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BlogThe Players Championship Preview and Picks

The Players Championship

May 9-12, 2013

TPC Sawgrass

Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,215

Purse: $9.5 Million

with $1.71 Million to the winner

Defending Champion:
Matt Kuchar

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

  • The field includes 46 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Golf Rankings.  All the top-25 players are in the field, with 34 of the top-34.  Those that aren’t in the field include Jamie Donaldson (35), Paul Lawrie (41), Nicolas Colsaerts (43) and George Coetzee (48).
  • Now it’s a different story for those on the  PGA Tour money list.  Attendance is perfect as all 50 of the 50 top money winners for 2013 are in the field.
  • The field includes 10 past champions: Matt Kuchar (2012), K.J. Choi (2011), Tim Clark (2010), Henrik Stenson (2009), Sergio Garcia (2008), Phil Mickelson (2007), Adam Scott (2004), Davis Love III (2003 & 1992), Tiger Woods (2001) and Justin Leonard (1998).
  • The field includes all 17 players that have won on the PGA Tour this year: Tiger Woods (Farmers Insurance Open, WGC-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational); Dustin Johnson (Hyundai Tournament of Champions); Russell Henley (Sony Open in Hawaii); Brian Gay (Humana Challenge); Phil Mickelson (WM Phoenix Open); Brandt Snedeker (AT&T Pebble Beach); John Merrick (Northern Trust Open); Matt Kuchar (WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship); Michael Thompson (The Honda Classic); Scott Brown (Puerto Rico Open); Kevin Streelman (Tampa Bay Championship); D.A. Points (Shell Houston Open); Martin Laird (Valero Texas Open); Adam Scott (Masters); Graeme McDowell (RBC Heritage); Billy Horschel (Zurich Classic); Derek Ernst (Wells Fargo Championship).
  • A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in The Players field is our performance chart listed by average finish.
  • One last way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at The Players in the last five years or check out our brand new and sortable 8-year glance of The Players.
  • A a good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.
  • Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field

Player Wells Fargo Volvo China Zurich Classic Ballantine’s Championship RBC Heritage Open de Espana Masters Valero Texas Shell Houston Trophee Hassan Arnold Palmer Maybank Malaysian Tampa Bay
Adam Scott
(306.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(300)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T30
(6.67)
Billy Horschel
(290 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(150)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP T3
(60)
T2
(33.33)
DNP 75
(0)
DNP T56
(1.67)
Tiger Woods
(210 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(160)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(50)
DNP DNP
Angel Cabrera
(209 pts)
71
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(200)
DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T63
(1)
Jason Day
(205.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T30
(20)
DNP 3
(180)
DNP DNP DNP T45
(2.67)
DNP T43
(3)
D.A. Points
(205.33 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T38
(24)
T53
(4)
Win
(50)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Marc Leishman
(202.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T9
(45)
DNP T4
(160)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T38
(4)
Lee Westwood
(194.33 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(100)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP T63
(1)
DNP DNP
Kevin Streelman
(189.67 pts)
T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(90)
DNP CUT
(-20)
DNP DNP DNP T21
(9.67)
DNP Win
(50)
Sergio Garcia
(188.67 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T12
(38)
T8
(100)
DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP T7
(18.33)
Luke Donald
(163.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(90)
DNP T25
(50)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T4
(26.67)
Nick Watney
(162.33 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP T15
(35)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(74)
DNP T27
(7.67)
DNP T45
(2.67)
DNP T43
(3)
Rory McIlroy
(159.33 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T25
(50)
2
(66.67)
T45
(2.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Derek Ernst
(151.33 pts)
Win
(150)
DNP T47
(8)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Matt Kuchar
(145.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T35
(15)
DNP T8
(100)
T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T14
(12)
Jim Furyk
(138 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T42
(9)
DNP T25
(50)
T3
(60)
DNP DNP T65
(0.67)
DNP T7
(18.33)
Kyle Stanley
(133.33 pts)
T6
(60)
DNP 3
(90)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP 78
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Graeme McDowell
(132.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(150)
DNP CUT
(-20)
DNP DNP DNP T45
(2.67)
DNP DNP
Thorbjorn Olesen
(126.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(120)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP 7
(18.33)
DNP DNP
Justin Rose
(118.33 pts)
DNP DNP T15
(35)
DNP DNP DNP T25
(50)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP DNP
David Lynn
(118.33 pts)
2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T46
(16)
14
(24)
T56
(1.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Brandt Snedeker
(117.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T59
(4)
DNP T6
(120)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Charley Hoffman
(116.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP T3
(60)
T20
(10)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T75
(0)
Jimmy Walker
(116.33 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T31
(12.67)
T50
(2.33)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP T30
(6.67)
Bo Van Pelt
(113.33 pts)
T6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP T71
(0)
DNP T20
(60)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP

Who’s Not Hot in the field

Player Wells Fargo Volvo China Zurich Classic Ballantine’s Championship RBC Heritage Open de Espana Masters Valero Texas Shell Houston Trophee Hassan Arnold Palmer Maybank Malaysian Tampa Bay
David Mathis
(-43.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
David Lingmerth
(-35.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T50
(2.33)
DNP T51
(2.33)
Seung-Yul Noh
(-34.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T46
(5.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Scott Stallings
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T53
(4)
T45
(2.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Colt Knost
(-28.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP 69
(1)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T70
(0.33)
Charlie Wi
(-26 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T38
(4)
Andres Romero
(-24 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T61
(2.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Tom Gillis
(-23.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Chad Campbell
(-22.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T59
(4)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T60
(1.33)
DNP T50
(2.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Brian Stuard
(-19 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T43
(3)

The Buzz:

This week’s Player marks the start of the second half of the PGA Tour season.  Hard to believe that the first half went so fast. Other than Tiger, Player of the Year honors is still up for grabs. For the PGA Tour this is the pinnacle of the year, its most prized championship. Hard to believe but this is the seventh year in its May slot.  Even the clubhouse is old news now, being put up in 2010 so it’s safe to say that for the first time there is no “buzz” over the Players.

The only real news having to do with the Players is the World Golf Hall of Fame induction on Monday night.  This is the third year that they switched the ceremony from a November to May. The hope was to gain more attention and get more participation from not only past Hall of Fame members but those playing in the Players.  It’s safe to say that this isn’t happening, this year there were only 8 past Hall of Fame members, all of them being woman from the LPGA Tour.  As for players, there wasn’t any in the field that showed up which is a bit embarrassing.  Maybe there is a good reason for it.

It seems that the Hall of Fame committee just has to have a show every year.  In my opinion the Hall of Fame has turned into the Hall of Good.  Seems that the best five folks at the time are chosen to fulfill the obligation to induct five folks once a year.  They are not even going with the voting members wishes.  As a voting member I am a bit perplexed at the way the rules are bended.  First there are two ballots, one for American players and the other an international ballot.  Why do we need two ballots?

In voting we are told that it takes 65% of the votes for a player to get in.  If that isn’t achieved they have a backup which if the leading vote getter in either the American and International section has over 50% of the vote, they get in.  That is how Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie got in, despite only having 51% of the votes.  I voted for Couples because frankly there weren’t that many folks that I thought qualified. Second his record, which isn’t “Hall of Fame” material but just a notch below, is helped by liking Couples as a person.  Most of all I gave him my vote because he draws lot’s of fans to golf, which is important in the scheme of things.

As for Colin Montgomerie, I did not or would not vote for him.  In my mind Montgomerie’s record isn’t good enough but mainly I always thought he was a selfish individualist that placed money over honor. He could of been the best during the pre-Tiger era but never made that right choice to play over in America.  He cited “family reasons” for not playing in America, but he took millions of dollars of appearance money from places in the far east and made umpteen trips to places like Singapore, Australia and other far off lands.  In reality the all-mighty pound in appearance money dictated his career, reason for him playing the European Tour instead of American tour.  As for his eight European order of merit titles, the count is six because Tiger won more money in 1999 and 2005, still it’s a good record but not enough for Hall of Fame entry.  Also like Pete Rose in baseball that came clean on his cheating, Monty has never really come clean not only on the Jakarta incident but other things that others say put a black mark on his character.

I also feel that Monty’s attitude cost him at least two majors, including the 2007 U.S. Open at Congressional. He lost that championship because he got so worked up and complained so much about the America crowds which got to him.  Yes Monty had it tough over in America, but the first black player in baseball Jackie Robinson also had it tough and not once complained or fought back making his baseball skills answer his critics, something that Monty never did in America.

What I don’t understand is if they let Monty in, why not others like Ian Woosnam or David Graham? Comparing Monty’s record with Woosnam, they are both very close.  Monty won 40 times in his career, 31 times in Europe but never in the United States but more importantly in a major. Woosie won 50 times in his career, 29 times in Europe but more importantly twice in the United States with one of them being the Masters.  Both played in 8 Ryder Cups, both won as captains.  Yes Monty’s record was a better at 20-9-7 while Woosie’s record of 14-12-5 was not as stellar but nothing to sneeze about.  So why hasn’t Woosie gotten a Hall of Fame nod?  Or the same with David Graham, not a fan favorite but a person with a good record winning two majors.

Monty has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer in the Elizabeth Montgomerie foundation, but I just don’t think he has given back in golf.  Who knows, he does have a knack for television, if he can stop talking so much about himself maybe in a decade or so he can help his image like Nick Faldo has, but right now Montgomerie is an embarrassing choice and doesn’t help the image of the Hall of Fame.

As for the other three inductees, Ken Scofield was a great administer that grew the European Tour and deserves a place in the Hall.  Many don’t realize that Willie Parks, jr. was not only a British Open champion twice, which realistically in that time shouldn’t get him in the hall but he was a pretty good writer, a club maker and design a hundred courses including gens like Sunningdale in London.  As for Ken Venturi, his record just doesn’t make him a Hall of Famer but his life after his playing career with three stellar decades of TV work is enough to get him into the hall.  Venturi also helped many people and would do anything to help the game of golf, something that Colin Montgomerie is lacking on.

Still the point is the Hall of Fame is becoming as easy to get in as getting a home loan in 2005.  If there is someone close and the timing is right, that person will get in so they could have a big party and TV show to glamorize the Hall of Fame.  For 2014 why not have a party glamorizing the greats in golf and do a creative live show instead of letting in another five folks that really don’t belong in the Hall.  Commissioner Tim Finchem indicated in his media interview on Tuesday that he also is bothered with some things to do with the Hall so maybe there will be some change, I only hope so.

Things you need to know about this week at the Players Championship

  • This week we have the crowning jewel of the PGA Tour, The Players.  Other than the four majors, it’s the fifth most important tournament in men’s professional golf.  The big news is what will be different for the players.  How will the course play this year?  Will it be firm and fast as officials hope.  Even with the bad weather over the last week officials feel they can get the course dry and fast for Thursday’s opening round takes to the course sub-air system. In looking at the long range forecast, it looks ok early with perfect weather on Thursday and Friday, scattered storms on Saturday but 50% chance of thunderstorms and rain on Sunday.  One thing that will help scoring low is the lack of wind, it’s suppose to be minimal all week.
  • Many may feel that it takes a lot of experience to win the Players, but since the event moved to the Stadium course, 12 different players in their 20s have won.  The list is impressive: Jerry Pate in 1982, Hal Sutton in 1983, Fred Couples in 1984, Sandy Lyle in 1987, Jodie Mudd in 1990, Steve Elkington in 1991, Davis Love III in 1992, Justin Leonard in 1998, David Duval in 1999, Tiger Woods in 2001, Adam Scott in 2004. and Sergio Garcia in 2008.  Need I also bring up that guys like Craig Perks, Fred Funk, Henrik Stenson and Tim Clark have also won so anything can happen this week.<P>

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Players Championship:

Key stat for the winner:

  • Craig Perks blew the greatest stat the tournament had going for it with his win in 2002.  Before his victory, nobody had ever won the Players without a win on the PGA Tour.  On top of that 21 of the 32 past Players champions winners have won 44 major championships.  Still the fact is if the course is dry and firm without rain hampering it the cream always rises to the top.   Just look at the list of champions at TPC Sawgrass, Sutton, Couples, Kite, Love, Norman, Leonard, Garcia, Duval, Mickelson and Woods. Not a bad list.  But the one thing they have in common is firm and fast conditions so if that happens this year look for a marquee winner.  Oh Craig Perks has some company as Tim Clark became the second player to win for the first time at the Players Championship.
  • One of the biggest oddities of The Players Championship is the fact that nobody has ever repeated as champion and if you go back and look at all the tournaments that started before 1998, the only other one like this is was the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee which is no longer played.  Five players have won this event multiple times, but none in consecutive years. Nicklaus is the only three-time winner (1974, 1976, 978). Two-time winners include Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Couples (1984, 1996) and Love (1992, 2003).
  • The most unusual winner of the Players has to be Sandy Lyle who won it in a playoff in 1987.  We say unusual because of his 13 starts he only made three cuts, his win in 1987, a T74th in 1994 and a T70th in 1997.  Now Craig Perks only made two cuts in six tries but after winning the 2002 Players he finished T17th the next year.

So what does it take to win at the Players?

  • Going back to 2000, every winner but four has been in the top-10 of greens hit category and five of them have led (Sergio Garcia-2008, Stephen Ames-2006, Fred Funk-2005, Adam Scott-2004, Hal Sutton-2000). Last year Matt Kuchar was T3rd in hitting 53 of the 72 greens.
  • Great putting is a must for the week. The greens are always tough and fast. This year officials have them rolling at 12.5. In the past number of putts hasn’t been the key as between 2004 and 2010 nobody was in the top-ten in number of putts made.  Choi broke that streak finishing T6th in 2011 with only 108 putts, while Kuchar was T10th last year with 110 putts.
  • Scrambling is important, no matter how well a player does he will still miss greens and have to be able to get it up and down to win.  There are a lot of tough chips on this course and it will take a lot of chip and runs instead of pitching it in the air.
  • As of right now there are are 27 first-time participants at this year’s Players Championship. The players teeing it up for the first time at TPC Sawgrass are Charlie Beljan, Jonas Bilxt, Scott Brown, Roberto Castro, Will Claxton, Erik Compton, Joe Daley, Derek Ernst, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano, Martin Flores, Branden Grace, Luke Guthrie, Richard H. Lee, James Hahn, Russell Henley, Billy Horschel, Jason Kokrak, Scott Langley, David Lingmerth, David Lynn, William McGirt, Seung-Yul Noh, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ted Potter, Jr. Brian Stuard, Daniel Summerhays and Casey Wittenberg.  The only players to win The Players on their first start at the Stadium Course (since 1982) is Hal Sutton in 1983 and Craig Perks in 2002.

Lastly the 17th hole has been downright boring the last couple of years, will it get better?

  • The reputation of the 17th hole was pure fright.  Hitting to the island green was always hard and in some years it’s been downright scary.  Since keeping records in 2003, 481 balls have found a watery grave on the short par 3. The worst was in 2007 when 93 hit it in.  But in 2009 only 30 balls got wet while in 2010 only 29 went in the water. In 2011 40 balls found the water around the green why last year only 30 went in. If your wondering why it’s become easier the answer is easy.  With the change from March to May there is now a lack of wind.  That was the reason for 93 in the water, it was tough conditions.  So the answer is easy, if there is a lack of wind this week the 17th will play easier.  Still come Sunday no matter what the conditions are there is that special mystic of playing the 17th on the final day while in contention.

Who to watch for at the The Players Championship

Best Bets:

Adam Scott

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T15 CUT T26 CUT T54 T6 T53 T8 Win T17 CUT

First start back from his Masters victory, just think that he returns to a course that he has had great success on and will continue to play well on.

Lee Westwood

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T61 T4 CUT T38 T22 CUT CUT

Watch him, he quietly finished T4th last week, has three top-tens in ten starts at the Players.

Zach Johnson

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T2 T12 T22 T32 CUT T16 T58 T8

Just like with Matt Kuchar last year, Johnson has built up a good record and seems like the type of player that could win the Players.

Best of the rest:

Tiger Woods

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T40 WD WD 8 T37 T22 T53 T16 T11 T14 Win

The course has been a bit of a mystery for him so you just wonder if he can get over that and contend.

Luke Donald

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
6 T4 T26 T37 T27 T16 CUT T2 CUT CUT

Top-tens the last two years, course should be good for him.

Phil Mickelson

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T25 T33 T17 T55 T21 Win T14 T40 T3 T28 T33

What can you say about him other than played well last week so you have to think he will do well again.

Sergio Garcia

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T56 T12 T47 T22 Win 2 T14 T32 T53 CUT T4 T50

Good record this year and has good memories of Sawgrass.

Solid contenders:

Jason Dufner

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T68 T6 CUT T32

Just think that he could be on the verge of winning and this could be his spot to do that on.

Jason Day

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
CUT T6 CUT

Can’t forget him, inbetween missing the cut finished T6th at Sawgrass in 2011.

Bo Van Pelt

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T7 CUT T4 CUT CUT CUT T8 CUT

Three top-tens at Sawgrass including T7th last year and T4th in 2010.

David Toms

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T10 2 CUT T9 T32 T64 CUT T68 CUT CUT T19 T12

In his sunset years, but seems to know how to play well here with three top-tens in the last four years.

Long shots that could come through:

Ben Curtis

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T2 T50 T66 T22 T42 CUT CUT CUT CUT

Game hasn’t been great this year, but was T2nd at Sawgrass last year.

Kevin Streelman

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
T51 T19 CUT CUT

Was T6th at the Wells Fargo and T3rd at the Heritage, he could be the sleeper pick for the week.

Kyle Stanley

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
CUT

Was also T6th at Wells Fargo and 3rd at Zurich so he is hot also.

Not this week and not on this course:

Matt Kuchar

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
Win T54 T13 T14 CUT T16 CUT WD

Sorry but a defender can’t seem to muster up a win the next year, will be the same faith for Kuchar.

Rory McIlroy

2012 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03 ’02 ’01
CUT CUT CUT

Is three for three in missing Player cuts, this Sawgrass may not be his cup of tea.