The Players Championship
Course: TPC Sawgrass at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Yardage: 7,182 – Par 72
2012: Matt Kuchar
2013: Tiger Woods
2014: Martin Kaymer
2015: Rickie Fowler
2016: Jason Day
Overview: Just as Dustin Johnson and Pat Perez were ready to tee it off for a three man playoff, Brian Harman decided that DJ’s winning streak would end right there in the Eagle Point clubhouse. Oh well, I guess DJ will begrudgingly drag his feet back to Paulina with a paltry second place this week. We’ll see if she even lets him back in the house if he returns with no trophy this week. I wonder if he wears shoes all the time around the house now? Or maybe he made sure every house he sets foot in is fully carpeted? OK, enough with the DJ jokes, the guy is a phenomenal golfer, and I’m too broke to even afford him on Draftkings.
This week we have a stacked field for the Players Championship that has me looking up and down my lineup wondering how I’m not going to win $100,000. Pretty much everyone in my lineup can win or has won a major, but I suppose everyone will be feeling that way, as your worst player should be no worse than the Top 50 or 60 in the world. The famed fifth major boasts “we’re better than all the other non-major tournaments”, although that’s up for debate, since any WGC event’s field will be just about the same quality. However, I will agree with the self-proclamation. The quality of the field is the same as a major. The past winners have usually been, or gone on to become some of the greatest to ever play. And the course itself provides for some iconic moments and finishes.
TPC Sawgrass is another Pete Dye design that forces players to really think with their tee-shots as well as their approach. If you are attacking the green from the wrong angle, par is all you can hope for. Find the wrong spot off the green, and big numbers can come into play. Of course, like everyone else, my favorite part of The Players Championship is the 17th hole. The hole is 125-140 yards depending on the pin placement, and the statistics show it’s not that difficult. But no matter what, year after year, there will be a couple hundred dollars worth of golf balls put in the water by the world’s best. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching Spieth nail a 25-footer, or shots like Sergio’s on 15 at the Masters. But, I also love watching pros make mistakes that any one of us mortals would make on a Sunday at Sawgrass. We will undoubtedly see 30-40 more balls in the water this year. In fact, you can bet on how many balls will be dunked on 17 this week. Vegas has the over/under at 38.5. I will not be partaking, but if you so choose, I would wait until the very last minute, then check the weather to decide which way you want to go.
The course is short for these guys at just 7,182 yards, so look for a player who is accurate with their drives, with distance being less relevant. Good drive percentage is more important than just hitting fairways, and strokes gained off-the-tee is a valuable statistic as well. With 25 water hazards on the course, you need a player who will find approachable angles to greens, as opposed to a someone trying to figure out the angle at which his ball went into the hazard. A key stat in recent years is Par 4 scoring. With scorable par 5s like the reachable 16th, most players will feast on those, so Par 4s are where the money is made this week. Scrambling is another important statistic this week. Missing the green will make for some very tricky up and downs, so finding a player who can make a tough situation into a par is crucial this week.
The Players Championship DFS Picks
Sergio Garcia ($10,200): I expect Sergio to be heavily picked this week, but I’m going to ride along with the Masters champ as everyone else should. He’s got the recent form going for him, obviously, and he’s a past champion at this course. Sergio is numero uno in strokes gained off-the-tee on Tour, and he’s fifth in good drive percentage. He ranks low in putting (no surprise there), but his great ball striking and poor putting cause people to overlook the fact that he is a great scrambler. He ranks 37th on Tour in overall scrambling, and he’s been the best to date this season in scrambling from the fringe and from the rough. Could Sergio win the first and the fifth major in back to back events? If he does, look for this to be the year of Sergio.
Jon Rahm ($9,600): Jon Rahm has left himself little room for improvement as he’s off to an unbelievable start to his rookie season. I was debating between him and Hideki Matsuyama for this spot. Ultimately, I decided on Rahm because along with great ball-striking stats, he is a very good putter as well. I figured I’ve got Sergio already and I don’t need two guys who can hit the flagstick and then miss the putt. Rahm has literally no holes in his game. He’s ranks second in strokes gained off-the-tee, second in Par 4 scoring, 10th in strokes gained approaching-the green, and he’s well above average in both putting and scrambling. Tournament history means nothing to him, as Rahm keeps teeing it off week after week at a new event finishing near the top.
Justin Rose: ($9,200): Justin Rose nearly doubled his major count last month. I expect him to come back with a roaring vengeance trying to prove that it should have been him wearing the green jacket. Rose deserved it every bit as much as Sergio, but it was simply Sergio’s time. I’ll take either one winning this week, since I have them rostered together. Rose is another one of the best in the game at Par 4 scoring (5th) and he’s playing terrific golf this year, averaging 69.4 this season (4th). Although he’s always been a great player, I think Rose still wants to prove something to the golf world in order to move him from great player, to one of the greats of the game.
Martin Kaymer ($7,300): I thought Kaymer at this price would be a great sleeper pick. Many fellow experts seem to agree with me, so perhaps it wasn’t as sneaky as I thought. Still, for $7,300 you’re getting a two-time major champion, a past Players Champion, and a guy who hasn’t missed a cut in over a year. I’ll take him at that price and not worry about how popular a pick he is.
Ryan Moore ($7,000): Ryan Moore is the world’s 31st ranked golfer. He finds ways to make Top 10s and Top 20s without ever really moving the needle. I’m still waiting for him to come out and get the signature win that really puts him on the map. I have no real reason to believe that the will be his week, but because of his nature, I don’t think there will be any real signs of when that win is coming. Moore is Top 30 in par 4 scoring, and strokes-gained approach-to-green. I mentioned that players will be feasting on the par 5s; Moore is one of the best on Tour at hitting Par 5s when going for it at 32.3 percent. So, if he can keep up on the Par 3s and 4s, hopefully, he can hit a few 5s or the new driveable 12th hole, and give himself some effortless birdies.
Ross Fisher ($6,600): Ross Fisher primarily plays on the Euro Tour, but good golf is good golf no matter what side of the pond you’re on. He has placed in the Top 10 in his past two events in Europe, and proven he can play with the boys on our Tour when he came in third in the WGC-Mexico Championship. He gains around a stroke and a half per round in both putting, and on-approaches. If he has a good driving week, he should be a good sleeper pick who helps separate you from the other stacked lineups on Draftkings.