The top golfers in the world head to Ponte Vedre, Florida for The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. With a total purse of 10 million dollars, every golfer wants to come here to try and earn a healthy paycheck and test their skills on a difficult course. Another reason golfers like this course so much is because there is no specific type of golfer that consistently does well at TPC Sawgrass. Everyone from the longest bombers to the shortest hitters have a chance as you can see with some of the past winners here. Tim Clark, KJ Choi, Stephen Ames, and Fred Funk have all won here in the past 11 years. Paul Goydos (who?) actually has two Top 3 finishes here since 2008. In that same time span, big names like Stenson, Sergio, Mickleson, Tiger, and Fowler have won here as well. Like I said, EVERYONE has a chance. That’s what makes this tournament so great and why it can be very difficult to predict for DFS purposes. Names like Day, Spieth, Rose, Rory, and Mickleson have all missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass recently. There are so many dangers on this course and everyone can fall victim to this at some point during the week. Even though this tournament is tough to predict, there are some trends and stats that stick out and I’ll try to help guide you to DFS glory with the information I have.
TPC Sawgrass is a Pete Dye designed par 72 course that plays around 7,215 yards, with four par 3s and four par 5s. Three of the par 5s are reachable by most and the par 5 9th hole can only be reached in two by the longest of hitters. Off the tee golfers will face narrow tree lined fairways with bunkers and water in play on almost all shots off the tee. There is A LOT of water on this course. Over 24 ACRES of water to be more exact. Like most Pete Dye designs, there are many different type of doglegs on quite a few holes. This will lead to players hitting less than driver on many tee shots. The fairways have a lot of mounds and undulation and can be very firm if the course is dry. Missing it in the rough on the right side can make the golfers approach shots even more difficult because of the “Stadium Mounds.” Everyone thinks that TPC Sawgrass is a Stadium Course because of the seating and atmosphere on the last three holes. While this is true, Pete Dye also created “Stadium Mounds” on a lot of holes so fans can get a better view of shots and he placed them on the right side of the hole so fans can see the golfers faces. If golfers miss right on their tee shots, they could be facing a baseball type swing on their approach shots. Since a lot of water is on the left side of greens, it makes these baseball type swings even more hair raising since the ball will be sitting on a draw/hook lie. On approach shots golfers will see very small and firm greens. Bunkers surround most greens and once again, A LOT of water will be surrounding them as well. The greens themselves are multi tiered, undulated, and tricky which is a very typical Pete Dye design. Since 1992 there have been more three putts on this course than any other non Major course on Tour. The course uses Bermudagrass on the greens and they are fast, with a stimpmeter rating of 12.5 and above. The outcome of the tournament will come down to the final three hole stretch, which is nerve racking but can be played under par if golfers can get over nerves and the intimidation factor. Hole 16 is a reachable par 5 with a lot of trouble around the green. Anything from a 3 to an 8 is definitely possible here. Then golfers move on to the iconic island green at 17, which in reality is usually one of the 6 easiest holes on the course but with the intimidation factor, it makes the hole play much harder in the final round if golfers are in contention. Finally golfers play the 18th which is a visual and physical test for all golfers. In other words, it’s hard. It’s a long par 4 with water down the entire left side. Since 2003 this hole has played 1724 strokes OVER PAR!!! The tournament can definitely be won or lost on these final three holes.
Key Stats For The Course
***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P) and Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G), which are key stats every week.
Ball Striking (BS):
Ball striking is a combination of the Total Driving stat and Greens in Regulation. A good combo of accuracy off the tee, a little length, and a lot of GIRs will be key in picking golfers for your lineups this week.
Par 3 Scoring (P3) and Par 4 Scoring (P4):
Golfers will still need to play well on Par 5s but unlike most courses, the trends say that better Par 3 and Par 4 scorers are more likely to succeed here at TPC Sawgrass. Since 2005 29/40 golfers that finished inside the Top 3 with recordable stats were 77th or better in P3 for the specific year they finished Top 3. 28/40 golfers that finished Top 3 were inside the Top 78 in P4 scoring for the year they finished Top 3.
Scrambling (Scr) w/ a focus on Sand Save % (SS%):
The greens are small and firm. They will be missed. How a golfer does in getting it up and down will be very important this week. Eight of the last ten winners at Sawgrass were inside the Top 60 in Scr the year they won. Also there are 93 bunkers on the course. Golfers will inevitably hit into a few of them this week, so finding good sand players will be something to look for as well. Six of the last seven winners here were inside the Top 35 in SS% for the year they won. Five of those seven winners were inside the Top 20 in SS% for the year they won.
Overall Proximity (Prox):
Since putting on these greens can be very difficult, hitting it close on approach shots will be the easiest way to avoid the dreaded three putt and as I stated in the Course Description, there have been more three putts on this course than any other non Major course on Tour since 1992. Since 2005 27/40 golfers that finished inside the Top 3 were ranked 75th or better in this stat for the respective year they finished Top 3.
High End Picks ($9000 and up)
Rory McIlroy ($11,700):
Rory said in an interview last week that he had only played 18 holes of golf since The Masters. The rust definitely showed as he struggled early but looked like he was rounding into form come Sunday with 8 birdies and a back door Top 5 finish. He has three consecutive Top 10s at TPC Sawgrass and he looks to have finally figured the course out after playing poorly his first few trips here. His price is not outrageous and you can still make solid teams in any format with him in your lineup. If he can keep his drives on the fairway, he can definitely win his first PLAYERS this week. (GPP and cash)
Rickie Fowler ($10,600)
Fowler is the defending champion at this event and his final round last year was one of the all time greatest final rounds of golf. If you haven’t seen it YouTube it. It really is well worth the watch. It is true that winners here have not performed well their next time out but I think it’s just a fluke and I’m ignoring it. Fowler comes in as my #1 ranked golfer overall this week. He seems to be in contention for the win every week he has played this year and his key stats for the course are sick. He’s 7th in SG:T2G, 1st in P4, 4th in BS, 19th in Scr, 46th in SS%, and 23rd in SG:P. His P3 and Prox stats aren’t the greatest but everyone saw how well he played the par 3s last year at Sawgrass and even though his overall Prox is not great, he’s 6th in Proximity from 50-125 yards. With his new found length he will be hitting quite a few approach shots from that range. I honestly think he can win this again. (GPP and cash)
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,700):
Matsuyama played poorly last week by his standards and still finished in a tie for 11th place. He has a couple of Top 25s here in his two starts and he has eight Top 17 finishes this year in his nine made cuts. I love him this week and he is my 2nd ranked golfer overall. His stats are impressive. He’s 5th in SG:T2G, 38th in P3, 15th in P4, 15th BS, and 34th in SG:P. His Scr and SS% stats worry me a bit but he’s 13th in GIR so he hopefully doesn’t have to do much chipping from around the greens this week. (GPP and cash)
Others to look at in this price range:
Justin Rose ($10,300)
Sergio Garcia ($9,900)
Mid Level Golfers ($7000-$8900)
Matt Kuchar ($8,100):
Mr. Consistency missed the cut at Sawgrass last year but made the cut his previous six times including a victory in 2012. He has made 11/12 cuts this year with seven Top 25s. He’s 24th in SG:T2G, 79th in P3, 48th in P4, 33rd in Scr, 67th in SS%, 74th in SG:P, and 29th in Prox. I think he gets back on track at TPC Sawgrass with at least another Top 25. (GPP and cash)
Russell Knox ($7,600):
Fort Knox has been quietly enjoying his best season on Tour this year with seven Top 27s in nine made cuts (in 13 tournaments) including a 2nd place finish a few weeks ago at the RBC Heritage AND a win at the WGC event in November. He hasn’t missed a cut at TPC Sawgrass in two tries with a high finish of 17th last year. He actually comes in as my 7th ranked golfer overall and he’s ranked 5th in my key stats model. He’s 50th in SG:T2G, 20th in P3, 25th in P4, 11th in BS, 20th in Scr, and 24th in Prox. I also like that he’s 2nd in Bogey Avoidance this year. He’s not the best putter but if he can get his flat stick going he can contend for the victory. Winning a huge WGC event with a deep field late last year could help his confidence this week as well. (GPP and cash)
Marc Leishman ($7,300):
Leishman is my #1 golfer this week when just taking key stats into account. He’s 21st in SG:T2G, 9th in P3, 5th in P4, 36th in BS, 22nd in Scr, 60th in SS%, 25th in SG:P, and 83rd in Prox. He has made 8/11 cuts this year and hasn’t finished outside the Top 30 in any of those made cuts. He has also played well at TPC Sawgrass recently with four consecutive made cuts, three consecutive Top 25s, and a high finish of 8th in 2013. I think he is underpriced and I expect him to perform well here this week. (GPP and cash)
Russell Henley ($7,100):
Henley had a rough stretch of golf during February and March but seems to be regaining his form. He has made three of his last four cuts including a 5th place finish at the Shell Houston Open a month ago. He also has had fairly good recent results at TPC Sawgrass finishing inside the Top 25 the last two years. Shockingly he comes in as my 4th ranked golfer overall this week and 7th ranked golfer when just taking key stats into account. He’s 54th in SG:T2G, 63rd in P3, 6th in P4, 21st in BS, 32nd in Scr, 41st in SS%, 15th in SG:P, and 34th in Prox. I’m not going to use him in cash games just because he has barely made 60% of his cuts the last 12 months but I will definitely be rostering him in a couple of GPP lineups this week. (GPP only)
Others to look at in this price range:
Zach Johnson ($8,300)
Paul Casey ($7,900)
Kevin Na ($7,800)
Chris Kirk ($7,800)
Low End Value Picks ($5300-$6900)
Luke Donald ($6,900):
Donald, though nowhere near the player he was when he was the #1 golfer in the world, has been solid this year making eight of his last nine cuts with five Top 26s and and 2nd place finish a few weeks ago at the RBC Heritage. He has had success at TPC Sawgrass with nine made cuts in his last eleven tries including seven Top 26s and three Top 6 finishes. His stats for the course are well above average. He’s 56th in SG:T2G, 63rd in P3, 29th in P4, 8th in Scr, 57th in SS%, 77th in SG:P, and 57th in Prox. I expect him to make the cut and a Top 25 is not out of the question. (GPP and cash)
Jim Furyk ($6,900):
Furyk came back from injury last week and looked rusty, which was to be expected after a long layoff. He has a tournament under his belt and I didn’t see any lingering effects from his wrist surgery so hopefully he’s good to go. In his last ten appearances at TPC Sawgrass he has made eight cuts with six Top 28 finishes and three Top 5s. His game should be suited for the course and you’re getting a golfer who was ranked #3 in the world less than a year ago at a huge discount. (GPP only)
Charles Howell III ($6,700):
CH3 destroyed a whole bunch of lineups last week when he missed the cut and that’s one of the reasons I think I’ll be using him at The PLAYERS. He’ll be the lowest owned he has been all year and that will be a big bonus if he does well this week. Even with last week’s MC he has been having a brilliant season with 15/17 made cuts and ELEVEN Top 25 finishes. His track record at TPC Sawgrass is not great making him a GPP play only, but I think he has been playing the best golf of his career this year and I’m hoping it continues even at a course where he hasn’t had that much success. We have seen recently that golfers with awful course history can still be viable options with Jaime Lovemark finishing 2nd at the Zurich Open even though he had never made the cut there before. The key to his success at the Zurich was that he was playing some of the best golf of his career leading up to that tournament and he carried it over to a place he usually plays poorly at. Hopefully this fits the CH3 mold perfectly this week because stat wise, he’s solid. He’s 35th in SG:T2G, 38th in P3, 15th in P4, 63rd in BS, 21st in Scr, 61st in SS%, and 69th in SG:P. His overall Prox stat is not great but he is 52nd in Proximity from 50-125 and with his length he will be hitting a lot of approach shots from that distance. (GPP only)
David Hearn ($6,100):
Hearn has only made four of his last six cuts on Tour but finished 20th or better in three of those made cuts, so you know that the possible upside is there. He has made all four of his cuts at TPC Sawgrass with a high finish of 6th in 2014. He is my 20th ranked golfer overall and 25th ranked golfer when just looking at key stats. He’s 82nd in SG:T2G, 15th in P3, 65th in P4, 50th in BS, 55th in Scr, 88th in SG:P, and 2nd in Prox. His SS% stat is awful but since he usually hits it close on approach shots, maybe he can avoid the bunkers as much as possible. I’m not going to overload on him but I’ll have him sprinkled throughout a few GPP lineups this week. (GPP only)
Others to look at in this price range:
John Senden ($6,800)
Emiliano Grillo ($6,700)
Daniel Summerhays ($6,600)
William McGirt ($6,400)
Chesson Hadley ($6,100)
That’s it for this week. For more PGA DFS knowledge check out my Podcast. It’s called Fantasy Golf Degenerates and you can find it on iTunes. I also host a web chat on Slurv.com every Wednesday at 1pm EST so if you have questions you can ask me there. I will be posting a video with my favorite cash game plays on Slurv.com every week as well. Follow me on Twitter for more fantasy golf info! Good luck to everyone this week and hopefully you win big!