Cream of the crop

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

Golf's so-called 'Big 5' are getting all the ink here this week, but if history means anything, it probably will be someone other than Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson or Retief Goosen who wins The Players Championship.

The PGA Tour runs on star power, and that list of names would play on any tournament marquee in any era.

But it doesn't mean that one of them will emerge to win golf's "fifth major."

From that illustrious group, only Woods has cracked the winner's circle at The Stadium Course, back in 2001.

"You know, it doesn't seem that different now than it was five or 10 years ago," Mickelson said. "I see 10 or 20 guys who will probably separate themselves as well as 100 guys who could win the tournament.

"There has been a lot of talk about the top-4 players, but if you look at the quality of the next five or six guys -- Retief, Padraig (Harrington), Mike Weir, Sergio (Garcia), Davis Love, Kenny Perry and David Toms -- these guys are just amazing players."

But the spotlight is on the big guns today in the first round of the most important tournament of the season to date. A field of 146 will tee it up, with the biggest purse of the year ($8 million US) at stake.

If historical form holds, a very good player probably will win, but it's no slam dunk it will be one of the marquee names.

But if it comes down on the back nine Sunday to Singh and Woods, or Woods and Mickelson or Els and ... you get the picture, the PGA Tour will be doing cartwheels.

And so will golf fans.

"It's just what everyone in golf likes to see," Singh said. "Two guys, two top guys, going at it at their best. It makes for incredible watching and incredible TV."

Most recently, Mickelson and Woods hooked up in the final round of the Ford Championship at Doral and it was a magnificent afternoon of golf, won by Woods.

"I think golf is at a great point right now," defending champion Adam Scott said.

"We have all these great players competing at a level I don't think we've seen before. We saw Tiger alone at this level a few years ago and now everyone else is trying to get up there with him."

The Players always attracts one of the top fields of the year, but this one is particularly impressive. Every one of the world-ranked top-50 players is in the starting field.

"It has everything possible that would allow you to call it a major," Singh said. "The field is strong, the golf course is great and it's the biggest purse in the world. So what else is lacking? Just calling it a major.

"I guess, in our minds, this is the fifth major."


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