Westwood, McIlroy choose to skip TPC

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Jeff Shain
Thursday, May 12, 2011
— For the first time, The Players Championship is missing two of the top 10 players in the world rankings.

Whether that hurts the “fifth major” or absentees Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy is up for debate. Not surprisingly, most of the support on this side of the Atlantic lies with the tournament.

“Everyone has got their own personal deal,” Phil Mickelson said. “I disagree with their thought process.”

Asked how their absence impacts the week, Mickelson was blunt: “I don’t think it does.”

If that was a withering response, consider the triple-barreled offensive launched by NBC and Golf Channel analysts.

“It’s sort of an affront to the championship,” NBC analyst Johnny Miller said.

Said Roger Maltbie: “The measure of greatness is to play against the best competition possible. Well, they’re here—except for a couple of guys who decided not to be here. I think it was a mistake on their part, on a lot of levels.”

Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee noted both golfers are managed by Chubby Chandler and wondered about a hidden agenda.

“I’m not sure what kind of power play is being enforced,” he said, “but I think it’s to the detriment of both players. Lee Westwood would be the favorite here by a mile—if he were here.”

Too hard?

Maybe it’s reverse psychology. Bubba Watson has two wins this year and may be the PGA Tour’s hottest player, but he isn’t coming to TPC Sawgrass with the brightest outlook.

“The golf course is too hard for me,” said Watson, whose win two weeks ago in New Orleans followed a January triumph in San Diego.

The Panhandle native has made the cut just once in four tries, coming two years ago after an opening 67. In nine other rounds on the Stadium Course, he’s broken par just once.

Watson is so intimidated, in fact, that he didn’t play a practice round this week—limiting his activity to the practice range and putting green.

“I’m trying to not play it that much, to not think about how tough it is for me,” he said. “I’ve just got to man up and figure out how to play it.

-- Edgerton native Steve Stricker is entered and will tee off at 12:28 p.m. today with Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and Hunter Mahan.

Last updated: 5:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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