Rivals to ignore Tiger factor
Tiger Woods' rivals insist his absence will have no bearing on their preparations for the Players Championship.
Last Updated: 07/05/08 6:02pm
Tiger Woods will sit out this week's Players Championship because of recent knee surgery but, while his absence may affect the media buzz surrounding the tournament, his rivals are at pains to insist it will not affect their preparations.
The world number one, who won the event at Sawgrass in 2001, went under the knife for surgery to his left knee after the Masters in a bid to resolve the soreness from which he had been suffering.
It is unclear exactly when Woods will return although he looks certain to be back in action in time for the US Open at Torrey Pines next month.
Many regard his absence inevitably as a boost for the rest of the field, but his peers claim their thoughts and plans remain unchanged.
"It wasn't a topic of conversation in the round of golf that we played today," defending champion and world number two Phil Mickelson stated on Tuesday.
Open champion Padraig Harrington, who will lead the European challenge at Ponte Vedra Beach concurred, adding: "It doesn't change my approach. I've got to play my own game.
"If it comes down to it on Sunday and you're playing the 18th hole and you're a shot behind or a shot ahead, it doesn't really make any difference who's on the other side of the tee.
"It's going to be just as hard to beat that player as anybody else because if they're there, they're probably playing the best golf of their life."
World number seven Jim Furyk continued: "I don't think we look at this event and say, 'He's not here, now I have a better chance of winning.'
"You worry about yourself and your own game and getting yourself ready. I'm not really looking at the field.
"I'm thinking about what the golf course plays like and what I will have to do to get my game in shape to play this golf course. That's kind of the same every week."
However, Furyk did concede that public and media interest in the event was likely to dwindle with Woods on the sidelines.
"The best player in the world, he creates a buzz, a stir (when he plays). There will be less people and media around and it will be tougher for the (television) producer to figure out who he's going to follow," he said.
"Him being here or not being here doesn't really affect the rest of us or how we prepare, but it affects on a broader scale, television, how our viewers and fans look at the golf tournament because they want to see Tiger in the field."