There are a ton of good reasons why The Players Championship is considered the unofficial fifth major, starting with this obvious: the biggest purse of the season. Then there’s the iconic course, the most points towards your world golf ranking outside of the four majors, and the 600 FedEx Cup points, not to mention exemptions into the actual majors – it’s enough to draw everyone in to take their shot.
And that’s exactly what happened – every single one of the top-50 ranked golfers in the world are here this weekend, and then some. The minute you realize that you can pick up a guy like Ryan Moore for $6,700, fresh off a T12 at Augusta, you know you are going to have some tough decisions on your hands.
In addition to an overabundance of options leading to confusion, this weekend also has some other hurdles to overcome when you are choosing your lineup. For example, the course was specifically designed to not favor any one type of player or style of play. Every hole faces a different direction than the one that came before, and whether it is a par-3, 4 or 5, there are different distances all over the course. None of this helps you narrow down a field this deep.
Because there are so many options and so few ways to narrow it down, maybe you can succeed by going back to the basics. No matter what kind of tournament, or what kind of course, or player, in order for anyone to win golf contest, ever, he does have to do at least one thing relatively well: putt. So, if you’re looking for a stat to use to identify guys, or help break a tie, try here. Can’t hurt.
But you better be sure when you make that final selection because this week, more than almost any other, all of the risk seems to lie in your most expensive selections. Take a look at a list of former winners – it reads like a who’s who list (Kaymer, Tiger, Kuchar, Mickelson, Stenson, Garcia, Adam Scott). You spend up for big guns in a week like this because it makes sense – one of them is probably going to win. But not only are these guys elite players, they got their wins here when they were playing at the top of their games – Phil’s 2007 win here was his second win of the season and his fifth top-5 performance of the year back then.
This could be a clue as to where you should begin your search – you can help but get a good golfer in a field like this, so whether you are spending up for one of your big guns or trying to fill in the back-end of your roster, you want to look for people playing well right now (Hello, Mr. Spieth!). Don’t worry about past performances at this course, in this tournament, and grab someone who is on fire as we speak, because those are the players who will be able to step up. If you want to go toe-to-toe with the best, you better bring your A-game. Makes sense.