Money is not the only thing at stake at the Players Championship Sunday. Aside from the $A8.9 million prize money, golf’s number one ranking is also at stake which is why it will be a very challenging game for Phil Mickelson, Martin Kaymer and Luke Donald.
There are 156 players who will vie for the $A1.6 million top price at Florida’s 7,220-yared TPC in Sawgrass but rising star Rory Mcllroy and world No. 1 Lee Westwood will not be in the field, opening the door for second-ranked Kaymer of Germany, third-ranked Donald and fourth-ranked Mickelsobn.
“It’s certainly what everybody strives for, but it’s not really something that’s on the forefront of anybody’s mind,” Mickelson said.
“The most important thing is to win tournaments and compete in a tournament like this week, play against the best players. There’s a lot more satisfaction over beating the best players in the world on a challenging test like this than there is to say you’re ranked X on the world rankings.”
Not having Mcllroy and Westwood was a bid of a disappointment for Donald.
“Any time you don’t have the No 1 ranked player it’s going to weaken the field,” Donald said. “But it’s still an extremely strong event.
“I know Lee has played here a few times but he just doesn’t feel it suits his game very well. So why play an event when you don’t feel like you’re going to get to it having a chance to win or feel comfortable in it?”
Donald missed out on the world’s top ranking despite winning last February’s World Golf Championships Match Play crown after losing a playoff at the Heritage.
“Being No. 1 isn’t really a goal of mine,” Donald said. “That’s really just an outcome of going through the right processes and hopefully the results coming. If I pick up the trophy, then great, it’s one of the spoils. But it’s certainly nothing I’m really concentrating on.”
Fifth-ranked Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, who will defend by next month his US Open title, said the top spot is a reachable goal for him considering that perennial top Tiger Woods is now down to the eight spot.
“I think it’s a very prestigious title to be the No. 1 golfer in the world,” McDowell said. “It’s something that hasn’t been very achievable so far in my career with the Tiger Woods era, with his domination of the world rankings and the amount of daylight that he put between 1 and 2.
“It’s tough to see him ever having a lean period perhaps like he’s having right now. But he’s had that lean spell for a couple years and given us all a chance to get up there now. It felt unachievable.
“I think things have changed. It’s a very achievable target for me. If I can even get to 75 percent of the form I had this time last year over the summer, it’s certainly an achievable goal for me.”
And despite the younger generation contending for the crown, Mickelson is also positive about the opportunity to bag the top spot.
“I see some things in my game that are starting to get better and better,” Mickelson said. “I really know what it is I’m trying to do on the greens now. I’m rolling the ball better than I ever have in years. My short game has been sharp. My driving has been much better and I’m excited about this week.
“I welcome the challenge and think that there’s a lot of opportunity for me to still have a lot of success here.”