We are back for another week of action at one of the PGA Tour’s flagship events The PLAYERS Championship. Renowned course architect Pete Dye designed the TPC Sawgrass stadium course specifically to not favor any playing style. This means that selections will have to be made carefully when building lineups, as there will not be one “type” of golfer that you can expect to succeed here. Below is a list of golfers I love, like, and hate this week.
Golfers I Love
Jordan Spieth ($11,400) – The last image we have of the world’s number 2 ranked golfer is one of misery following his “blowup” on number 12 in the final round of the Masters. However, Spieth did end up finishing 2nd at the Masters and has four consecutive top 20s. As one of the best golfers in the world, I am willing to overlook a single bad hole on golf’s biggest stage from Spieth and I’ll expect him to be in contention come Sunday, making him the golfer I love the most.
Rickie Fowler ($10,600) – Rickie Fowler is ranked 5th in Greens in Regulation through 2016, which is a stat that will be incredibly significant on this course. As the 2015 champion, Rickie ranked only 106th in this category which makes me even more confident rostering one of the hottest golfers on Tour through 2016.
Henrik Stenson ($9,500) – In several interviews Stenson has named TPC Sawgrass as his favorite course on Tour and cites winning The PLAYERS as his proudest golf moment. While I don’t ordinarily buy into narratives, I think with Stenson’s solid projection in my statistical model and solid course history it’s plenty to make me want to roster Stenson in a lot of lineups.
Danny Willett ($8,900) – If Willett winning the Masters hasn’t put him on your radar, perhaps his 8 consecutive cuts, or 2.28 Strokes Gained Total will peak your interest. While Willett is the 14th most expensive golfer in the field, he happens to be ranked 9th in the World Golf Rankings which leaves me thinking he’s underpriced. My biggest concern is whether or not he will be a very popular option in his first appearance since his Masters performance.
Patton Kizzire ($7,300) – Patton Kizzire has become somewhat popular as of late, and I believe it’s for a very good reason. Kizzire is ranked 12th in Scoring Average through 2016 and 6th in Strokes Gained: Putting which makes him extremely relevant statistically. At $7,300 Kizzire’s price has remained relatively constant despite having scored an average of 61.2 Draftkings points in his last 10 events.
Golfers I like
Rory McIlroy ($11,700) – To be clear, Rory McIlroy did not play his best last week, but finished T4 in an event that had a pretty tough field. My only hesitation with McIlroy is that he hasn’t seemed on his game as of late, but I expect Rory to win on Tour this year, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see it come in a big event like the PLAYERS Championship.
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,700) – Hideki ranks in the top 25 in nearly every major stat category considered relevant in fantasy, and his price is under $10,000. There is a lot more upside to Matsuyama than most people are letting on, but my only hesitation is his popularity, demonstrated through his ownership percentage which peaked at almost 30% last week. The high usage is why Matsuyama doesn’t make the love section for this week.
Phil Mickelson ($9,100) – Phil Mickelson has nearly surpassed his total earnings from 2015 and hasn’t even played 3 of the 4 majors. While Phil hasn’t won since 2013, I expect him to break through very soon. I could see this being Phil’s week because TPC Sawgrass is a course that favors veterans who have traversed the dangerous obstacles before.
Chris Kirk ($7,800) – Chris Kirk does several things very well including play from the sand, scrambling, short game and approaches from several distance categories. On a course like TPC Sawgrass where it’s well known that you have to have a wide variety of skills to compete, I think Chris Kirk has what it takes to be a relevant option this week.
Jim Furyk ($6,900) – Statistically, Jim Furyk looks like an incredible value, but that has to be thrown out since the PLAYERS will be only the 2nd start for Furyk after being off since September of last year due to wrist surgery. While Furyk missed the cut in his return, he was only 2 strokes off the number, and for a golfer who hasn’t competed since last year, I’m ok with that start. Look for Furyk to have shaken off the rust last week which makes him a great value at his price and what should be very low ownership.
Golfers I Hate
Adam Scott ($10,000) – It pains me to say that Adam Scott is my lowest projected golfer by far in the $10,000 range. While several of his stat categories are pristine, it’s his bogey average that has me concerned. At a 2.65 bogey average, he is far and away the worst in a category that is deemed statistically relevant and predictive in my projection model.
Bubba Watson ($9,300) – TPC Sawgrass is a course that requires finesse and course management which are not Bubba’s strong suits. Statistically speaking, it’s tough to rule Bubba Watson out, but with my projections standing out for some of the other golfers in his price range, I am forced to ignore Bubba when building lineups this week.
Daniel Berger ($8,000) – The 2015 rookie of the year has really come into his own as of late. However, I would expect that trend to end this week. Berger’s most recent stint on a Pete Dye course resulted in an Made Cut Did Not Finish at the Zurich. Pete Dye designs do not suit Berger’s game, which is long off the tee and inaccurate in mid-range approaches. Look for Berger to be a popular option at this price this week which has me further leaning towards fading him.
Justin Thomas ($7,200) – Justin Thomas is another example of a golfer who’s game does not suit TPC Sawgrass particularly well. Thomas hits a long ball off the tee coupled with relatively inaccurate approach stats in the middle yardage gaps. Plus, Thomas has not seemed himself this year at all with missed cuts or double digit over par finishing scores in 5 of his last 10 events on Tour. I will be looking to stay off of Thomas until further notice.
James Hahn ($6,400) – Despite an impressive win last week for Hahn, I don’t expect him to follow up his winning performance with anything spectacular. While his stats don’t count him out, it’s his likely inflated ownership following a win that makes him unattractive. This is a big step up in terms of scale of tournament, and that will keep me off Hahn this week.
Do you have questions about golfers who aren’t in this article? Get more weekly analysis and answers to any of your questions by following me on Twitter @BradMessersmith