What each contender needs to do (and avoid)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Entering this week, I wrote about how The Players Championship doesn't cater to any one type of player. We've seen recent champions in old guys (Hal Sutton) and young guys (Adam Scott), long-hitters (Davis Love III) and short hitters (Fred Funk), big names (Tiger Woods) and no-names (Craig Perks).
As we head into Sunday's round, each of those categories is well represented once again, with an eclectic leaderboard that was, as expected, eminently unpredictable at week's beginning.
Who's going to win? It's anybody's guess, but here's what each player in contention needs to do -- and avoid -- during the final round:
Sean O'Hair: 9-under 207.
Needs to avoid ... getting too overwhelmed at the prospect of leading such a prestigious tournament. The 24-year-old spoke earlier this week about his love for the event and how he never missed catching it on TV. "Oh, this is one of the tournaments to watch," he said. "For me, I watched every one." Thinking about the accolades and rise in stature that comes with a Players victory could be enough to unnerve the young player.
Phil Mickelson: 8-under 208.
Needs to avoid ... the rough. According to Mickelson, he made the switch to new full-time swing instructor Butch Harmon three weeks ago because "as I improved from 150 yards in and I started to win golf tournaments because of my short game and improved iron play, if I could get more balls in the fairway and give me more of those shots where I feel I've improved and I feel like I'm sharp, then I could shoot even lower scores and maybe win even more tournaments." The strategy isn't paying off yet. Despite being just one shot out of the lead, Mickelson has reached only 47.6 percent of fairways this week, ranking T-74 out of 79 players in the field.
Jeff Quinney: 7-under 209.
Needs to avoid ... reverting back to last week's form. Quinney shot 83-80 at the Wachovia Championship, his fourth straight missed cut after making the first eight to begin his rookie season.
Peter Lonard: 7-under 209.
Needs to avoid ... falling back into the form he has shown throughout this season. Other than a third-place finish at the opposite-field Mayakoba Classic, Lonard doesn't have any results of better than T-14.
Luke Donald: 5-under 211.
Needs to avoid ... another disappointing back-nine finish. He had a chance to win the Sony Open in January, but was done in by an even-par 35 on the final nine holes. He had another opportunity at the Byron Nelson Championship two weeks ago, but double-bogeyed the ninth hole and played the final nine in only 1-under. Despite owning two PGA Tour wins already, he needs to establish himself as a better closer.
Aaron Baddeley: 5-under 211.
Needs to avoid ... getting suckered in at the daunting par-3 holes. For the week, he's made one birdie, one bogey and 10 pars on the shorties -- which actually isn't too bad. Baddeley ranks 141st in birdie average on par-3 holes this season, so he should consider even-par a moral victory at each one of these on Sunday.
Chris DiMarco: 5-under 211.
Needs to avoid ... getting too bored before his tee time. "I laid around in bed until about noon and got up and took a shower," DiMarco said of his Saturday routine. "These 2:00 tee times are killers, but they're good."
Jose Coceres: 5-under 211.
Needs to avoid ... collapsing on the final two holes. So far this week, Coceres has played the daunting 17th and 18th holes in a total of 5-over par. If he's in contention coming down the stretch on Saturday, he likely won't have any shots to spare at these holes, so he'll need to finish stronger than he has.
Carl Pettersson: 5-under 211.
Needs to avoid ... previous mistakes. Pettersson has made seven bogeys and a double this week, but they've occurred at eight different holes. That's the sign of a player who is figuring out this course and not repeating the same errors.
The field: 4-under 212 and below.
Needs to ... post a score, then sit back and watch. Included in this group are Tim Clark, Geoff Ogilvy and J.P. Hayes at 4-under, and Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal and Cliff Kresge at 3-under. They've all seen that a 64 can be had on this course and none are that far out of contention that a similar number wouldn't put a ton of pressure on the leaders.
Needs to avoid ... bogeys. Easier said than done, of course, but anyone in this group who gets behind early will find himself struggling to make up for lost time throughout the round.
Tiger Woods: 5-over 221.
Needs to avoid ... Phil Mickelson. Hey, Tiger doesn't play many final-round early tee times, so it might be kind of awkward if he's walking into the locker room just as Mickelson is heading to the first tee.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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2007 Players Championship
Where: TPC-Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Yardage/Par: 7,215 yards; par 72
2007 champion: Phil Mickelson
• Players Championship leaderboard
• Weekly 18: Breaking down the Players field
• Experts' predictions
• Harig: Changes rampant at Sawgrass
• Fact or Fiction: How will changes affect the event?
• Rosaforte: Perks is a one-hit wonder
• Rosaforte: Tiger playing for keeps
• Sirak: Tiger is only getting better
• On the Hot Seat: J.J. Henry
• Alternate Shot: Not the fifth major
• Weekly 18: Solid back-to-back stretch
• Sobel: Players preview