Who’s going to win the Players? We asked guys who would know: K.J. Choi, Henrik Stenson, Ray Floyd and other past champs

May 8, 2014

We convened a special Players Confidential roundtable of former Players champions to talk about this year's tournament, make predictions share their memories. Special thanks to these gracious champions for their time. We hope you enjoy it.

1. Who is your pick to win this year’s Players Championship and why?

Fred Funk, 2005 Players champion: I'll go Adam Scott. He's good. And he's won there before. There's never any sub for length, but it's definitely a course that is more position than it is power.

Lee Janzen, 1995 Players champion: Zach Johnson. If I have to pick one. I look at guys who have a decent amount of good play leading up to event. It's a course that demands confident shot making. Good drivers too. Matt Kuchar is a good pick, too.

Ray Floyd, 1981 Players champion: Steve Stricker. He's a veteran and is playing well.

Stephen Ames, 2006 Players champion: Jordan Spieth. His game suits the course. He keeps his drives straight and is a strong iron player and putter.

K.J. Choi, 2011 Players champion: Phil Mickelson

Henrik Stenson, 2009 Players champion: I think we might see some of the young guns challenge for the win at TPC the same way as we did at the Masters, who will win is such a hard pick. Maybe Jordan wants some revenge from Augusta? But I would always back some of the old goats also.

Tim Clark, 2010 Players champion: Adam Scott, he's my pick every week, I expect him to play well and is in great form.

Justin Leonard, 1998 Players champion: Steve Stricker. He drives it great and putts great. He is due for a hot week.

2. Who is an under-the-radar player that you think will play well this year at TPC Sawgrass?

Stenson: My fellow Swede Jonas Blixt would be one guy to name, but I'm not sure how much the injury he sustained after the Masters will have affected his practice.

Clark: Charley Hoffman. He's finding some form, and I know he likes the golf course.

Janzen: Rickie Fowler may be a stretch for under the radar. How about Cameron Tringale or Erik Compton? Both are improving steadily.

Leonard: I think Ben Crane is going to play well next week. He has had some good weeks at TPC Sawgrass in the past.

Floyd: Jim Furyk

Choi: Jordan Spieth

Funk: I'm going to go Luke Donald. He's all position and has a heck of short game. 
Ames: Rickie Fowler

3. What’s your best and worst memory from playing No. 17?

Funk: I got the worst time easy. I was the group ahead of Tiger while he was on tee that Saturday and hit that "Better than most" putt. I had just five-putted from 12 feet, and Tiger witnessed that entire thing. I hit a really good tee shot and walked off with a six. He hit a shot that should have gone in the water, and instead, he makes two. That was unbelievable. I didn't see it, but I was on No. 18 when I heard a roar. I just said, "Really?" The year I won, I three-putted from the top down. Any time you hit that green was a good memory. The year I won, I birdied No. 16 and really remember that walk over to the 17th tee. That was really cool.

Stenson: The best memory I have was hitting the middle of the green with a four shot lead in 2009. Not so much pressure then. The worst must have been seeing Sean O'Hair hitting two shots in the water in 2007 when he was in the hunt. That is painful for anyone watching.

Clark: Worst memory: I do recall hitting two in the water there one year and making a 7. My best memory was being able to hit the green on Sunday when I won.

Leonard: My best memory is hitting the green on Sunday back in 1998. I have flushed any and all bad memories.

Ames: Worst: a double-bogey my rookie year. Best: I played it under-par ever since.

Janzen: One year I hit a good shot that landed just short of the top tier and spin back in the water. The drop circle was an even more difficult shot that year. My third hit at top of slope and came back down into the water again. I made 7 and went from good shape to missing the cut.

Choi: First birdie in my career career on the 17th last year and it was for the lead. No bad memories here.

4. Was the change in playoff format at the Players a good move or would you rather still see sudden-death at the 17th?

Clark: I think its a good move, it will offer a lot more excitement because the last three holes are all very good. And it will offer a more fair outcome for playoff.

Funk: I like going to three holes. I always thought they should have done some sort of aggregate. That will be really exciting if that happens this week. It's not a one-and-done deal. You have a lot of options on all of those holes. You can go for the green on No. 16, go for the pin on No. 17, then decide how aggressive you will be on No. 18. You hate for it to come down to one shot like when [Paul] Goydos hit it in the water.

Leonard: I like the new playoff format. It is much better to decide the Players Champion over three holes.

Choi: I liked the sudden-death beginning on the 17th.

Ames: Yes, it was a good move. Bringing the 17th back on TV makes for an exciting broadcast and captures a wider viewership.

Floyd: I like the change.

Stenson: If I play well enough to end up in a playoff I do not mind a three-hole shoot-out. More golf for the fans I guess!

Janzen: I like the multiple hole playoff. The Players has a chance to produce something amazing or heartbreaking.

5. If you could make one change to the course, what would it be?

Funk: I'd make a radical change on No. 9. Where the spectators stand and the big corporate tent area on the right? I'd run the fairway along that side to the water. I'd put the green on the edge of the lake and make it a risk-reward par-5 by running the entire hole down the water. I think that would be really neat. That way you could see both holes if you had spectator mounds on the left. I think it would be really cool. There's a big bunker down the right side of the tee box. It's one of the widest fairways right now. It's an awkward wedge shot into the green. It's not a bad hole now, but I think it would be more exciting and fit the dynamics of the course if they followed the water all the way down. It would be a radical change.

Floyd: Holes 1 and 2 would be a bit more difficult.

Stenson: I would change the 8th hole. It's the worst hole on the course. No one likes hitting 5-wood into par-3s.

Leonard: I would chop down the tree the guards the 16th green.

Ames: Change the 15th green! It is currently too severe for the firmness of the greens they have today, and it needs to be softened up.

Janzen: The only thing design wise I would do is extend the front left of 17th green a couple yards towards the tee. It would stop a ball from landing well into the green and spinning back into the water. This isn't a problem when the course is dry.

Choi: I would look at the 10th green and make the left side more curved in.

Clark: I'm not a huge fan of the par-3 13th green. It's a bit too severe and doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the golf course.

6. What's the Stadium Course's best hole that doesn't have an island green?


Funk: No. 18 is a really difficult finishing hole. I'll go the 18th for toughness. For the way it looks, I really like No. 6. I like the two short holes: No. 6 and 12.

Stenson: Given the size of the greens, they all feel like island greens! I go for the 18th, one of the strongest finishing holes in golf. You can not bail out on the tee shot if you want to hit the green with your second shot.

Clark: The 18th hole.

Leonard: I like the 11th hole. There is so much strategy as to where you want to play your third shot from depending on pin placement and conditions.

Ames: The closing hole.

Floyd: The 18th hole.

Choi: The 2nd.

Janzen: The 11th hole is a great hole. Reachable in two shots, but lots if options if going for it or laying up. Whatever choice you need to be precise or trouble awaits.

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