For the first time since 1994, neither Phil Mickelson nor Tiger Woods is in the Players Championship field this week at TPC Sawgrass, a reality that was one day inevitable given the length of their careers but no one expected it to be this soon.
Both players are fully exempt due to their most recent major championship victories, with several more years of eligibility.
Woods, who is out due to the injuries suffered in a car crash more than a year ago, is exempt through the 2025 Players due to his 2019 Masters win. His return remains uncertain. Mickelson, who has a Players spot through 2026 due to his PGA Championship victory last year, is not entered due to the self-inflicted wounds that are still haunting him concerning his comments about the PGA Tour and a potential rival golf league.
The PGA Tour’s flagship event still boasts 47 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and will have one of the strongest — if not strongest — fields of the year, an event that will be played for the 40th time at TPC Sawgrass.
The venue has seen its share of drama over the years, some of it produced by Woods and Mickelson — but perhaps not nearly as much as one would think, given their resumes.
Mickelson, who won the Players in 2007 just weeks after switching to Woods’ old coach, Butch Harmon — the first year it was moved to May from March — has missed the event just twice since his first appearance in 1992 as an amateur. In 1994, it was due to a leg injury suffered while skiing. He also missed in 2003 as his wife, Amy, was about to give birth.
Aside from that victory, Mickelson has two other top-10 finishes. He’s missed the cut in six of his last eight appearances. At times, he’s threatened to skip due to his frustration with the layout. Since winning in 2007, Mickelson has not posted a top-20 finish at the Players.
Woods’ record is slightly better. He has two victories, including the 2013 win that was one of five that year. He also won in 2001 (weeks before completing the Tiger Slam by winning the Masters). He has just one other top-10. Although Woods had to withdraw twice (in 2010 and 2011) due to injury, he’s never missed a cut at the Players in 19 starts.
What does all of this mean?
It’s interesting that two of the game’s all-time greats have mostly struggled around the famous (infamous?) home of the tournament. In 46 combined starts, they have just three victories and only seven top-10s between them.
It perhaps says something about the longtime belief that the course suits no type of player. Adam Scott won in 2004; Fred Funk a year later, followed by Stephen Ames and then Mickelson. It doesn’t get much more diverse than that. Prolific winners such as Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, the defending champion, have won the Players. So did Craig Perks, 20 years ago, his only PGA Tour victory.
One thing that seems obvious: good luck picking a winner this week.