Europeans feel comfy at the Players

By Tim Rosaforte Illustrations by Andy Friedman
April 18, 2010

For a golf course and tournament that were once dominated by Americans and drove international players like Seve Ballesteros crazy, the Players Championship and the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course have become a home away from home for European players. Spain's Sergio Garcia won in 2008, and Sweden's Henrik Stenson and England's Ian Poulter finished 1-2 last year. Before those performances, the last European to win the Players was Scotland's Sandy Lyle in 1987. Considering Poulter won the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February and countryman Paul Casey finished second, there's a good chance Europe could make it three Players Championships in a row May 6-9. Regardless, European Ryder Cup captain __Colin Montgomerie__likes the way his team is shaping up for the matches in October, saying the recent success by his potential Ryder Cup roster "is absolutely fantastic for European golf."...Hoping to make his second-straight U.S. Ryder Cup team, J.B. Holmes became the latest Dave Stockton short-game student to realize an immediate improvement in performance, finishing T-3 at the Northern Trust Open and T-2 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Stockton's putting advice helped Phil Mickelson win the Tour Championship last September. ...Cancer survivor Paul Azinger says there was a time when he didn't think he'd make it to 50. Now he's a Champions Tour rookie and author. Cracking the Code, his inside look at the 2008 Ryder Cup, will be released in May. "There's a lot of stuff nobody knows," Azinger says. "I've held it all in for a long, long time."...New U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin joins Azinger and Fred Couples as the latest PGA Tour stars to reach 50 and become members of the Champions Tour. Pavin can take advantage of his membership to keep an eye on a potential Ryder Cup captain's pick: 60-year-old Tom Watson. "I've thought about him for a long time," Pavin said.

Tim Rosaforte is a Senior Writer for Golf Digest and Golf World. He appears on the Golf Channel and NBC.