PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida, (Reuters) – Golf fans are spoilt for choice with a plethora of mouthwatering storylines for this week’s Players Championship where Phil Mickelson has a chance to replace Tiger Woods as world number one.
While Mickelson could take over at the top for the first time, Woods will be aiming to bounce back from his woeful performance at last week’s Quail Hollow Championship where he missed the cut for only the sixth time as a professional.
In other intriguing scenarios, Britain’s Rory McIlroy will be seeking a second successive PGA Tour victory following his scintillating display at Quail Hollow and Swede Henrik Stenson will be defending the title he won by four shots last year.
Mickelson’s bid to reach the top of the world rankings has attracted most of the attention in the build-up to tomorrow’s opening round at the TPC Sawgrass, although the American left-hander prefers not to be distracted by the topic.
“It’s certainly something that I have been striving for but have not achieved yet, so it would mean a lot to me,” Masters champion Mickelson told reporters at Sawgrass yesterday.
“But for me to accomplish that, I can’t focus on that. I’ve got to go out and get ready to play this golf course because it’s not an easy challenge. I’ve got a lot of work ahead.”
The only way for four-times major winner Mickelson to take over at the top would be if he wins on Sunday and Woods finishes outside the top five.
Woods, who has been world number one for 258 consecutive weeks and for a total of 598 in his glittering career, was unfazed by the prospect of being dethroned.
“I’ve had it happen before,” the 14-times major champion said, referring to former world number ones David Duval and Fijian Vijay Singh.
“The whole idea to be No. 1 and continue being No. 1, you have to win tournaments and I haven’t done that in a while.”
Regaining consistency is a much more pressing concern for Woods who missed the cut last week after a surprisingly inept performance at Quail Hollow where he shot 74 and 79.