An in-depth look ahead to The Players Championship, DFS Style
Course: TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
Yardage: 7,189 – Par 72
Purse : $11 M
Field: 144 players
*Past PLAYERS Champions
|2017||Si Woo Kim|
Jason Day is one step closer to regaining that coveted top spot in the world. After birdieing the 16th and 17th holes on Sunday for a two-shot victory at the Wells Fargo Championship, Day now ranks seventh in the world. Will we ever see Day make an incredible run like he did in 2015-16 when he won seven tournaments in 17 starts? Probably not. But with the Aussie playing his best golf again, he is a very real threat to procure back-to-back wins this week at THE PLAYERS Championship, a tournament that he won two years ago in wire-to-wire fashion.
A good chunk of last week’s field used the Wells Fargo at Quail Hollow as a warmup for golf’s “fifth major”, THE PLAYERS Championship, or more commonly called, “THE PLAYERS.” For people who are newer to the golf scene, THE PLAYERS is not actually a major, there are only four majors in golf, however, everything about the tournament replicates what a major golf tournament is. The stakes are just as high with a purse of $11 million, the same as this year’s Masters purse, and more than the British Open ($10.25M), and PGA Championship (10.5M). Only the U.S Open ($12M) has a bigger purse this year.
More importantly, the field is just as strong as in any major, and you can argue that it is deeper and stronger than tournaments like the U.S Open or the PGA Championship, which allow amateurs (U.S. Open) and club golf professionals (PGA) into the field. THE PLAYERS is simply 144 professional golfers from the PGA Tour, who all had great success recently. The only players not currently playing on the PGA Tour in this field are Scott McCarron, who punched his ticket by winning the Senior Players Championship, and Danny Willett (2016 Masters Champion), as major winners from the last five years gain entry. Willett has since lost his PGA Tour playing privileges. The bulk of the field is in this tournament because they won a PGA event since the 2017 Players, or they ranked inside the Top 125 in FedEx cup points at the end of last year.
With Brooks Koepka returning last week after a wrist injury sidelined him for about 15 weeks, that means that all 50 of the world’s top golfers are entered into this year’s PLAYERS. The player pool will never be more stacked than it is right now. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, and everyone else will be there. That means that you’ll be able to find a few Top 25 ranked players in the 7K-8K range. The key is figuring out who is playing well, and whose game is tailored for the challenge that is TPC Sawgrass.
The 144 entrants to THE PLAYERS will be gathered in Ponte Vedra Beach to play one of the most famous courses in all of golf, TPC Sawgrass has perhaps the most famous hole in all of golf. That is, of course, the par 3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Before we get to the specifics on the famous par 3, let’s talk about the rest of the course. At Par 72 playing 7,189 yards, Sawgrass completely devalues driving distance, rather you want to look at players who are efficient off the tee ranking highly in good drive %. A total of 25 water hazards inhabit the course, a good number of blind shots come into play, as well as very strategic course mounding that can make saving par nearly impossible. It’s a Pete Dye design at it’s finest, you can’t beat this course with brute force. Thought and precision must be combined on nearly every shot to have success at Sawgrass.
Players who’ve done well here do their greatest damage with their irons (or wedges/fairway woods). Remember Rickie Fowler finishing six under on his final six holes to get into a playoff and win in 2015? Strokes gained: approach, is the most common thread between winners from different years. The undulation on and around the greens, makes getting up and down extremely tricky from certain positions off the green. Players who gain in Strokes gained: around the green this week will be able to save more shots than usual, as it’s not uncommon for players to make double bogey when just 25 yards from the hole.
The formula to this course is to drive it accurately, regardless of what club is being hit off the tee, hit as many shots on the green in regulation as possible, get up and down when there isa miss, and attack the Par 5s (Par 5 scoring). Sawgrass is a par 72 track, which means there are four par 5s. The four Par 5s are all feasibly reachable for longer hitters, and holes number two and 16 are reachable for just about everyone in the field. If golfers can find a way to birdie or eagle the bulk of the Par 5s this week, they’ll simply need to not blow up the rest of the holes to contend for golf’s fifth major.
Of course if a golfer wants a chance at capturing THE PLAYERS title, they will have to stay dry on Sunday. The Par 3 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass may be the most famous hole in all of golf. It’s the only hole I’ve ever seen where if you’re not on the green, you’re under water. The 137 yard par 3, is anything but simple and has made countless memories over the years. The island-green hole is just a flick pitching wedge for these guys, yet year after year, dozens of Tour pros golf balls splash in the water that surrounds the green, 69 were dunked in 2017. Outside of Rickie Fowler’s heroics in 2015, the championship is usually not won here, but it certainly can be lost.
Good Drive %
Strokes gained: approach
Strokes gained: around the green
Par 5 Scoring
Jason Day Featured Image: (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)