As The Players tees off today at TPC Sawgrass, the absence of Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy from the field "has raised some questions about the tournament’s relevance on the world stage," according to Mark Cannizzaro of the N.Y. POST. Westwood, the No. 1 player in the world, and McIlroy, ranked No. 6, "both chose not to play in this event -- a preposterous notion only a couple of years back that anyone in the world’s top 10 would skip it." Forty-four of the top 50 ranked players are in this year's field, "about the same number as in the previous 12 years, though two of the top six never have been absent." Golfer Graeme McDowell said, "For an event of this prestige to not have the world’s best player here is disappointing. You expect the world’s best players to be here. But guys have got to do what’s best for them. It’s a bit of a selfish sport sometimes." Chubby Chandler, who reps both McIlroy and Westwood, said, "There is absolutely no vendetta or ill feeling toward the PGA Tour from either Lee or Rory. With Rory, his reason for not being here is very straightforward -- he doesn’t like the course. It doesn’t fit his eye." Chandler called Westwood's absence a "scheduling" issue (N.Y. POST, 5/12). NBC analyst Johnny Miller said, "They should be here. It's a statement ... I'm not sure what the statement is." ESPN.com's Bob Harig writes given that neither Westwood nor McIlroy is a PGA Tour member, "it is hard to blame them." Still, it "says something about all the riches and opportunities in today's golf world that anyone eligible would skip this tournament" (ESPN.com, 5/12).
MAY I? GOLFCHANNEL.com's John Feinstein wrote the PGA Tour shifting The Players from March to May in '07 was "a bad idea." The weather is "almost always hot and humid in north Florida in May." Last year, the crowds "looked sparse compared with the old days in March when snowbirds were still around and others came down to combine spring training trips with a couple days of watching golf." Feinstein: "The March date was better. Sure, it rained sometimes, but overall it was cooler and more comfortable for everyone. It fit right in at the end of the Florida Swing on Tour" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 5/10). Chandler said, "I think when it was played at the end of March it was getting to be the fifth major. They've moved it to the middle of May and that has made it about the 10th most important tournament in the world. It doesn't have a place and it doesn't fit into people's schedules and the build-up to the Masters isn't there now" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/12).
HEADING IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION: In DC, Barry Svrluga writes, "Here at the PGA Tour’s signature event -- held on the course alongside tour headquarters, with the island green at the par-3 17th providing a trademark stage -- golf is searching for its footing." Eighteen different golfers have won the PGA Tour's 20 events this season, and the "old favorites can't be counted on." Tour officials may argue that the "new breed is deep enough and good enough that, as a whole, it’s collectively catching" Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson said, "We’ve got to create more and more good young stars. Look what Rory McIlroy has done for the game of golf." Still, Svrluga notes other "would-be stars have made little impact this season." Dustin Johnson has yet to win this season, Anthony Kim "is still recovering from injuries" and McDowell, last year's U.S. Open champion, "hasn't finished better than 42nd in almost two months" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/12).