The 2011 Players Championship tees off tomorrow at the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, and Nike Golf’s Athletes will be vying for the crystal trophy that represents the PGA Tour’s unofficial “5th major”. Four of Nike’s current Athletes are past champions of the event: Lanny Wadkins (1979), Justin Leonard (1998), Tiger Woods (2001) and Stephen Ames (2006). There are 11 Nike Athletes in this year’s field:
All of these Nike Athletes have a chance to win this week, but from this list I am choosing five who I think have the best shot at the title of 2011 Players Champion and why:
Stewart missed the cut at last year’s Players, and finished T76 in 2009 and T21 in 2008. But Stewart posted at T9 finish last week at Quail Hollow, he’s been striking the ball well and maybe it’s more of a hunch than anything, but I feel like Stewart is due for a breakout win this week.
Lucas is last week’s Wells Fargo Championship winner and he finished third in last year’s Players. His Method 003 is hot, and if he can ride the momentum from Quail Hollow and have his ball striking and putting dialed in like last week, we could see him very high on the leaderboard on Sunday.
Francesco finished 9th in last year’s Player’s Championship and T3 in the WGC Cadillac Championship back in March. Francesco has a knack for playing well in elite field events (barring his 50th place finish in The Masters last month), and I expect him to challenge for the title this week at TPC Sawgrass.
Charl missed the cut at last year’s Players, but his breakout major win at The Masters last month shows he can compete and win against a world-class field. He started the 2011 European Tour season with five straight top 10 finishes including a win at the Joburg Open, and he finished 11th in his last event at the Maybank Malaysian Open. Charl is playing the best golf of his young career in 2011, and look for his stellar play to continue this week.
Tiger withdrew from last year’s Players Championship with a neck injury, and health issues again look to be a factor for him at this year’s Players. Your 2001 Players Champion is teeing it up this week on a questionable knee, and I feel this will be a critical factor in his success in this year’s tournament. His swing is so very close to bringing him back into the winner’s circle, and his Sunday performance at the Masters, where he challenged for the lead and ultimately finished fourth on that same questionable knee, is testament to the heart of this competitor, professional golf’s ultimate champion. Tiger has come to Ponte Vedra Beach with one thing in mind: winning the event. If his knee does not hamper his performance this week, look for Tiger to challenge for his second Players Championship trophy.
We’ll have to wait until Sunday afternoon to see who will be hoisting the coveted Players Championship crystal trophy, but we’ll be rooting for the Nike Athletes to bring home another win for the Swoosh in 2011!