May
10
2009
By Stephanie Wei under General

Pink Is The New Red (or black)! Here’s Alex Cejka, during the third round of the PLAYERS, and the leader after 54 holes of play. The big question today is: Can he hold his lead? I’d sure like to see this “journeyman” get his first win on Tour, and at the tournament with the deepest field in golf, no less!

You could say Cejka has nothing to lose, but then again, you could say he has everything to lose.

After three rounds, Cejka is at 11-under-par with a 5 stroke leader over 6 players, one of which is none other than Tiger Woods. To make matters even more interesting, the two are paired together in the final group (NBC and the Tour are thrilled, I’m sure, but so are we, the viewers!). There have been murmurs about another “Bay Hill” scenario, where Sean O’Hair was leading by 5 strokes over Tiger going into the final round and playing with him – and, well, Tiger did what he does best and staged a mind-blowing comeback to win. But, this is a different course, a different tournament and a different opponent.

I have no doubt that Tiger will play well, and that he’ll make some kind of dramatic run for the win – that is, if he can keep his drives out of the “woods” and his putter rolling. (To be honest, I’m sick of hearing about how Tiger’s been “struggling” in both those departments.) But, even if he doesn’t, Tiger’s already shown that he’s still never out of the hunt. I’d say that Tiger has played his B- game, at the very best, this week.

With that said, I’m still going to throw my favor at Cejka (uh oh, he’s just been hit with the Wei jinx – everyone put your money on Tiger).

Why? Well, it’s no secret that I usually root for the underdog. In this case, I simply like Cejka’s demeanor. He’s calm, steady and confident. His attitude reminds me of Angel Cabrera’s at the Masters back in April. Cabrera was the guy that most people underestimated, but he just kept playing golf; not letting the moment define him.

Like Augusta, TPC Sawgrass is another course where we’ll see a lot of birdies as well as a faire share of bogeys (or higher – ahem, Kevin Na’s 3rd round). The PLAYERS isn’t the Masters, but it’s another tournament where magical things happen – and it’s also produced unlikely winners in recent years, such as Fred Funk, Stephen Ames, and Craig Perks (as Shane Bacon duly reminded me).

And, Cejka doesn’t seem one bit intimidated by Tiger. He’s wearing a red shirt and black pants today! I can’t wait to see that! If anything, it’ll be comic relief. Way to go, Cejka! Just ‘cause it’s Tiger’s “trademark,” doesn’t mean it’s off limits to the rest of the field. (I’m not going to lie though; I find Tiger’s signature Sunday red to be kinda cheesy).

Well, there you have it, folks. Who will be crowned the 2009 Players Champ? Cejka? Tiger? One of other 5 players, which includes Retief Goosen, Jonathan Byrd, Henrik Stenson, Ben Crane and Ian Poulter, tied at 6-under-par? It’ll come down to Tiger or Cejka.

Side note: I’d like to see young’n John Mallinger (T-8, 5-under-par) make a move up the leaderboard today. I’m not saying he’ll win it all, but he’s been looking good this week. He was my dark horse pick (and a smart one, at that). Yeah, I’m a genius – not so much, since I chose Nick Watney, who didn’t even make the cut, for the Bloggers Picks.

But, I digress. Who do you think will win? Discuss.