After many top-10s the past several years, Matt Kuchar broke through Sunday at The Players for his first victory since the 2010 Barclays. The win moved him to No. 5 in the world rankings and he's also the second highest ranked American.
And what should golf fans make of Tiger Woods' T-40 finish at TPC Sawgrass, a venue that during the past decade hasn't been very kind to him? Our experts analyze all that and more in our latest edition of Monday Four-Ball.
1. Matt Kuchar's Players Championship victory moved him up to No. 5 in the world. Are there really only four other golfers "better" than him in the game today?
Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com writer: Matt Kuchar has eight top-25s in 10 events played, just won The Players Championship and is second on the tour in scoring. He's playing like one of the best players in the world. But I'll admit: I don't care as much about the Official World Golf Rankings as I used to. Maybe it's because there seems to be so much fluctuation in it, though that's simply another nod to the fact the PGA Tour is deep.
At first glance, Kuchar hasn't won a major and is fifth in the world. But in this day and age, I'm OK with it. More accurately, I just don't care. Players tee it up every week to find out who is the best in that four-day period. That's good enough for me.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: There might be more prolific winners, but Kuchar is the most consistent player in the world. His win at The Players represents his 35th top-10 since 2008 on the best tour in the game. Couple this performance with his T-3 at the Masters, and he's easily a top-three player in the world.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Probably not, but that is the nature of the world ranking system. It rewards consistency, and Kuchar is amazing in that regard. This was his 17th straight made cut, which leads the PGA Tour. But he also has a run of recent top-10s, including a tie for third at the Masters and a tie for eighth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. No players ahead of him in the world rankings have won more than Kuchar this year.
Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Of course not. There's a difference between the rankings and who's really "better." But it was a signature win by a guy who needed to win something big.
2. Kevin Na's pace of play came to the forefront this week at The Players Championship. What's your fix to speed up play on the PGA Tour?
Richard Durrett: I agree with Tiger Woods on this: Penalize for slow play by taking strokes away. Woods says do it right away with no warning. But I think if a warning is issued earlier -- at the first sign of falling a hole behind or out of position -- that's all that player gets for the whole tournament. After that, it's a stroke every time the player is behind. You start taking away strokes more often and you'll see players speed things up in a hurry.
Farrell Evans: I think the tour does a good job with a very difficult issue. Golf at that level promotes a kind of meticulous care and deliberation that almost makes slow play a necessary evil.
Bob Harig: Two things. Make fields smaller, and give stroke penalties after one warning. The field size is as big of a problem as players being slow, especially when field size swells to 156 in the summer. Playing off of two tees, there are going to be delays when players make the turn. Still, many are way too slow, not ready to hit when it's their turn. Forty seconds is plenty of time. If they go over, give them a warning. Next time, it's 1 stroke.
Gene Wojciechowski: Tiger Woods had the best idea: instant penalty strokes. That would get the snails' attention.
3. What do you take away from Tiger's T-40 performance at The Players Championship?
Richard Durrett: Woods has shown flashes of getting things together, but continues to have consistency issues. He did drive the ball OK this week, but didn't hit enough greens in regulation to make a big move on Sunday. He did have the birdie streak on Friday and showed some grit in making the cut. But this is Tiger. Making the cut isn't good enough. He's not there yet. I still think we haven't heard the last from him, though.
Farrell Evans: Tiger played like a guy who finishes T-40 every week. That's the shape of his game. But he could go on a streak and fool us all.
Bob Harig: Some of it can be attributed to the TPC Sawgrass, a venue where he has had difficulty even in the best of times. But something has changed in his game. Woods seemed to have effortless power earlier in the year, especially in Abu Dhabi and again at Pebble Beach and Honda. He is fighting his swing now, and is having trouble putting an entire round together. All that said, if he makes more putts -- which has also been an issue -- a lot of his problems go away.
Gene Wojciechowski: That he was two shots worse than Phil Mickelson? Tiger had his moments and he also had his all-too-familiar inconsistent play. But I remain a believer.
4. The past two winners of this week's HP Byron Nelson Championship -- Keegan Bradley and Jason Day -- rode those victories to bigger and better things. Is there a rising star who might fit into that category this week?
Richard Durrett: Colt Knost. He's playing at home in a tournament that gave him an exemption after he won two USGA amateur events in 2007. He's got two third-place finishes this season and his mind is in the right place. Knost is ready for a breakthrough tournament. Why not this week?
Farrell Evans: Graham Delaet is a Canadian with two top-10s this season, including a tie for fourth in New Orleans. At The Players, the 30-year-old Boise State grad finished in a tie for 70th. In his first event of the year at the Sony Open in Hawaii, he took the first-round lead with a 7-under 63 before finishing in a tie for 29th.
Bob Harig: Seung-Yul Noh. The South Korean is only 20, and has not caused much of a ripple yet on the PGA Tour. But by all indications, he is going to be a solid player. He tied for ninth at the Wells Fargo Championship and has been a pro since 2007. He tied for third at the PGA Tour qualifying tournament and is close to breaking into the top 100 in the world.
Gene Wojciechowski: I'll take a flyer on John Huh.