TPC Sawgrass Key Fantasy Stats

The Players Championship

March 12th – 15th, 2020

TPC Sawgrass

Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Par: 72 / Yardage: 7,189

Purse: $12.5 million

with $2.25 million to the winner

Defending Champion:
Rory McIlroy

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:

This is based on the most important stats for TPC Sawgrass, based on data from last year’s Players Championship, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2020. What we do is take their rank for each stat and then add up the four categories.
Last year the Players Championship returned to it’s March date, with the thought that the course would have more bite to it with March winds. When it was played in May, the course plays differently due to the heat but mostly the lack of winds. Between 2013 and 2018 the course only played tough once, in 2017 when all four days saw the wind blowing 20 mph, with gusts up to 25 mph over the weekend. The course played to a 73.29 average and it was the 5th hardest course on the PGA Tour. The next year in 2018 a combination of low winds, lots of thunderstorms and rain help make the course play to a 71.41 scoring average, the lowest the course has ever played in its history. So it was important to change dates and even though they did change dates last year and each day saw winds in the 8 to 20 mph area, scoring was still low with the average being 71.51 which ranked T-23rd.
Still, the weather is 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 tough. The course architect Pete Dye said many times over the last 40 years that one thing he kept in the back of his mind in designing the holes was the March winds 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 shot 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 when conditions were totally different, due to higher winds and cooler weather. When the dates changed from 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 with the tournament moving back to March, look for drastically different conditions. In looking at the long-range forecast for this week, the good news for the players is that conditions will be benign and perfect for them with temperatures in the mid-70s and winds around 10 to 12 mph each day.  So with conditions like this, look for scores to be low like the previous two years.

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 12 winners six of the winners have been in the top-ten with only one, Sergio Garcia leading in greens hit. In 2018 Webb Simpson was T-5th, but most of the time in May dates it wasn’t that important.
In looking at our four categories, we have seen Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green as very important. It was 3rd last year and T-15th on tour in 2018 and T-11th in 2017. But in 2016 it was T-2nd so we pick that as the key stat. In looking at our past winners, last year Rory McIlroy led the stat while in 2018 Webb Simpson was 16th. But in 2017 Si Woo Kim was 2nd in his win while 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 proven in six of the last seven winners other than Simpson finished no higher than 5th.

The next important stat is Proximity to hole. Last year it ranked 6th on tour with McIlroy ranking 11th, the previous year the course ranked 9th on tour with Simpson ranking 69th. In 2017 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 8th hardest while McIlroy was T-40th. In 2018 it was 7th hardest on tour while Simpson was 24th. In 2017 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. It seems hard to believe since the course is so hard, but last year 1,704 birdies were made on the course as only eight other courses saw more birdies made. I was a bit surprised to see that Rory made 21 birdies and it was T-5th (Brandt Snedeker and Abraham Ancer led with 23). In 2018 1,754 birdies were made as only four of the 51 courses saw more birdies made. Webb Simpson made 23 which was T-2nd. In 2017, remember the course played very tough, it had 1,429 birdies made making it the 17th hardest of 50 courses. 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 seven winners, Rory McIlroy ranked T-5th, Webb Simpson ranked T-2nd while in 2017 Si Woo Kim 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.
But the big thing to think about this year, the course will play totally different with not only the change of dates but the grass, which will be overseeded with Rye which also will create different challenges.

*Strokes Gained tee-to-green: Course was the 3rd hardest on tour, so 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 24th, but in proximity to hole, which tells how close players get to the hole, Sawgrass ranked T-6th as the players averaged hitting it 38 feet, 11 inches away from the hole.

*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. Last year 1,704 birdies were made making it a 3.90 average per player.

Here are the 138 of 144 players from this year’s field with stats from 2020:

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

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