The Field

The Players Championship is one of the deepest fields of the entire golfing year.  Almost all of the world’s top 100 will be in the tournament and the prize purse is also one of the largest of the year, as well.  144 golfers will tee it up at the event and the top 70 and ties will make the cut after Friday.

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This is a week where certain players may be priced cheaper than usual because of the strength of the field and some strong players may be available at discounted prices.  Recent major winners Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy headline the player salaries on DraftKings.  As well, even though he hasn’t played much this year, Tiger Woods will be at this event.  The last time Woods played at this event he won it (2013).

Course Details

TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)

 Par 72, 7200-7300 yards depending on setup

 TPC Sawgrass is a stadium course that was designed and created specifically for this event.  It was designed by Pete Dye who also designed the last two courses played on tour (before the matchplay).  Dye courses generally feature smaller, contoured greens and quite a bit of sand and water and this course is no different.  There are also quite a few doglegs on TPC Sawgrass and many of the holes require some shot-shaping by the players.  While accuracy is at a premium this week length can still be an asset to the players on the par 5’s and some of the long par 4’s (most notably the 18th).  TPC Sawgrass really is an all-around test of golf and its past champions reflect that as it has seen a myriad of champions, all with different strengths to their game.

Last Five WinnersUSATSI_8079025_168381090_lowres (1)

Martin Kaymer—2014
Tiger Woods—2013
Matt Kuchar—2012
KJ Choi—2011
Tim Clark—2010

What will it take to succeed at TPC Sawgrass?

Experience has been a big factor amoung winners.  Looking back at the past five years all of the winners had previously played at TPC Sawgrass at least 5 times and made the cut at least four times before their respective wins.  However, that doesn’t mean that less experienced players can’t have success.  Generally players who are good at course management, have accurate approach games and are decent scramblers have done well here.  As well, a good history of playing golf in Florida can also be a big help.  Many golfers will be familiar with TPC Sawgrass, even if they have not played in the Players Championship before this year, as the course has hosted many amateur and college events in the past.

Who has had success here?

There’s quite a few players with long histories at this golf course as it is a regular stop for all of the top tour players.  Many players have had at least some success (a top ten or two) but some have been much more consistent over the years than others:

 
  • The first name to stick out is Luke Donald, over the past ten years Donald has made the cut at this event every time he’s played (10 for 10) and has landed finishes of 2-4-6 within that span.
  • The second name is Sergio Garcia, he’s also played here the past ten years and also been 10 for 10 in cuts made. Garcia also won the event back in 2008 and also has a 2nd and 3rd place finish.
  • Zach Johnson has also played here every year since 2005 and only missed one cut. In that span he has posted 2-8-12 as his best finishes.
  • Since 2009, Matt Kuchar has never missed a cut here and also finished in the top 20 four times (including winning in 2012).
  • Finally, while Ben Crane may be a much lower profile golfer than the first four names on this list, since 2008 he has recorded finishes of 8-5-6-4 at this event.
Who has struggled here?

Many of the top players have had at least some success at this course and it does seem like the more experience a golfer has, the better their record becomes as well.  However there are still some golfers with very uneven records at this event that are worth pointing out:

 
  • Ryan Palmer has played this event the past 6 years and missed 4 cuts, he does have a 5th place finish from 2013 however.
  • Brandt Snedeker has a similar spotty record as he has played TPC Sawgrass the past 5 years and missed three cuts but does have a 8th place finish from 2013.
  • Padraig Harrington won earlier in the year in Florida but his TPC Sawgrass record is not good, his past four appearances have yielded a best finish of 75th and he has three missed cuts.
  • Finally, Paul Casey hasn’t played this event since 2012 but his last 5 appearances at the Players have seen four missed cuts and a 14th.
What statistics are important?

 Approach proximity seems like a very important statistic for the week.  Specifically approach proximity from between 100-150 yards away from the hole.  TPC Sawgrass requires some precise shot-making as players can’t “cut corners” with power and the greens are smaller than normal.  Wedge games and solid iron play will be at a premium.  Additionally, although some big hitters have won here in the past, driving distance or driving accuracy does not really seem to be very important this week.  Instead scrambling (play around the greens) and the aforementioned iron play seem to be the key factors.  I would focus on those categories if looking at player statistics this week.

My Recommendation:

There’s a ton of talent to choose from in this event, but with a lot of course history to look back on there will also be a lot of golfers favorited for their past experience.  Don’t ignore those players who have a great history at this event, but also don’t be afraid to take a shot or two with those who may be close to figuring the course out.  As we saw last year with Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods the year before, players can land a great finish at this event if they are coming in with a good frame of mind and with at least some history to back their solid recent play.

My pick(s) to win: Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler

Since it’s such a deep field I thought I’d send out two picks.  Jordan Spieth fits all the categories this week and with length not being a factor he should have an edge up on the other higher priced talent who may hit it longer than him but can’t putt nearly as well.  Rickie Fowler has shown some flashes lately and is someone who could match Spieth if he gets hot, he’s my “gpp” play and outside pick to win the tournament.