Breaking down Ernst, Rory and Phil
And what to expect from Tiger Woods at The Players Championship
It was a strange week at Quail Hollow, where little-known rookie Derek Ernst prevailed in a sudden-death playoff over England's David Lynn after Phil Mickelson bogeyed two of the final three holes to squander the lead. For a time, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Nick Watney were in the mix, before falling off the pace.
This week it's on to the PGA Tour's signature event, the Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass. First, our experts weigh in on Ernst, Lefty, Rory and Tiger.
1. Be honest, before the week began, had you ever heard of Derek Ernst?
Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: No, and I bet 20 bucks he'll still get asked to show his credentials at more than half of the events he plays the rest of the year! He's so unknown that his mom asked, "May I help you?" when he rang the doorbell at his parents' house.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: No, and I pride myself on knowing most of the players. But why would I know a guy who made two cuts and less than $30,000 in seven events coming into Charlotte?
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: I had heard the name, as a player who made it through all four stages of Q-school. But I would not have been able to identify him. And to be honest, he hadn't done much to grab anyone's attention, with five missed cuts in seven starts.
2. Despite his disappointment Sunday at Quail Hollow, do you see Phil Mickelson contending at any of the remaining major championships? And if so, which one?
Collins: No. We know how wild Phil is off the tee and now he's proving it with the "Frankenwood." If there is one event he may have a chance in, it'll be the Open Championship, and then it would only be if he got a huge break in the draw from the weather, in comparison to the other contenders.
Evans: Phil seems to be in a good place with his game. He has unfinished business at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship. He's always hyper-focused for the majors, but he's got extra motivation to win these two, which would give him the career grand slam.
Harig: Let's face it, the major championships are Mickelson's main source of motivation at this point. And while he'd dearly love to win the U.S. Open, where he's been runner-up five times, the Open Championship at Muirfield would seemingly be a better bet. The venue has a history of producing great champions.
3. What do we make of Rory McIlroy at this point in the season after a tie for 10th at Quail Hollow?
Collins: I make it out to be the same old Rory as in the past. A bit inconsistent right now, but flashes of greatness and we're just waiting to see him show dominance for a stretch of a few months. The question for me is not if it's coming, but when.
Evans: Rory hasn't won a golf tournament in 2013, but he's not had a poor season. He lost time early on with the adjustment to the equipment change and a bad response to the pressure of being No. 1, but he's slowly building confidence.
Harig: He led the field in greens in regulation but needed 126 putts, breaking 30 putts for a round just once at Quail Hollow. And he missed a playoff by 4 strokes. One stroke a round better on the greens -- and he missed a ton of short putts -- and the outcome might have been different. The poor greens certainly led to some poor putting. You have to think that the improvement in his ball striking bodes well.
4. Tiger Woods returns to the PGA Tour this week at the Players Championship. What do you expect out of him at TPC Sawgrass?
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Collins: I think he's going to surprise some people this week and get a top-10, maybe even a top-five. His appearances in the past few years have been disappointing to say the least. His driver has got to start finding the short grass again for him to even think about contending, but I have a sneaky suspicion he may have worked a few things out.
Evans: Tiger hasn't had a top-10 at The Players since an eighth-place finish in 2009. Last year, he had a very mediocre showing here with rounds of 74-68-72-73 for a tie for 40th. His lone victory came here in 2001, when he was at the height of his prowess. I think he plays the tournament every year because it's one of the PGA Tour's marquee events. All to say, I don't think he does much this week.
Harig: Not much. For whatever reason, TPC Sawgrass has not been a good venue for Woods over the years. His lone victory at the tournament came in 2001, when he was in the midst of the Tiger Slam. Since then, he has just a single top-10. A good showing would be a pleasant surprise, but playing poorly won't change much going forward for Woods.
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