It's a full-time look ahead this week, as we tee it up at the unofficial fifth major, the Players Championship. Rather than give you the obvious picks, I'll offer five players I like more than the consensus and five I like less than consensus entering Thursday's start.
Jim Furyk: He wasn't on top of his game last week, but a T26 check isn't the worst thing in the world, and that came on the heels of four consecutive six-figure paydays. Now Furyk goes to an event that suits his game perfectly - target golf, and on a course he's played as much as anyone (he's a Ponte Vedra resident). He's bagged three Top-5 finishes at this tournament, and he's only missed the cut here three times in 17 starts. I fully expect Furyk to be a four-day story this week.
Jason Dufner: It all comes down to the putter because he's a fantastic ball striker (seventh in total driving, 30th in GIR), with an eye toward accuracy over power. Everyone knows the hardest victory on the PGA Tour is the first, and Dufner has that out of the way, finally. On an emotional high following the New Orleans win and his wedding the next weekend, I'm picking Dufner for a Top-15 check at Sawgrass.
Ernie Els: He's been in the Top 10 four times at the TPC, and I like how he's been playing for most of this season (putter included). I also like Els off a break, as he didn't play last week at Quail Hollow. He's only had one bad showing since mid February; this is going to be a fun renaissance season.
Peter Hanson: We don't see too much of the classy Swede this side of the pond, but he means business when he makes the trip: Hanson finished T5 at the Match Play, T4 at the Cadillac and T3 at the Masters. He's been a quick study at Sawgrass, cracking the Top 20 last season. He might be the world class player the golfing fandom knows the least about. That's going to change very soon.
Ben Curtis: This hasn't been his favorite track over the years, but I have to keep rolling with the hot hand: Curtis shocked the world with a win in San Antonio, and he's validated it with two more strong finishes (T13, T5). Sawgrass is more of a position course, not a power course, and that certainly helps Curtis.
Tiger Woods: He's made it clear that he hates Sawgrass, and his recent results here show it. He's only finished in the Top 10 here once in nine years, and he didn't even complete the tournament in 2010 or 2011, logging WDs each season. Woods still doesn't fully trust his swing rebuild, and he's been a spotty putter all season. I'd be shocked if it magically came together at an event he doesn't really want to be playing in.
Adam Scott: Normally you'd gravitate to his name, given that Scott won this event in 2004 and made a deep run last season. But he hasn't played much in 2012, and I'm not going to be mystified by the Sunday 66 he shot at Augusta, a round that came outside the pressure of real contention. I'll be surprised if Scott finishes the weekend in the Top 25.
K.J. Choi: He captured the 2011 TPC title, the crowning moment in his surprising career year, but keep in mind Choi never cracked the Top 15 at Sawgrass prior to last season's trophy hoist. He's been nothing special in 2012: seven cuts made, 81st on the money list. Never chase a player off an outlier season, especially when it comes in the second half of his career arc.
John Huh: It's been a wonderful rookie breakout, but this is the wrong course for a fresh player to contend at without background knowledge. No first timers play for me this week. Same goes for Kyle Stanley and Cameron Tringale.
Mark Wilson: The setup of this course should be his best friend - Fred Funk won here, after all, and Wilson has the same skill-set - but something has been off with Wilson's game since his January victory. He had a nice run at the Match Play, but that's been it - nothing better than T24 since.