Stock Watch for Golf's Top Stars Ahead of 2014 Players Championship

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2014

Stock Watch for Golf's Top Stars Ahead of 2014 Players Championship

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    The tour's biggest stars have met with mixed results so far this season. Heading into The Players Championship, the biggest draws in professional golf will be looking to do a variety of things. Not least among them are:

    • Win 600 FedEx Cup ranking points (the same number awarded to major winners)
    • Earn the largest winner's share on the PGA Tour ($1.71 million)
    • Make a strong statement with the U.S. Open just a month away

    As might be expected, Tiger Woods isn't included in this list. It's difficult to say the world No. 1's stock is trending upward unless you buy into the narrative that after he heals from back surgery his golf game will be similarly restored to health. 

    What's happening with Mr. Woods' tour brethren and their relative stock values? Read on to find out. 

Stock Up: Rory McIlroy

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 11

    FedEx Cup: 38

    Last Three Results: T7: Shell Houston Open, T8 Masters, T8 Wells Fargo Championship

    2013 Players Championship: T8

    Stock Watch: Rory McIlroy has had a solid year on the PGA Tour thus far. Although he hasn't won, he hasn't finished outside the top 10 in any event, and he tied for eighth at the Masters. 

    With three straight top 10s and a proven ability to play TPC Sawgrass well, McIlroy's stock is heading upward this week, and he certainly seems poised for a strong showing. 

Stock Down: Jimmy Walker

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    OWGR: 22

    FedEx Cup: 1

    Last Three Results: T24: Shell Houston Open, T8 Masters, Cut: Wells Fargo Championship

    2013 Players Championship: T15

    Stock Watch: Even though he's a three-time winner on tour this season and he tied for eighth at the Masters (his first appearance in the tournament), a missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship isn't an encouraging sign. Although he's still playing very well, he's slowed from the torrid pace he set from mid-January to early February, when he won two events in three starts. 

    Walker played well at The Players last season and will be looking to bounce back from the missed cut at Quail Hollow. Although his stock's price has taken a slight dip, a strong showing this week will restore equilibrium.

Stock Up: Jordan Spieth

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    OWGR: 7

    FedEx Cup: 8

    Last Three Results: Cut: Shell Houston Open, T2: Masters, T12: RBC Heritage

    2013 Players Championship: Did not play

    Stock Watch: The good news: Nearly a Masters champion, Jordan Spieth's stock has continued to rise this season after a breakout rookie campaign in 2013. The bad news: He has never teed it up in a Players Championship and TPC Sawgrass isn't traditionally kind to first-timers.

    Nevertheless, he enters the tournament after a quality follow-up to his impressive Masters showing. As such, his stock is increasing in value. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean he's destined to play well at Pete Dye's Ponte Vedra masterpiece. 

Stock Down: Sergio Garcia

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    OWGR: 9

    FedEx Cup: 44

    Last Three Results: T16: WGC-Cadillac Championship, 3: Shell Houston Open, Cut: Masters 

    2013 Players Championship: T8

    Stock Watch: Everything looked good for Sergio Garcia entering the Masters. However, an uninspired showing has the golfer's stock price moving in the wrong direction. 

    El Nino's finish at The Players Championship last season doesn't look atrocious on paper. However, when you look at his final-round scorecard and see the "7" he was forced to pencil in for the 17th hole, you're inclined to remember how the Spaniard rinsed two tee shots as he dueled with Tiger Woods down the stretch. It will be interesting to see what kind of shape his game is in after the lengthy layoff

Stock Up: Matt Kuchar

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    OWGR: 5

    FedEx Cup: 3

    Last Three Results: 2: Shell Houston Open, T5: Masters, 1: RBC Heritage

    2013 Players Championship: T48

    Stock Watch: Matt Kuchar has been on fire lately. He won his last start, which is a pretty good sign his game is in good shape. Prior to that, he finished tied for fifth at the Masters and woulda-coulda-shoulda won at the Shell Houston Open. Kuchar enters The Players with his stock soaring. 

    Kuchar won The Players in 2012 and thus has the proven ability to win at Sawgrass. He has to be entering the tournament with as much confidence as anyone else in the field. 

Stock Down: Phil Mickelson

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    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    OWGR: 8

    FedEx Cup: 83

    Last Three Results: T12: Shell Houston Open, Cut: Masters, T11: Wells Fargo Championship

    2013 Players Championship: Cut

    Stock Watch: In one sense, Lefty put together a solid week at the Wells Fargo Championship. Certainly, his Saturday 63 was an inspired 18 holes. His Sunday round, however, was 13 strokes worse. It's tough to buy into Mickelson right now after he shot himself in the foot during the final round at Quail Hollow. 

    The veteran has made nine of 11 cuts on tour this year. However, he hasn't finished inside the top 10, and his struggles with injury this season have been well documented. For whatever combination of reasons, though, there's more buying than selling of Mr. Mickelson right now. 

Stock Up: Bubba Watson

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    OWGR: 4

    FedEx Cup: 2

    Last Three Results: T9: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, T2: WGC-Cadillac Championship, 1: Masters

    2013 Players Championship: T37

    Stock Watch: Bubba Watson enters The Players Championship after a month of rest following his Masters victory. This alone would indicate that the left-hander's stock is rising; however, top-10 finishes in his two starts prior to the Masters also indicate he's in good form.

    The only question entering this week about Watson's game is that it may be accumulating a bit of rust. He'll also be met with a barrage of media attention in his first start since victory at Augusta. This combined with his relatively lackluster play at TPC Sawgrass in the past makes it unlikely he'll win this week.

    Nevertheless, his stock is rightfully up. 

Stock Up: Adam Scott

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    OWGR: 2

    FedEx Cup: 57

    Last Three Results: T25: WGC-Cadillac Championship, 3: Arnold Palmer Invitational, T14: Masters

    2013 Players Championship: T19

    Stock Watch: Adam Scott followed up his 2013 Masters victory with a respectable showing at the 2014 edition of the tournament. Although he hasn't stood on a tee box in a PGA Tour event since, his stock continues to climb.

    Australian Adam Scott is a past Players champion. He finished 19th at the event last season. Although these two facts coupled with his recent quality play would seem to indicate he's a solid pick to win this week, players rarely win The Players more than once, as only five golfers have accomplished that feat in the tournament's nearly 30-year history.