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Rob Lee previews The Players Championship

Rob Lee - Rob Lee Posted 7th May 2014 view comments

I really love watching The PLAYERS Championship.

Some may refer to it as the fifth major but I'm very traditional in that sense. Things should stay the way they are with four majors. Everyone understands that and the records stack up.

The PLAYERS used to be the first biggy of the season. Until 2007 the tournament was held in March, two weeks before you went to Augusta, but now it's after the Masters and after the WGC Match Play in Tucson and also after the World Golf Champs in Doral. It has now almost become the prelude to the US Open; we're not far away from Pinehurst.

The 17th at Sawgrass: just get it on the green!

The 17th at Sawgrass: just get it on the green!

Despite losing its spot it's a still a great tournament with a terrific field and most all, it's fantastic viewing.

The course itself, and the competition around it is great. It has a phenomenal finish with arguably one of the greatest stretches of golf in the world. The last few holes are absolutely brilliant and literally anything can happen.

LIVE ON SKY SPORTS

The PLAYERS Championship\n
6pm, Thu, Sky Sports 4
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6pm, Fri, Sky Sports 4
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5.30pm, Sat, Sky Sports 4
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5.30pm, Sun, Sky Sports 4

The island at the 17th is a famous site and one of the most dangerous in golf but whether it causes trouble depends on how soft the green is. If the green is firm and they get that pin up the back you'll see balls landing and bouncing straight in to the water over the back.

If that happens it comes at a terrible time in your round. You want to finish off nicely, you've just birdied 16, you get to 17 with four or five thousand people on that bank watching you and trust me, they're not hoping that you hit a bad shot - they're hoping that you dunk it in the water.

It's like gallows humour on the left hand side of 17. It's a short hole but is one that you know is a card wrecker because there are only two options: you're either on the green - you might find that little pot bunker that's about the size of an eyeball - or you're in the water.

It's green or water. It's a simple equation you've got to get right but that's not always easy.

This golf course at Sawgrass isn't particularly long. The shorter hitters can do well and the guys who hit it a long way just need to position themselves around. Everyone gets a chance here.

That's why the tournament has produced quite a large variety of winners over the years: top world stars and littler-known stars as well - it's very open.

No rush

Current PLAYERS champion, Tiger Woods, will be missing this year after back surgery and could be absent from the US Open and The Open; first I heard Tiger was taking the summer off, then I heard he might be coming back in the summer, we just don't know yet.

Canadian Graham DeLaet had the same operation as Tiger and it took him a year to get back to the point where he could start competing again.

I'm pretty sure Tiger is going to be careful with this. A back operation is pretty serious and he's not going to want to rush back and exasperate what's already an issue for him. He's not going to hurry back, not fully fit, to play in a couple of majors this summer.

I'm not expecting to see Tiger until the autumn.

Of course that means he may not be selected for this September's Ryder Cup, but to be honest, that just takes away a problem for Tom Watson.

He can't pick Tiger if he hasn't played enough. The 'Tiger issue' has been the problem for the American side - who is going to partner Tiger? It's there like the elephant in the room. Who can play with him and make him tick.

They haven't really found the right answer to that and maybe this year Tom Watson won't have the problem.


ROB'S SKY BET TIPS

I thought Lee Westwood would do very well at Quail Hollow last weekend because he'd won in Malaysia, had all his confidence back, was going across and playing well on a course that demanded you to control your golf ball and yet it didn't happen. But I think that was a blip and Westwood will play well this week. I'm backing him at 33/1.

The European Tour heads to Madeira this week. This is a weaker tournament for the tour and it's co-sanctioned with the Challenge Tour. It gives the winner of the tournament a chance to either get straight on to the main tour with a winners category, or somebody to enhance where they already are. Madeira is a great opportunity for somebody on the comeback trail particularly and that's why I'm going for Ollie Fisher at 16/1.

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