What was he thinking?
As far as watching golf on television is concerned, The Players Championship at the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass is my second favorite golf event. First choice is the Masters. The other three major championships are very compelling as well, but the Players Championship edges out the U.S. Open for my second spot.
My reasoning is simple. The Tournament Players Championship has as strong a field as any major. Many players consider this championship at least as important as the PGA Championship. Finally, I have been fortunate enough to play the Pete Dye layout at Ponte Vedra three times, so I enjoy watching the pros play a track I know fairly well.
Last weekend's Players Championship offered plenty of drama with a strong international flavor. Sweden's Henrik Stenson won the event by four shots over England's Ian Poulter. Stenson shot a final round 66 on Sunday to come from five shots back to claim the championship.
Stenson played a fabulous round on Sunday, but this Players Championship may be remembered more for the guy who did not win. As Saturday's play was concluding, Tiger Woods had played his way into Sunday's final paring. Woods was six under par after three rounds, tied for second place with five other players. They were all chasing Alex Cejka who had a five shot 54 hole lead of 11 under par. That was the largest 54 hole lead in the 36 years of the tournament.
Cejka's story is one that makes you want him to do well. As a nine year old in 1970, Cejka fled with his father from Russian occupied the Czech Republic to neighboring Germany. They could not cross into Germany from Czech Republic, so they had to take a circuitous route through four countries, finally swimming into Germany to freedom.
Cejka seemed humble throughout the week, but some of that went by the wayside Saturday evening when he told the media that he planned to show up on the first tee for Sunday's showdown with Woods wearing Woods' customary Sunday outfit consisting of black slacks and red shirt.
In this case red shirt equals red flag. First of all, history suggests that opponents of Woods need not do any more to inspire him than necessary. Woods has been known to take seemingly innocent comments and gestures by other players and turn them into motivational vehicles. Of course no one in the press tent really knew if Cejka was serious or not, but there were some raised eyebrows.
Cejka did not show up Sunday wearing a red shirt, choosing to wear all black despite temperatures well above 90 degrees. He explained though that he did not change his mind, but that out of 40 shirts he had with him, none were red. So, here is a guy getting ready to go head to head with arguably the best player on the planet, and he is talking about why he is, or is not wearing a particular color of shirt.
An aside here. I have been in the pro shop at the TPC Sawgrass and they had plenty of red shirts for sale the last time I was there. That was four years ago though, perhaps they don't sell them anymore.
At this point it was easy to get the sense that things may go badly for Cejka, and they did. Cejka's five shot lead was gone in about an hour. He shot a seven over 79 to finish eight shots behind Stenson, a 13 shot swing. It was brutal to watch. The most surprising part was Woods' inability to make a move to the top. While Stenson was clearly the best player of this event, Woods' final round of 73 has the pundits wondering just how long his comeback will take.