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BlogThe Players Preview and Picks

The Players Championship

May 10th – 13th, 2018

TPC Sawgrass

Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,189

Purse: $11 million

with $1,980,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Si Woo Kim

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 80 of the top 100 in the latest Official World rankings and 53 of the top 53.  So this will be the best field of any 2018 event and the best since last year’s PGA Championship when 97 of the top-100 played.  Now in the history of The Players Championship since 2000 it’s only had 50 of the top-50 playing and that was in 2005.  That same year saw the most players in the top-100 participate, in 2005 82 of the top-100 played.

Last year 48 of the top-50 played in the event

The field includes all 50 of the top 50 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  

The field includes 10 past champions: Si Woo Kim (2017), Jason Day (2016), Rickie Fowler (2015), Martin Kaymer (2014), Matt Kuchar (2012), Tiger Woods (2013 & ’01), Henrik Stenson (2009), Sergio Garcia (2008), Phil Mickelson (2007) and Adam Scott (2004).

All winners on the PGA Tour since The Players in 2016 will be in the field this week except for 2016 Barracuda winner Greg Chalmers and 2016 Barbasol winner Aaron Baddeley.  22 of the players that have won the last 28 majors and Players are in the field.

A total of 20 first-time Players Championship participants will play Ryan Blaum, Dominic Bozzelli, Austin Cook, Bryson DeChambeau, Brandon Harkins, Tom Hoge, Beau Hossler, Whee Kim, Satoshi Kodaira, Kelly Kraft, Andrew Landry, Alexander Levy, Haotong Li, Trey Mullinax, C.T. Pan, Xander Schauffele, Ollie Schniederjans, J.J. Spaun, Kevin Tway and Richy Werenski.

Of those Cook (RSM Classic), DeChambeau (John Deere), Kodaira (RBC Heritage), Landry (Valero Texas) and Schauffele (Greenbrier & Tour Championship) have won on the PGA Tour since last year’s Players.

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Players Championship field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another 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 Championship in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Players Championship.

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 North America, Bovada.  They give winning odds plus top-five and first-round leader odds.

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 for the The Players Championship

Player Wells Fargo Zurich Classic RBC Heritage Valero Texas Masters Houston Open WGC – Dell Match Play Corales Arnold Palmer Valspar WGC Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open
Patrick Reed
(358.33 pts)
8
(50)
T7
(55)
DNP DNP Win
(176)
DNP T9
(22.5)
DNP T7
(18.33)
T2
(33.33)
T37
(6.5)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Bubba Watson
(247.83 pts)
DNP T28
(22)
DNP DNP T5
(93.33)
DNP Win
(66)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP T9
(22.5)
DNP Win
(44)
Tony Finau
(217.67 pts)
T21
(29)
6
(60)
DNP DNP T10
(53.33)
T24
(17.33)
T17
(16.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T27
(11.5)
DNP T2
(33.33)
Jordan Spieth
(216.17 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP 3
(120)
T3
(60)
T17
(16.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T14
(18)
DNP T9
(15)
Justin Thomas
(212 pts)
T21
(29)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T17
(44)
DNP 4
(40)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(50)
Win
(44)
T9
(15)
Phil Mickelson
(208.5 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP T36
(18.67)
T24
(17.33)
T17
(16.5)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(66)
DNP T6
(20)
Jason Day
(204.33 pts)
Win
(132)
T34
(16)
DNP DNP T20
(40)
DNP T36
(7)
DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Chesson Hadley
(195.67 pts)
T16
(34)
T4
(80)
T7
(36.67)
T20
(30)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP T49
(0.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Billy Horschel
(194.33 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
T5
(46.67)
T11
(39)
CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Ian Poulter
(192 pts)
DNP T22
(28)
T7
(36.67)
DNP T44
(8)
Win
(88)
T5
(35)
DNP T41
(3)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Bryson DeChambeau
(190.67 pts)
4
(80)
DNP T3
(60)
DNP T38
(16)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
WD
(-1.67)
DNP DNP T41
(3)
Paul Casey
(189.83 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T15
(46.67)
DNP T17
(16.5)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T12
(19)
DNP T49
(0.33)
Henrik Stenson
(187.67 pts)
DNP T19
(31)
DNP DNP T5
(93.33)
T6
(40)
DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(187.5 pts)
CUT
(-10)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP T17
(44)
DNP T17
(16.5)
DNP T26
(8)
DNP T14
(18)
4
(26.67)
T37
(4.33)
Rory McIlroy
(185 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(93.33)
DNP T36
(7)
DNP Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T59
(0)
T20
(10)
Luke List
(183.33 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP T3
(60)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T24
(17.33)
T59
(0)
DNP T7
(18.33)
T16
(11.33)
DNP 2
(33.33)
T26
(8)
Rickie Fowler
(182.17 pts)
T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(133.33)
T43
(4.67)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP T37
(6.5)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Louis Oosthuizen
(179.83 pts)
CUT
(-10)
3
(90)
DNP DNP T12
(50.67)
DNP T9
(22.5)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T16
(11.33)
T30
(10)
T24
(8.67)
DNP
Nick Watney
(178.67 pts)
T2
(100)
T31
(19)
T32
(12)
T20
(30)
DNP T32
(12)
DNP DNP DNP T59
(0)
DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP
Webb Simpson
(172.67 pts)
T21
(29)
DNP T5
(46.67)
DNP T20
(40)
DNP T29
(10.5)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
T37
(6.5)
T5
(23.33)
DNP
Scott Piercy
(169.67 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
T16
(22.67)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T24
(17.33)
DNP T60
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
DNP
Zach Johnson
(155.33 pts)
DNP T15
(35)
T42
(5.33)
5
(70)
T36
(18.67)
DNP T36
(7)
DNP T26
(8)
T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Jimmy Walker
(154.67 pts)
DNP T25
(25)
DNP 4
(80)
T20
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T73
(0)
T28
(7.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Cameron Smith
(148.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
T32
(12)
DNP T5
(93.33)
DNP T5
(35)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T46
(1.33)
DNP DNP T6
(20)
Sean O’Hair
(146 pts)
T63
(0)
T25
(25)
CUT
(-6.67)
T2
(100)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
T12
(12.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T64
(0)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the The Players Championship

Player Wells Fargo Zurich Classic RBC Heritage Valero Texas Masters Houston Open WGC – Dell Match Play Corales Arnold Palmer Valspar WGC Mexico Honda Classic Genesis Open
D.A. Points
(-46.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Nick Taylor
(-37 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T41
(3)
Mackenzie Hughes
(-36.67 pts)
T59
(0)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T59
(0)
DNP
Wesley Bryan
(-34.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
T42
(5.33)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Harold Varner III
(-31.67 pts)
T55
(0)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T45
(1.67)
DNP 78
(0)
DNP T72
(0)
T60
(0)
Danny Lee
(-31.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
T55
(0)
T51
(0)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Geoff Ogilvy
(-30.67 pts)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Hudson Swafford
(-30 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
T75
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T75
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP
Gary Woodland
(-25.33 pts)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP T29
(10.5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T50
(0.5)
T49
(0.33)
DNP
Martin Flores
(-24.33 pts)
T59
(0)
CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP 77
(0)
DNP T74
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

The big talk this week will be the change coming next year when the Players moves back to it’s original March dates before the Masters.  When the event moved to May in 2007, there were several good reasons for the move.  The first was weather, March gets rainy at times, and it’s always windy so by moving to May they got better, warmer weather but also lack of wind.  That was problematic because TPC Sawgrass and the finishing holes play a lot better with more drama when the wind is blowing, and there were several Players in the last 11 years in which conditions were stagnant, thus the lack of excitement.  The tour was also looking to get away from being the event before the Masters which they felt meant less billing.  The two things that they got right, yes the weather was a lot warmer and lacked rain.  The event also made May a lot more exciting, but that came at the expense of the Byron Nelson and Colonial which has lost some of there luster the last 11 years.  As for the condition of the course, it will be perfect; the only difference is that Bermuda will get overseeded with rye, which will give the course a much greener look.  But for the PGA Tour and players the Florida swing will be better as there will be four straight events played in Florida, starting with the Honda, then the Arnold Palmer, Players, and Valspar.

Four past stars aren’t playing this week

Four of golf’s most prolific players didn’t make the cut or should we say get into the field this year at the Players.  Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood, players with a combined 72 PGA Tour wins, 194 titles around the world plus 8 major championships aren’t playing this week.  Of the four, Furyk and Vijay were runner-ups with all four finishing in the top-10, 17 times.  Singh and Els have competed in 24 of the previous 25 Players and Furyk 22 of the last 23. Westwood, a member of the European PGA Tour, has appeared more sporadically, starting in 14 of 20 years.

Adam Scott needs to get off the stick

When Adam Scott won the Players in 2004, many thought that he would be the player to could beat Tiger Woods on a regular basis.  That never happened and for years Scott struggled with the punter and his game.  He did get things together in 2013 to win the Masters, but since winning back to back at the Honda and WGC-Cadillac at Doral in 2016, things haven’t gone very well for Scott.  He finished the year 7th in the World Rankings, but in 27 starts since the start of 2017, he had only finished in the top-ten four times the last coming last year at the FedEx St. Jude Classic when he finished T-10th. The month before he finished T-6th at the Players but since then he has struggled.  With that he has dived the World Rankings, this week he is 71st and may end his streak of playing in Majors.  Right now he has played in 67 straight majors since the 2001 British Open.  His streak is the 2nd longest in golf behind Sergio Garcia’s 75 straight but because of his out of the top-60 in the world rankings, he may have to qualify to get into the U.S. Open.  Scott’s problems are many, other than greens hit which he ranks 25th in this year, the rest of his stats are wrong with putting being the worst.  He is 193rd in strokes gained-putting, but the real problem is lack of making birdies.  Since 2011 he has been in the top-56 in birdie average, but this year is 148th.  In par breakers, he is 154th, while his scoring average is 71.81 which ranks 167th.  Some of his problems could be lack of effort; he has always been one of those players who have low participation as each year he plays in under 20 events a year.  It also doesn’t help that his base is in Australia and with a child being born in 2015 and another 9 months ago, these are probably his real problem.  But for fantasy players, Scott is one that we pass on every week and unless he doesn’t play better, may not see him in majors.

The season is two-thirds finished

It’s also hard to believe that this is the 28th event of the year with only 16 tournaments left in the season.  But of those 16 events left is three majors, a WGC event, and four FedEx Cup playoff events.  And we don’t include in this list the Ryder Cup, all of these events in the next four months.

Things you need to know about the Players Championship:

This week we have the crowning jewel of the PGA Tour, The Players. This is the 45th edition, which has been played at the TPC Stadium Course every year since 1982. Other than the four majors, it’s the fifth most important tournament in men’s professional golf.  In looking at the field the last couple of years only one other tournament in golf gets more top-100 ranked players, the PGA Championship.  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?  The weather has been pretty dry over the last couple of weeks, so officials shouldn’t have any trouble with getting the course fast. One thing that will be different this week, the wind will be low this week right around the 12 mph figure.  So look for low scores as each day will be perfect with very little chance of rain.

Many may feel that it takes a lot of experience to win the Players since the event moved to the Stadium course, 16 different players in their 20s have won, including last year’s champion Si Woo Kim, 2016 champion Jason Day and 2015 winner Rickie Fowler.  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, Sergio Garcia in 2008, Martin Kaymer in 2014, Fowler in 2015, Day in 2016 and Kim last year.  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.

Course information:

  • The Players Stadium Course
  • Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl.
  • 7,189 yards     Par 36-36–72
  • TPC Sawgrass features a course rating of 76.8 and a slope rating from the back tees of 155. The tees and fairways are Celebration bermudagrass while the rough is 419 bermudaGrass.  The greens are Mini Verde Ultrdwarf which has become very popular in the Southeast. The course was the 19th hardest course last year with a 72.05 average.  In 2015 it was the 18th hardest course on the PGA Tour playing to an average of 72.08 and the 25th hardest course in 2014, playing to an average of 72.155, just over a tenth of a shot over par.  In 2013 Sawgrass was the 19th hardest course on the PGA Tour in 2013 playing to an average of 72.323, so just over a quarter of a shot over par.

 Rank compared to

  • Year  Scoring avg    other courses
  • 2017       73.289               5th
  • 2016       72.055              19th
  • 2015       72.083             18th
  • 2014       72.155              25th
  • 2013       72.323              19th
  • 2012       72.466             19th
  • 2011       72.000             23rd
  • 2010       71.804             28th
  • 2009       72.690             12th
  • 2008       74.286              6th
  • 2007       73.248              12th
  • 2006       73.529               7th
  • 2005       72.841              17th
  • 2004       73.004             12th
  • 2003       72.541              21st
  • 2002       73.500             3rd
  • 2001       73.536              3rd
  • 2000       74.451             2nd
  • 1999       74.642             3rd
  • 1998       73.375             7th
  • Between 1998 and 2006 TPC Sawgrass played to a 73.491 average.  After 2007 to the present the course played to a 72.581 average.  Why the three-quarters of a shot difference?  Because the course changed from being played in March, the windy part of the year in Ponte Vedra to May which sees’s calmer days.  So the course is playing a lot easier than when the event was played in March.
  • The course opened in 1981 and hosted The Players Championship in 1982.  That year the course was very “raw” with a lot of complaints from the players that the greens and landing areas had too much slope.  Winds in the early days didn’t help ease the pain of the mounds, but over the years improvements have made the course more “player-friendly”.
  • Over the years, the TPC Sawgrass has gone from a course the players didn’t care much about to one of the most loved, but most robust courses on Tour.  With the advent of the Players moving to May, the course went through an extensive renovation in 2007 in which all of the grass on the tees, fairways, and greens were stripped off with a new drainage and irrigation system placed underneath. The greens were built with a sub-air system just like the one at Augusta National, which can control firmness in any weather conditions.
  • At the same time, 122 yards was added to the course and the rough is now Bermuda instead of rye.
  • With all of this, plus the new clubhouse, it gave the Players a new dimension in making it one of the best tournaments in the world, with the possibility of it one day being considered a major.
  • A couple of things to know, the average green size is 4,500 which is small and makes the targets harder.  With small greens that place more emphasis on shotmaking, but you have to be useful in getting it up and down.  Water is on all 18 holes, but for the pro’s only comes into play on 11 holes. There are a total of 92 bunkers around the course along with a lot of waste areas in the fairways.
  • One other thing, last year the course played to a yardage of 7,189 which is 26 yards shorter than in 2016 before the 12th hole got changed.

A look at the winners of the Players:

31 have won the 36 Players Championship since the event moved to its permanent home of TPC Sawgrass.  Of those 31 players they have.

  • *Played in 13,145 PGA Tour events in their careers
  • *Won a total of $790,322 million
  • *With a total of $57.2 million being won at the Players
  • *The 30 have won a total of 405 times on the PGA Tour
  • *While 18 of the 31 won a total of 43 major championships
  • *Seven of the 31 are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame
  • *Seven of the 29 winners spent a total of 1,139 weeks as world number one.
  • (Woods 683, Norman 311, Price 44, Couples 16, Duval 15, Scott 11, Kaymer 8 and Day 51 weeks)
  • *Of the winners of the Players only two won their first event at the Players, Craig Perks and Tim Clark. For Perks, it was his only win on the PGA Tour while Clark won again four years later.
  • *Of the 31 winners, these nine did it on their second start: Adam Scott, Fred Couples, Hal Sutton, Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Rickie Fowler, Stephen Ames, Steve Elkington and Si Woo Kim.
  • *Only two made the Players their last PGA Tour victory: Jerry Pate and K.J. Choi

In talking about those that have won at the Players, it’s interesting to note that the new-breed of winners, those at the top of the world rankings seem to struggle at the Players.  Of the top-ten, only #6 Rickie Fowle and #6 Jason Day have won at TPC Sawgrass.  Here is what has happened to the other eight:

Player                                 # of starts     Top-ten    Missed cut          Best finish

  • #1 Dustin Johnson              9                    0                    2                  T-12, 2017
  • #2 Justin Thomas               3                     1                    0                   T-3, 2016
  • #3 Jon Rahm                        1                    0                    0                 T-72, 2017
  • #4 Jordan Spieth                 3                    1                    3                   T-4, 2014
  • #5 Justin Rose                    14                    1                    6                   T-4, 2014
  • #8 Rory McIlroy                   8                    3                    3                     T-6, 2014
  • #9 Hideki Matsuyama         4                     1                    0                     T-7, 2016
  • #10 Patrick Reed                 4                     0                   2                     T-24, 2015

Let’s take a look at vital stats that are important for those playing at TPC Sawgrass

This is based on the most important stats for TPC Sawgrass, based on data from last years Players Championship, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2018. What we do is take their rank for each stat and then add up the four categories.
The scoring average of the field at TPC Sawgrass in 2017 was 73.18, so with par being 72, it was a shot and a quarter over par, making TPC Sawgrass the 5th hardest course to score on in 2017. Because of winds averaging 20 mph on the weekend, that is the reason it was a full shot over the 72.05 average in 2016. So we can see one of the things that makes TPC Sawgrass unique, weather and wind. It’s about a mile from the Atlantic and if the wind blows, it plays very tough. Each hole is challenging with water on every one of them, but water becomes a hazard on 12 holes, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9,11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18. Bunkering is also hard along with chipping as most of the greens are raised so a hot missing a green is an adventure getting it up and down.
Between the first year, it was played at TPC Sawgrass in 1982 and 2006, it was played in March which conditions were totally different, due to higher winds and cooler weather. When the dates changed in 2007 to May, winds decreased and it was a lot warmer. You could say that the change of dates made the event play easier because of the lack of wind. So when the event moves back to March next year look for drastically different conditions. This year it’s going to be a mix of good weather with showers on Sunday but the good news is the winds will be around 14 mph each day, so it won’t be that hard.

Still how much did the change of date cause the course to play differently? The winners have been pretty consistent as in most years hitting greens is very important. Between 1997 and 2006, seven of the ten winners were in the top-ten in greens hit, with four of them leading that stat. Since the change to May, of the 11 winners five of the winners have been in the top-ten with only one, Sergio Garcia leading in greens hit. So in a way we are seeing the importance of hitting greens not as important.
In looking at our four categories, we have seen Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green as very important. Yes, it was T-11th on tour last year but in 2016 it was T-2nd on tour so we pick that as the key stat. In looking at our past winners, last year Si Woo Kim was 2nd in this start which in 2016 Jason Day was 3rd. In 2015 Rickie Fowler won ranking 5th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green. In 2014 winner Martin Kaymer was 2nd in this stat while 2013 champion Tiger Woods was 1st. So you can see that Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green is very important in winning at the Players as the last five winners have been no higher than 5th.
Next important stat is Proximity to hole. Last year it ranked 2nd on tour with Kim finishing T-39th in that stat. In 2016 it ranked 14th on tour with champion Jason Day ranking T-50th in this stat. But in 2015 this stat was important in Rickie Fowler’s win, he was T-3rd while in 2014 Martin Kaymer was 46th while Tiger in 2013 was T-23rd. Still, since it’s important to hit greens and get it close we feel the importance of this stat.
Our third important stat is scrambling, since it’s important to hit greens and hard to do this, you have to be able to get it up and down on the greens you miss. Last year the course was 4th in this stat while the winner Si Woo Kim was 1st in scrambling. For 2016 the course ranked 9th in scrambling, while we see that winner Jason Day was 1st in this stat. In 2015 Rickie Fowler was 10th while in 2014 Martin Kaymer was 4th and Tiger Woods in 2013 was 6th. So you can see the importance of scrambling.
Our fourth stat is something that was very hard to pinpoint. That is because putting doesn’t show us much and there is nothing that catches our attention in playing the par 3s, par 4s and par 5s. But one thing that TPC Sawgrass does give up is a lot of birdies. Seems hard to believe since the course is so hard, but last year 1,429 birdies were made on the course. This ranked 33rd so 17 courses on tour last year saw more birdies made. One thing to realize is that the field is 144 players, while most events have fields of 156 giving it more chances for more birdies But if you look at some of the other courses that have had more birdies, they aren’t as challenging as TPC Sawgrass so that is why making lot’s of birdies is important. Now total birdies are very misleading since some players like Dustin Johnson and Adam Scott haven’t played as many events as those that play week in and week our. So our fourth important stat is birdie average, which is the average birdies made for each of the rounds. In looking at the last five winners, Si Woo Kim last year ranked T-34th while in 2016 Jason Day ranked T-2nd in birdie average, 2015 winner Rickie Fowler was T-1st, Martin Kaymer in 2014 was T-9th and Tiger in 2013 was T-15th.

*Strokes Gained tee-to-green: Course may have only been 11th hardest on tour, but you need to hit it long and straight along with hitting lots of greens. So this is important to find a player that will do this

*Proximity to hole: Hitting greens is important, last year TPC Sawgrass ranked 17th, but in proximity to hole, which tells how close players get to the hole, Sawgrass ranked 2nd as the players averaged getting it 42 feet away.

*Scrambling: The percent of the time a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better.

*Birdie Average: Takes the number of birdies and multiplies it by the number of rounds so that we can see what the average of birdies are made per each round.

Here are the 136 of 144 players from this year’s field with stats from 2018:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here is the link to the Other 126 players with stats for 2018

DraftKings tips

Of the 144 in the field, 124 have played at least once at TPC Sawgrass in The Players since 2010:

  • Zach Johnson is 35 under in 32 rounds playing 8 years
  • Sergio Garcia is 32 under in 32 rounds playing 8 years
  • Francesco Molinari is 29 under in 22 rounds playing 7 years
  • Adam Scott is 28 under in 30 rounds playing 8 years
  • Matt Kuchar is 27 under in 29 rounds playing 8 years
  • Rory McIlroy is 24 under in 24 rounds playing 7 years
  • Martin Kaymer is 21 under in 32 rounds playing 8 years
  • Kevin Na is 20 under in 18 rounds playing 6 years
  • Hideki Matsuyama is 20 under in 16 rounds playing 4 years
  • Tiger Woods is 15 under in 15 rounds playing 4 years
  • Charley Hoffman is 14 under in 28 rounds playing 8 years
  • Si Woo Kim is 14 under in 8 rounds playing 2 years
  • Jason Day is 13 under in 22 rounds playing 7 years

*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)

  • Si Woo Kim is 14 under playing 2 years (-1.75)
  • Francesco Molinari is 29 under playing 7 years (-1.32)
  • Hideki Matsuyama is 20 under playing 4 years (-1.25)
  • Rafael Cabrera-Bello is 7 under playing 2 years (-1.17)
  • Kevin Na is 20 under playing 6 years (-1.11)
  • Zach Johnson is 35 under playing 8 years (-1.09)
  • Sergio Garcia is 32 under playing 8 years (-1.00)
  • Rory McIlroy is 24 under playing 7 years (-1.00)
  • Tiger Woods is 15 under playing 4 years (-1.00)
  • Adam Scott is 28 under playing 8 years (-0.93)
  • Matt Kuchar is 27 under playing 8 years (-0.93)
  • Justin Thomas is 8 under playing 3 years (-0.73)
  • Russell Knox is 10 under playing 4 years (-0.71)
  • Lucas Glover is 12 under playing 6 years (-0.67)
  • Martin Kaymer is 21 under playing 8 years (-0.66)
  • Jason Day is 13 under playing 7 years (-0.59)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:

  • Rory McIlroy – $11,600
  • Jason Day – $11,400
  • Jordan Spieth – $11,100
  • Justin Thomas – $10,800
  • Dustin Johnson – $10,300
  • Rickie Fowler – $9,600
  • Jon Rahm – $9,300
  • Justin Rose – $9,100
  • Sergio Garcia – $9,000
  • Paul Casey – $8,900
  • Henrik Stenson – $8,800

Before we start this week’s Players, it’s time to talk about how this is an excellent event for Fantasy Golf players. I say this because it’s one of those events people play year after year, so historical data is essential to watch.  Example of this, look at guys like Sergio Garcia who always seems to do well, while you look at Dustin Johnson who seems to struggle in this event.  Another thing to watch is weather when the course plays easier due to lack of wind, marquee players look to do better than years like last year that are tough, and you find a guy like Si Woo Kim winning.

In the list above I can’t find much fault on anyone on this list, other than Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spite who struggles in this event.

Also, Sergio Garcia has struggled of late, missing the cut in his last three events and Rickie Fowler, who other than winning in 2015 and finishing T-2nd in 2012 has struggled on this course.  I also saw another lousy side of Fowler at the Wells Fargo, again having problems over the weekend.  Now in a way we are going against past stats over the years from the Players who show both Garcia and Fowler making a lot of eagles and birdies.  So this leaves you with a decision, but for me, I will take a pass on them.  Looking at Rory McIlroy at $11,600 I like him because of his production numbers, he averages four eagles and birdies per round.  Also like Jason Day at $11,400, who averages 4.27 eagles and birdies per round at TPC Sawgrass.  He played well last week, and I can see the excellent play continuing.  Can’t say the same for Jordan Spieth at $11,100, he has missed three straight cuts after finishing T-4th in his first start in 2014.  Still, his production numbers are weak so take a pass.  Same with Dustin Johnson at $10,800 yes he finished T-12th last year, but that was his best finish in nine starts, so pass on him along with Rickie Fowler at $9,600.  I have mixed emotions on Jon Rahm at $9,300, he wasn’t good in his debut in this event last year but has played well, yes he is ok to pick.  Also mixed emotions on Justin Rose at $9,100, he has only played well once in this event in 2014, and his game seems to be lost of late, probably best to take a pass on him.  I gave you my reasons for passing on Sergio Garcia at $9,000.  Mixed emotions on Paul Casey at $8,900, he doesn’t have that great of a record, but he seems to be on his game now so I can see him getting a nod from a lot of people.  Last on our list is Henrik Stenson at $8,800, a puzzling guy who played well in his first four tries but has struggled a bit since finishing T-5th in 2013.  I give him the nod, thinking that he will do well and his production numbers are outstanding.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,800 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

Lot’s of excellent choices in this price range.  First is Patrick Reed at $8,700, many will take him based on his Master’s win, I say that a pass on him this week.  The same with Tiger Woods at $8,600, his putting was terrible last week but frankly, he may have won twice, but has struggled on this course.  Hideki Matsuyama at $8,500 is a good pick considering how well he plays on this course.  In four starts has been in the top-25 every year and is 20 under for his 12 rounds.  Phil Mickelson at $8,400 is a guy to take a pass on, his record is terrible in this event other than his win in 2007, but I don’t see him repeating that effort.  Our first substantial recommendations are for Francesco Molinari at $8,100; he has played well this year despite some shoulder concerns and a wrist injury last year.  But I like him because he has played well in his previous three starts and I see this continue.  Alex Noren at $7,900 is a good pick, played well last year now many will not like him because he has missed the cut in his previous two starts at the Masters and Wells Fargo, I say he will do better this week.  Matt Kuchar is a borderline pick at $7,800; he has made all of his cuts, is a past champion of this event and has had his moments in this event.  Yes, he missed the cut in 2015, was 82nd last year but was T-3rd in 2016, take a chance on him.  Another good pick is Ian Poulter at $7,800, he played well last year and had done well this year, take him, and you will be happy.  Patrick Cantlay at $7,500 is a great buy, has two top-tens after missing the cut at the Masters.  I like him a lot and remember his win came on a TPC course in Las Vegas.  One last pick at $7,500 is Zach Johnson, he has been consistent on this course and will make the cut, he also has played well this week and won’t disappoint you.

*Are there any “Bargains” out there?

Show you how anything can happen, when back to last year’s records and saw that not only could you get Si Woo Kim at the price of $6,600 but of the 131 players on our stat list, he was 129th.  So anything can happen.  Still, I look at these picks more for getting a guy that will make the cut and give lots of production value. Again, you don’t know what gems are out there.  There is no way of telling now, but I wonder how many folks picked Kim last year, probably not many.  So is there some Si Woo Kim sitting in the under $7,400 price range?  In looking at $7,400, there are several good picks with Adam Scott, Tyrell Hatton, Luke List, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Chappell.  Of those six like Kevin Chappell who was runner-up two years ago at The Players, but hasn’t played that well of late.  Also, Luke List, who seems to make a lot of birdies and eagles is also good, but he missed the cut at the Players last year.  Also, need to remind you that Rafael Cabrera-Bello finished T-4th last year but has struggled to miss the cut in three of his last four starts, but anything is possible.  Hey remember this, last year before winning the Players, Kim WD from Shell Houston, missed the cut at the Masters, T-22nd at Valero Texas and missed the cut at the Zurich, so remember this there is no rhyme or reason.  Looking at players at $7,300 guys like Webb Simpson, Charl Schwartzel (was 3rd at Zurich and T-9th at Wells Fargo), Pat Perez, Nick Watney (Was T-4th at Players in 2011, runner-up last week) and Xander Schauffele.  So you can see, there is a lot you can do if you take three of these under $7,500 picks.  Also need to remind you that last year’s winner, Si Woo Kim can be chosen at $7,200, Kyle Stanley who was 4th last year can be bought this year at $7,200 (was T-13th last week at Wells Fargo).  One other great $7,200 buy is Brendan Steele, he was T-6th last year at The Players and was T-10th at Zurich and T-30th at Valero Texas.

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, since 1982 when the players switch to the Stadium course there have been 31 different winners with 18 of them winning 43 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, Day 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.  Talking about weird winners last year’s winner Si Woo Kim also goes down in the annals of the Players has a long shot winner.  He became the youngest winner at 21 years, 10 months and 16 days and he only had 61 career PGA Tour starts, the 2nd least of anyone to win the Players (Henrik Stenson won on his 44th PGA Tour career start)

Totally useless stat:

One of the most significant oddities of The Players Championship is the fact that nobody has ever repeated as champion. 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.  Six 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 Tiger Woods (2001, 2013), Steve Elkington (1991, 1997), Hal Sutton (1983, 2000), Fred Couples (1984, 1996) and Davis Love III (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.  Also, have to add 2016 winner Jason Day to this list.  In five tries before he won he missed the cut three times.

So what does it take to win at the Players?

  • Going back to 2000, every winner but six have 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). In 2012 Matt Kuchar was T3rd in hitting 53 of the 72 greens, in 2013 Tiger Woods was also T3rd hitting 55 of 72 greens.  In 2014 Martin Kaymer also finished 3rd, hitting 54 of 72 greens. In 2015 Rickie Fowler had the worst greens hit performance of any champion going back to 1997, he hit only 45 of 72 greens and ranked T-51st.  In 2016 Jason Day hit 52 of 72 greens and ranked T-15th, last year Si Woo Kim hit 45 of 72 greens (least of any champion since 1997) and ranked T-37th.
  • Great putting is a must for the week. The greens are always tricky and fast; historically players have had a tough time making putts inside of ten feet.  In looking at the rankings, last year TPC Sawgrass was the 11th hardest course in making putts inside of ten feet with an average of 86.60%. In the past, the number of putts hasn’t been the key as between 2004, and 2010 nobody was in the top-ten in number of putts made. K.J. Choi broke that streak finishing T6th in 2011 with only 108 putts, while Kuchar was T5th in 2012 with 110 putts.  In 2013 Tiger Woods was T35th taking 114 putts while in 2014 Martin Kaymer also took 114 putts which ranked T38th.  In 2015 Rickie Fowler was T-2nd taking only 106 putts, while in 2016 Jason Day was T-3rd taking just 107 putts.  Last year Si Woo Kim kept the streak going as his 108 putts ranked T-3rd.
  • 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.  Last year TPC Sawgrass was the 4th hardest course to get it up and down as the field averaged getting it up and down 51.26%, with Kim last year and Day the year before leading the scrambling stat getting it up and down 81.48 for Kim and 85% for the day.  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.
  • Each of the last two champions – Si Woo Kim and Jason Day – have led the field in both scrambling and par-4 scoring average. Eight of the last nine winners have finished inside the top 10 in scrambling.
  • As of right now, there are 20 first-time participants at this year’s Players Championship. Five of those PGA Tour winners since last year’s Players Championship, Austin Cook (RSM Classic), Bryson Dechambeau (John Deere), Satoshi Kodaira (RBC Heritage), Andrew Landry (Valero Texas) and Xander Schauffele (Greenbrier and Tour Championship) headlining the group. Several international players, including Alexander Levy Whee Kim, Kodaira, Haotong Li and C.T. Pan will be making their first appearance at The Players. Others to visit TPC Sawgrass to compete for the first time include Ryan Blaum, Dominic Bozzelli, Brandon Harkins, Tom Hoge, Beau Hossler, Kelly Kraft, Trey Mullinax, Ollie Schniederjans, J.J. Spaun, Kevin Tway and Rich Werenski.

Here is how the last eight winners of the Players did on the final three holes in their final rounds:

 

Year – Player                         16th hole    17th hole    18th hole

  • 2007 – Phil Mickelson         Par                  Par              Bogey
  • 2008 – Sergio Garcia           Par                  Par                 Par
  • 2009 – Henrik Stenson      Birdie              Par                 Par
  • 2010 – Tim Clark                   Par                 Par                 Par
  • 2011 – K.J. Choi                     Par               Birdie              Par
  • 2012 – Matt Kuchar            Birdie            Bogey              Par
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods            Birdie              Par                 Par
  • 2014 – Martin Kaymer          Par                 Par                Par
  • 2015 – Rickie Fowler          Eagle             Birdie           Birdie
  • 2016 – Jason Day                 Birdie              Par                Par
  • 2017 – Si Woo Kim                 Par                 Par               Par

Since hole by hole records have been kept, here is a summary of how the winners fared on the final three holes in the final round:

16th hole – Winner has never made higher than par, with four Eagles (last was Rickie Fowler in 2015), 11 birdies (last was Jason Day in 2016) and 19 pars

17th hole – Winner has birdied the hole ten times (last was Rickie Fowler in 2015), par has been made 22 times and three bogeys on the hole (last was Matt Kuchar in 2012).

18th hole – Only four times has the winner birdied 18, Sandy Lyle in 1987, Steve Elkington in both 1991 & ’97 and Rickie Fowler in 2015.  23 times has the winner made par while 8 times the champion made bogey, the last being Phil Mickelson in 2007.

Here is a look at how the last eight winners of the Players have done on 16, 17 and 18 in their winning years:

Year – Player                           16th hole       17th hole       18th hole

                                                   Avg    to par    avg  to par    avg    to par

  • 2007 – Phil Mickelson      4.00    -4         3.00    Even      4.00    Even
  • 2008 – Sergio Garcia         4.25    -3          3.75    +3           4.25    +1
  • 2009 – Henrik Stenson      4.75    -1          3.00   Even       4.25    +1
  • 2010 – Tim Clark                 4.50    -2         3.00    Even     4.00    Even
  • 2011 – K.J. Choi                   4.75    -1           2.75    -1            3.75    -1
  • 2012 – Matt Kuchar           4.50    -2           3.25    +1          4.00    Even
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods           4.00    -4          3.00    Even       4.25    +1
  • 2014 – Martin Kaymer      5.00    Even      2.75    -1            4.25    +1
  • 2015 – Rickie Fowler        4.50    -2           2.25    -3            3.75     -1
  • 2016 – Jason Day                4.50    -2         3.00    Even      4.00   Even
  • 2017 – Si Woo Kim              4.50    -2         3.00    Even       3.75    -1

 

 

Who to watch for at The Players Championship

Best Bets:

Jason Day

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T60 Win CUT T19 CUT T6 CUT

He made things look so easily last week, think he can do it again this week. One thing for sure, he is doing everything right.

Rory McIlroy

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T35 T12 T8 T6 T8 CUT CUT CUT

Guy is close, if he can get a little better with the putter can do the deed.

Justin Thomas

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T75 T3 T24

This is a course that he can do very well on, it’s time for him to win again.

Best of the rest:

Alex Noren

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
10

Watch him, he played well last week showing that he likes the course which is perfect for his game.

Jordan Spieth

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT CUT CUT T4

On paper, he should be perfect for TPC Sawgrass, so it’s amazing that he has missed the cut the last three years. Bet that won’t happen this week.   In Spieth’s first Players Championship at age 20 in 2014, he found himself tied for the lead going into the final round. But since he has been terrible in this event, a final round 74 gave him a T-4th finish and since he has been terrible. In Spieth’s first 58 holes of the Players he was 14 under and bogey-free. Since then he is a combined 10 over par for 122 holes with three straight missed cuts.

Patrick Reed

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T22 CUT T24 CUT

Could this be the next big event for him to win? Hasn’t shown that he likes the course, but the same thing happened at the Masters and he won.

Jon Rahm

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T72

This is a course that he can do well on, won the last time he played in Spain.

Paul Casey

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T22 T23 WD WD CUT CUT T14 CUT CUT

You would think with his steady game that he would dominate this place.

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

Solid contenders

Henrik Stenson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T16 CUT T17 T34 T5 T15 CUT CUT Win T10 T23 T3

Has shown a liking for the place, just needs to find that since he has played so poorly at TPC Sawgrass over the last couple of years.

Francesco Molinari

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T6 T7 T6 CUT CUT CUT 9

Guy has been great at TPC Sawgrass the last three years, playing good he will steer under the radar.

Ian Poulter

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T2 T57 T30 T65 CUT T25 T57 CUT 2 T21 T28 T27

Another player that has found his game, he was good last year and looking to pick up where he left off.

Rickie Fowler

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T60 CUT Win T77 CUT T2 CUT CUT

Have to pick him because you just never know. Still, he has done so many weird things this year, he could be the best with three wins but has none.

Zach Johnson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T48 T54 T13 T26 T19 T2 T12 T22 T32 CUT T16 T58

He seems to be getting better on the course each year he plays, I think he will contend this week.

Matt Kuchar

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
82 T3 CUT T17 T48 Win T54 T13 T14 CUT

A steady player at TPC Sawgrass, may not win but will get a top-ten.

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

Long shots that could come through:

Tiger Woods

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T69 Win T40 WD WD 8 T37 T22

Yes he is a long shot thanks to the way he putted last week in Wells Fargo. But he is hitting the ball well and you have to think that he is close to winning again.

Patrick Cantlay

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T22

Love him on this course, he could pull off a surprise.

Nick Watney

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT CUT CUT T56 T4 T17 CUT T63 CUT

Has had his moments at TPC Sawgrass, also like that he was runner-up last week.

Charl Schwartzel

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T51 T48 T55 T26 CUT T58

Plays well on tough courses, has done well of late.

Surprising how poorly he plays at TPC Sawgrass:

Dustin Johnson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T12 T28 T69 T59 WD T57 T34 T79 CUT

Of course he will pick this week to get it all together and win, I don’t see that happening becase he has never played well at TPC Sawgrass and won’t see that happening this week.

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