THE PLAYERS: The great and the good of golf descend on Sawgrass

It's one of the most anticipated tournaments on the PGA calendar at one of the most daunting courses in golf, making picking a winner a tough task. David Kristiansen takes a look at the contenders at THE PLAYERS this week.

David Kristiansen

Defending champion Rory McIlroy tops the field at the PGA Tour’s flagship event, THE PLAYERS Championship, at TPC Sawgrass this week.

It’s sure to be an emotional occasion as it will be the first tournament there since course architect Pete Dye passed away recently.

When Rory McIlroy won this event last year it capped a run in which also saw him claim the RBC Canadian Open, TOUR Championship and FedExCup and will lead what has historically been the strongest field in golf.

Along with the Northern Irish man, Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Dustin Johnson, who returns to action after last playing at the WGC-Mexico Championship, are just some of the big names in attendance.

One notable absentee will be 2013 champion Tiger Woods who is not in the field this week as he continues to recover from a troublesome back injury that has plagued him in recent years.

Arnold Palmer Invitational Recap

Tyrell Hatton Golf

For the second week in a row, we got a dramatic and highly entertaining tournament where par was a good score. For me personally, this creates a more compelling drama than a birdie fest with a winning score 20+ under par.

Tyrrell Hatton held off the chasers with eight straight pars down the stretch to beat Marc Leishman by a single stroke. Sungjae Im threatened to win back to back but had to settle for a 3rd place finish, but the South Korean continues to impress and don’t be surprised if he is in with a shot in one of the majors this year.

Course/Field

TPC Sawgrass

Course: TPC Sawgrass
Length: 7189 yards (Par 72)
Greens: Bermuda
Opened: 1980
Architect: Pete Dye

The Players Championship can as always boast about the best field in golf and even though Tiger is out because of a sore back that remains the case this year.

TPC Sawgrass is another Florida track with somewhat narrow fairways protected by a lot of water and bunkers, but unlike last week the rough is down so the players usually have a bale out option off the tee.

What usually separates the best is the approaches into the Bermuda greens with five of the last seven winners ranking inside the top 10 in the stats category.

It’s also a new par 72 track so the bulk of the scoring will need to be done on the par 5s. A winning score in the teens under par has been the norm the last years.

Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:

  • Strokes gained approach
  • Par 5 scoring
  • Proximity 200+ yards
  • Scrambling
  • Bermuda putting
  • Good drives
  • Opportunities gained

2019/20 Season overview

Wagered: 106,6 units
Won: 149.66 units
Result: + 43.06 units
Outright winners: Hero World Challenge: Henrik Stensson 25-1 & Farmers Insurance Open: Marc Leishman 50-1

Picks

Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay at  26.00* (1.5 pts EW) 

It’s the first start for Cantlay since the Genesis after he has had a small procedure for a deviated septum. He looked good in his first three starts in 2020 with a 4th, 11th and a 17th and now being able to breathe properly should only add to his chances for a top performance this week.

He has a couple of top 25s in his previous three starts at Sawgrass and the stats confirm that he should thrive around here. He ranks 5th on approach and opportunities gained, 7th in good drives, 26th in proximity from 200+ yards and 30th in par 5 scoring over the last 24 rounds.

Since May 2019 he has only lost strokes on approach one time and the short game worries that bothered him early in his career has completely vanished gaining strokes in that department in 10 of his last 12 measured tournaments.

Max Homa  126.00* 0.5 pts EW 

I’m going back to the Homa well who in his 5th straight top 25 finish last week delivered his best performance of his career on approach, gaining 6.3 strokes on the field.

His game just seems complete at the moment having gained strokes off the tee, on approach and putting in five straight tournaments now.

He hasn’t played the tournament before but at this price that doesn’t sway me off one of the players in best form on tour.

Russell Henley  201.00* 0.3 pts EW 

After starting the year with 3 straight missed cuts, Henley seemed to figure something out at Genesis where he was in it until Sunday where a final round 75 saw him drop to a T17.

But he took the momentum with him to the Honda where he delivered one of the best iron performances in recent memory gaining 10.6 strokes on approach on a way to a T8.

He has an ok course history at Sawgrass with three top 35 finishes in the last six years here and don’t forget this is a guy that has won three times on tour including the somewhat comparable Honda Classic.

How to watch THE PLAYERS Championship

Rory McIlroy

THE PLAYERS Championship
Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th of March
Sky Sports Golf at 19:00

 

*Odds subject to change | Each Way = 1/4 the odds, 5 places

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