No longer a favourite, Woods happy to be in field

PONTE VEDRA BEACH: Tiger Woods is not among the favourites for this week’s Players Championship, no longer the man to beat at the age of 42, even if he remains the one most fans wants to watch. Woods is around a 33/1 betting outsider at the TPC Sawgrass, a course where he twice has won the PGA Tour’s flagship event — in 2001 and again in 2013. Though he contended twice on the PGA Tour in Florida less than two months ago, subsequent mediocre performances at the US Masters and, last week, at the Wells Fargo Championship have diminished his stock.

But that hardly worries Woods, who, apparently pain-free after a spinal fusion last April, bounded into the media interview room on Tuesday, looking relaxed as he flashed his broad smile to a crowded room. “Trust me, I’m fully aware of how special this is for me,” he said, recalling that 12 months ago he could barely walk without severe pain, let alone swing a golf club. “I wouldn’t say it’s gravy, but I’m just so thankful to be able to have this opportunity again, because I didn’t know if I would ever have had (it).” Woods is not quite ready to take on the role of a ceremonial player but will need to improve every facet of his game to have a chance against perhaps the strongest field of the year.

Australian Jason Day, coming off a win in Charlotte on Sunday, is the marginal favourite in a wide-open field, ahead of the other usual suspects such as Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. As rank outsider Kim Si-woo showed by winning here last year, however, that it is an unpredictable event. — Reuters