Friday, June 27, 2008

5 players to watch while Tiger's away

With Tiger Woods’ participation in the PGA Tour reduced to commercial breaks for the remainder of this season, the question becomes what happens now?

What, the Travelers Championship doesn’t float your boat?

The PGA Tour will survive without Tiger for the next four months (remember, it essentially surrenders football season) though television ratings will probably be somewhere in the range of ‘JAG’ reruns.

Still, it’s an opportunity for someone else to take the stage, especially in the run-up to the Ryder Cup, which is great theater with or without Tiger.

Here are five players who can help themselves and the PGA Tour in Tiger’s absence:

It’s his stage now. He flamed out at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, but he’s still the brightest star in the universe while Tiger’s on the mend.

Lefty can carry the game if he plays well the rest of the summer. Don’t look for him to win the British Open, but perhaps the PGA and he’ll be a central character in the Ryder Cup.

It’s time for him to win a major and maybe fate pays him back at the British Open at Birkdale. His win at The Players was enormous for him, and he hung in there at the U.S. Open after a terrible start.

He has become a solid player who will probably be on the Ryder Cup team, just for him media center visits if nothing else. He’s likeable and he’s different enough that if he can win again, fans will notice.

I have the sense he’s the real deal. He idolizes Tom Watson and, while it’s way too soon to say he’s this generation’s Watson, he has similar characteristics. There’s an energy about Snedeker that gives off good vibes and people got to know him a little with his Masters experience.

He proved with his victory at the Masters that he’s an elite player. Now he has the chance to make himself a bigger star. He’s a sharp guy with a ton of talent and enough appeal to make people care. Another big win this summer would be huge for Immelman.


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