The PLAYERS Championship 2014: Ten Dark Horses to Watch

The PLAYERS Championship Dark Horses

The PLAYERS Championship Rankings Dark Horse Preview
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The PLAYERS Championship is known as "golf's fifth major" for a reason. It boasts the richest payout and one of the toughest fields in the sport. Players who win this tournament are almost instantly considered to be among the elite.

Earlier, I covered the ten favorites for the week. Here, we'll go over some less-popular picks who could perform well at TPC Sawgrass.

10. Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker PLAYERS Championship
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10. Brandt Snedeker

Brandt Snedeker PLAYERS Championship

At some point, Snedeker has to turn things around. He’s only broken par for the week once in the last three months, but he did finish tied for eighth at Bay Hill, showing flashes of the player we know he can be. That said, his putting – among several other things – appears to have left him. If he gets it back, a strong PLAYERS showing isn’t out of the question.

9. Will MacKenzie

Will MacKenzie The PLAYERS Championship
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9. Will MacKenzie

Will MacKenzie The PLAYERS Championship

After running off three top-tens in four events, MacKenzie has missed his last three cuts, and has struggled just to break par. Still, ranked fifth in par-3 scoring and 29th in birdie average, he could get hot and make a run in his first appearance at Sawgrass since 2009.

8. Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama PLAYERS Championship
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8. Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama PLAYERS Championship

Matsuyama got his first full Tour season off to a solid start, but has hit some predictable bumps over the last several weeks. That said, he’s got experience with big-time fields, and he’s likely to bounce back into form sooner rather than later.

7. J.B. Holmes

JB Holmes PLAYERS Championship
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7. J.B. Holmes

JB Holmes PLAYERS Championship

Holmes has some history here, finishing T-6 in 2011 and T-13 in 2010. Injuries cost him most of his 2013 season, but he’s been on an upward trend all year, culminating in his victory at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. The PLAYERS boasts a tough field, but Holmes is playing as well as he has in years, and that could easily continue at TPC Sawgrass.

6. Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed The PLAYERS Championship
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6. Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed The PLAYERS Championship

For a guy who thinks he’s a top-five player in the world, this would be a great chance to back up that talk. Reed’s missed two cuts in four starts since he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and hasn’t been close to contention in two months. Still, he's shown the ability to perform up to tough competition, and he'll have another shot at it this week.

5. Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer The PLAYERS Championship
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5. Ryan Palmer

Ryan Palmer The PLAYERS Championship

Palmer doesn’t get the week-in and week-out press of many of the PGA Tour’s stars, but he’s got two top-tens in his last four starts, and finished a career-best fifth at Sawgrass last year. At the rate he hits greens and converts birdies, another run this year wouldn’t be a shocker.

4. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson PLAYERS Championship
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4. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson PLAYERS Championship

It’s tough to call the reigning Masters champion a dark horse, but even Watson himself admits that the track at Sawgrass doesn’t really suit his eye. Considering that so much of his success is based on just “seeing” the shot, that’s been problematic in the past. Then again, he’s playing some of the best golf of his career, so as usual, nothing is impossible for Bubba.

3. Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler The PLAYERS Championship
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3. Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler The PLAYERS Championship

Fowler’s in my dark horse book this week simply due to his unpredictability. His big week at the Masters was as impressive as his recent struggles have been surprising. If he’s going to make a run at Sawgrass, he must improve his work with the flatstick, as he ranks 170th in strokes gained putting and 106th in total putting.

2. Harris English

Harris English PLAYERS Championship
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2. Harris English

Harris English PLAYERS Championship

Sixth in the FedEx Cup ranking, English has been mostly steady, if unspectacular, for the last two months. That being said, he does have a win and six total top-ten finishes to his name this season. He’s made the cut in both his Sawgrass appearances, and could easily improve on that record this time around.

1. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson PLAYERS Championship
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1. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson PLAYERS Championship

One of the best players of the early season, Johnson hasn’t finished a tournament in almost two months. That said, he’s only played eight times this season and has five top ten finishes. If he remains healthy, there’s no reason why he can’t contend for golf’s “fifth major”.


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