Last week was a great tournament at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, unless of course you had to work Thursday and Friday and had your heart set on seeing Tiger Woods on the links.
Rickie Fowler proved he is not just a marketing machine, but a well-oiled machine, holding off Rory McIlroy and D.A. Points in a three-way sudden-death playoff to win his first PGA Tour event at the Wells Fargo Championship. If you had Fowler on your Fantasy roster last week, ‘orange’ you glad you did?
OK, enough of the cutesy puns. Let’s get down to brass tacks, as the The Players Championship is serious business. This week’s tournament could very well be considered the unofficial fifth major. There is a lot of bread on the line, and 600 FedEx Cup points, the only such event which is not considered a major to reward more than the standard 500 FedEx Cup points.
Last season, K.J. Choi won in a playoff, besting David Toms to take home the hardware, boatload of cash and 600 FedEx Cup points. Over the past few years, with the exception of Phil Mickelson in 2007, we have had surprise winners at this huge tournament just outside of Jacksonville. Most casual golf fans have heard of Sergio Garcia, who won in 2008, but how many people remember Craig Perks (2002), Fred Funk (2005), Stephen Ames (2006), Henrik Stenson (2009) or Tim Clark (2010); players who won here within the past 10 years? Those are not exactly household names, especially to the casual Fantasy player. Of those, only Clark, Garcia and Stenson find themselves in this weekend’s field.
So it might be a good idea to think outside the box this week. Sure, load up on guys like Rory McIlroy, who is an automatic. He has played in four events this season, and finished no worse than third. For those in pools which restrict usage of a golfer to a certain number of tournaments, he is still a very safe play. He nearly won last week in Charlotte, and will be a huge threat this weekend.
The Players Championship
Purse – $9.5 million
Winner Share – $1,710,000.00
FedEx Cup Points – 600 points to winner
Course – TPC Sawgrass – Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
As expected, this golf course is beautiful and one of the gems of the First Coast.
As you watch this weekend, you will notice that, with the exception of the Par 3 at No. 8, TPC Sawgrass has water on nearly every hole.
The first hole starts off with a slight dogleg to the right, and is plenty skinny with trees lining both sides of the fairway. While most championship courses require accuracy, especially off the tee, TPC Sawgrass has even less room for error than most. As mentioned, there is plenty of water, from small ponds, to large lakes and creeks. A drive into what would be the rough on the first hole finds a lengthy watery grave which would get the day off to an abysmal start off the tee.
It will be fun to watch the putting on No. 3, which has a two-tiered green. It shouldn’t be too taxing, though, and this will be one hole for players to make up a stroke since a birdie is well within reach. No. 4 also has a two-tiered putting surface, and like the first hole, a lateral water hazard. Unlike No. 3, this one has the potential to produce a few crooked numbers, even for the pros. An uneven putting surface and plenty of hazards along the way will make a par very relieving to most.
Again, accuracy is key at No. 6. Trees, bunker and water will require tremendous skill to avoid trouble. We might see someone post a ‘snowman’ here. Seriously.
No. 8 is a Par 3, but it will be anything but easy. The green demands a very, very accurate tee shot. Miss it, and the golfers will be in thick cabbage. Again, par will be a relief at this very tricky hole. While there isn’t any water that will come into play, a rarity at this place, there are plenty of other hazards to grab the attention.
If you thought the front nine had a lot of water, you haven’t seen anything yet. Any shots over the green at No. 16, and you’re wet. And No. 17? It’s all wet, with the exception of an island green. And the 18th hole has water all along the left side. The final three holes will mean no lead is safe. That makes for interesting golf, especially for impartial viewers on television. For Fantasy owners, it makes for a nerve-wracking weekend all the way through to Sunday evening.
Weekly Picks –
Garcia won this thing in a playoff over Paul Goydos back in 2008, and he was a runner-up the year before to Lefty. Garcia is certainly very comfortable at the Northeast Florida course, and he might make some noise this weekend. While Garcia has no victories this season, he has certainly been in the hunt. He tied for fourth back in mid-February at the Northern Trust Open, and he had a very respectable 12th place showing at The Masters, his last PGA Tour event entered. So far he has played in six events, and made the cut each time out. He is consistent, won’t hurt Fantasy owners in any way, and when Sunday rolls around it would not be surprising in the least to see him in the final pairing. A win would put him over the $40 million mark for career earnings.
Scott knows what it takes to win at TPC Sawgrass, as he hoisted the trophy back in 2004. While that might seem like a lifetime ago, he continues to play very consistent golf when he is stateside. In his three tournaments, Scott has been 17th or better, including a tie for eighth at The Masters. He posted a rather marginal 33rd-place showing at the Accenture Match Play Championships, but there isn’t much to worry about. When Scott is in the field, he is in the hunt. He plays so infrequently on the PGA Tour that Fantasy owners in tournament-limit leagues shouldn’t worry one bit about using him up too quickly.
Again, you have to roll with Rory. This is the equivalent of informing you to start Matt Kemp in Fantasy Baseball or Tom Brady in Fantasy Football, but it needs to be said. Some Fantasy owners play in pools which limit usage of a golfer to 10 tournaments. Well, McIlroy doesn’t play a full schedule, so you must use him when available. He has been third or better in each of his past four tournaments, so there is really no more to say. He is heads and tails better than any of the ‘B-list’ players available for selection.
While Poulter has made the cut in each of his five tournaments played this season, he was less than stellar during the early part of the year. As the weather has heated up, so has Poulter, posting back-to-back Top 7 finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and more importantly, The Masters. The nice thing about Poulter is that he tends to get stronger as the tournaments go on, so when he makes the cut, but is in the middle of the leaderboard, Fantasy owners shouldn’t fret. A weekend charge is always sure to come.
Rose currently sits fifth on the money list this season, thanks in large part to his winning the Cadillac Championship back in early March. However he has been steady since, too. He has back-to-back Top 10 finishes, including an eighth-place showing at The Masters, and he hasn’t been worse than 33rd in any of the nine events he has entered this season. In eight tournaments, he has managed four Top 10 finishes. He could certainly make a lot of noise at Ponte Vedra this weekend, and he seems to save his best for the big ones.
While Snedeker has won just once this season, way back in late January at the Farmers Insurance Open, he has been one of the more consistent players on tour. He has made the cut in each of the nine tournaments he has entered this season. His worst finish of the season is 63rd, and he has been 19th or higher six times in 10 events played. Again, he isn’t exactly the first player you think about when mentioning the top players in the game. While he is certainly not an unknown, think outside of the box a little bit this weekend.
I liked Curtis’ composure in winning the Valero Texas Open, and he really carried the confidence with him to New Orleans and Charlotte the past two weekends. Curtis has been 13th or better in each of his past three tournaments, and is playing his best stretch of golf since 2006. We picked him last weekend, and he produced a Top 5 finish, and as a ‘C-lister’, he is well undervalued due to his recent consistency. The star-studded field didn’t get him off his game last weekend in the Queen City of the South, and it is unlikely to throw him off at the TPC.
Sticking with the ‘Thinking-Outside-The-Box’ theme, look for Tringale to make some noise this weekend. He got off to a horrendous start this season, finishing 46th or worse in five of his first eight tournaments. However, with the exception of a 57th place showing at the Wells Fargo last weekend, Tringale has been on fire. He has been eighth or better in three of the past four events played. Pronounced Trihn-golly, Fantasy owners shouldn’t forget this deep sleeper.
Leave ‘em in the Bag
Avoid using these Fantasy options at the The Players Championship
Kyle Stanley (all Fantasy formats)
We told you to avoid Stanley last weekend at Quail Hollow, and hopefully you heeded that advice. He shot 145 over the first two rounds and joined Tiger on a rail out of town, missing the cut twice in the past three tournaments. Stanley looks lost since the end of February, finishing 51st or lower in each of his past six events. There is very little evidence to suggest that he’ll turn it around this weekend on one of the most difficult courses on the PGA Tour.
Nick Watney (Tiered and Salary Cap formats)
Watney barreled over the competition last weekend in Charlotte, posting an eighth-place finish. That was just his second Top 10 finish of the season, but is likely to shoot his salary in cap leagues through the roof. Watney has been tremendously inconsistent this season, and he has managed to break 70 in just four of his past 18 rounds. You just never know who is going to show up with this guy. He is either in the hunt for a title, or languishing near the cut line. You can certainly do much better with a star-studded field.
*All stats up-to-date as of 05/08/12.