, we’ve seen some horrendous numbers in the past at the 17th over the years, then the 18th is a terrifying tee shot and really difficult to find the fairway,

When you go there or watch tournaments from there, a little bit like Augusta National, some of the holes jump out at you and are recognisable because you’ve seen so many great shots and moments on them over the years.

The move to March will mean the course will play a little longer and leave slightly longer irons into the greens, while it will be cooler than when it was previously held in May. It will still be about the ball-striking though, as you’ve got to keep the ball in play and find the short grass to give yourself the best chance.

The vast majority of top players have put their name on the trophy through the years, including the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, although Si Woo Kim and Craig Perks are among those to show it can be won by those you wouldn’t necessarily have expect.

The usual suspects are likely to contend here because of the fact that length will be a little more of an asset than in the past, which suits the likes of Rickie Fowler – a former champion here – and Dustin Johnson, who is flying high after his performance in Mexico and is going to be very tough to beat.

Tommy Fleetwood could do well given how nicely he played at Bay Hill last week, while Justin Rose had a little bit of rust in his game in Orlando but has said to us himself that he believes he will be firing on all cylinders come the weekend of The Players.

The big one I’m interested in this week is Tiger, because if he gets the ball in play off the tee then he will have a chance of winning. The driver hasn’t been hot of late and he drove it poorly in Mexico, but he has got a great record at Sawgrass and the rest of his game is so good.

He is starting to putt better, his short game is electric and is iron play is stupendous. He had to withdraw last week with a neck strain so he’ll be fresh coming in and I have no doubts that, if he hits the fairways, he could very well be the man.

Watch the Players Championship throughout the week live on Sky Sports’ dedicated channel – Sky Sports The Players.

(c) Sky News 2019: Nick Dougherty: Why Tiger Woods can impress again at The Players

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