The Tour stays in Florida this week for the “5th” major of the season, The Players Championship. As you probably know, this event is held at the world famous TPC Sawgrass (par 72, 7,189 yards), which is located in Ponte Vedra Beach. Webb Simpson is the defending champ, finishing at -18, which is the lowest winning score at The Players since Fred Couples in 1996. TPC Sawgrass is challenging Pete Dye design. There are ways to get yourself into trouble on every hole and this course favors accuracy over power. Finding the fairway can obviously be beneficial, but is much more about your approaches.
These are some of the smallest greens these golfers will see all season and we need to prioritize players who are currently striking the ball well. (Simpson was T5 in GIR last season) As a par 72, there are four par fives, that are all obtainable, but the par fours are more important. Simpson led his field on both the par fours and fives a year ago and he was the third winner in a row at TPC Sawgrass to rank 1st in par four scoring. These undersized greens are Bermuda grass and each of the past four golfers to win at The Players have ranked T3 or better in average putts per round.
With water being in play on most of the holes, specifically at the par three 17th, which is the famous island green, wind tends to always play a factor at The Players. This makes this event extremely unpredictable and this is a great week to put a heavier weight on bogey avoidance. This is one of the strongest fields of the year, with all of the best golfers in the world chasing this 12.5 million dollar purse, which is the largest of the entire PGA season. It is a full sized field of 144 players, with a normal top 70 and ties cut taking place following the second round. @Hunta512.
Rory McIlroy: (10,800)
McIlroy was in the final pairing last weekend at The Arnold Palmer Invitational, but he came up just short, ending the week at T6. This might sound crazy, but this was actually his worst finish of the season. So far in 2019, McIlroy has finished T4, T5, T4, T2, and T6th, in that order. As I have mentioned before in the recent weeks, he is on the verge of capturing his 15th PGA Tour win and for the second straight week, McIlroy is the favorite to win, but he is now not the highest priced player in the field.
Yes, he is currently tied with Dustin Johnson for the best odds to win The Players (12/1 via Bovada), but McIlroy is the 3rd highest priced golfer on DraftKings this week. As you could have guessed, his stats have been elite this season (1st in SGT2G, 1st in SGT, and 4th P4 scoring) and the only thing that isn’t completely in his favor is his course history. (5/9) But, when McIlroy has made the cut at TPC Sawgrass, he has contended. (three top tens) He should be the top priced player this week and at only $10,800, McIlroy is an immense value.
Tiger Woods: (10,500)
Tiger opted to sit out last week with neck injury, but claims he is no longer in pain and will tee it up this week. There is obviously risk here, as he could easily tweak his neck or back at any moment and withdraw, but that is a risk I am willing to take with Woods in GPPs at TPC Sawgrass. He has only competed in three events this season, but has made the cut in each and finished T20, T15, and T10. If we don’t count his back to back WDs at The Players in 2010 and 2011, Tiger has never missed a cut at this event in 16 career starts, has nine top 20s, and two wins at TPC Sawgrass. (2001 and 2013)
In his three starts this season, Woods has gained 8.5 strokes per event and ranks 15th in bogeys avoided. Additionally, if we compare all of these players last 12 rounds, no golfer has hit more greens than him. (1st in GIR and 3rd in SG APP in L12 rounds) If Tiger is actually healthy and he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, he has the potential for his best finish of the season.
Sergio Garcia: (9,100)
Garcia finished T9 at The Honda Classic two weeks ago and overall, outside of his DQ at The Saudi International, he has been in excellent form. Including his play overseas, Garcia has made nine cuts in a row, posted seven top tens, and has a win (Andalucia Masters) over the last six months.
His tee to green game has been elite (6th in SGT2G, 1st in SG APP, and 3rd in BS in L12 rounds) and Garica should end the week inside the top 20 at this venue he has done extremely well at over the years. (17/19, six top tens, and a win in 2008)
Xander Schauffele: (9,000)
Schauffele, The FedEx Cup points leader, has had a tremendous season. He is 8/8 overall, already has two wins (HSBC Champions and Sentry TOC), and has produced six top 25s in a row. For the year, Schauffelle ranks 11th in SG APP, 4th in SGT, 11th in P4 scoring, and 4th in P5 scoring.
Plus, he is T7th in bogey avoidance, which is a vast improvement from his 121st rank last season. 2018 was his first appearance at TPC Sawgrass, but as he usually does, Schauffele rose to the occasion of playing against the world’s best, with an very impressive T2 debut. Now, as a much more polished player in his 4th PGA season, Schaufelle should certainly contend again at The Players.
Francesco Molinari: (8,600)
Molinari was brilliant with a 64 this past Sunday at Bay Hill, helping him to his 3rd career PGA Tour win. All of these wins have come since last July and during that time, Molinari has only missed one cut in 13 events and has posted six top tens. At The API, he ranked T3 in fairways and T6 in greens found.
His short and accurate style is an ideal fit for TPC Sawgrass and while he did miss three of his first four cuts at this course, Molinari has successfully made three of his last four at The Players, with each being a top seven finish. When comparing Vegas odds to DraftKings’ pricing, Molinari sticks out like a sore thumb. He is the 16th highest priced player, but is tied for the 7th best odds to win. (22/1 via Bovada)
Hideki Mastuyama: (8,300)
Mastuyama is currently on a 15 made cut streak and has four top 20s in his last five starts, but DraftKings has cut his salary a whopping $1,000 since last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. (T33) For the last three season’s, his price has been an average of $9,300 for The Players. He has been arguably the best iron player on Tour this season (3rd in SGT2G and 2nd in SG APP) and his only kryptonite has been putting. (197th in SGP)
Last week, he lost an insane 8.3 strokes on the greens and if Mastuyama can find any sort of rhythm with his putter, he will make DraftKings look stupid for pricing him this low. He missed the cut at last year’s Players, but Mastuyama recorded a top 25 in each of his previous four starts at Sawgrass.
Paul Casey: (7,900)
Yet again, Casey isn’t getting any respect from DraftKings in a stacked field. He is always underpriced for major like fields and this is huge $1,200 price drop The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last month. Casey has been his consistent self this season (7/8 with seven top 25s) and has two top threes in his last three PGA starts.
His stats have been tremendous in these three events (5th in SGT2G, 12th in SG APP, 5th in GIR, 8th in BS, 11th in BOB%, 3rd in SG on P4s, 3rd in SG on P5s, and 4th in bogeys avoided, resulting in 10.26 strokes gained per start) and while his course history may not be the greatest (4/9, but 2/2 in his last two, with a T23 and T22), Casey is a value that can’t be ignored.
Ian Poulter: (7,600)
Poulter’s T23 at The API last week was his 10th made cut in a row and he has made five straight at TPC Sawgrass. Overall, he is 12/15 at the tough track and his last two showings have been two of his best. (T2 and T11)
Poulter is never someone we are targeting because of his stats, but his pedigree and he should find himself inside the cut line come Friday.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello: (7,400)
In his Bay Hill debut, RCB generated a T3 last week at The API. He has only missed the weekend once in his past 16 events and has finished no worse than T25 on The PGA Tour in the new year. Cabrera-Bello ranked 5th in SGP at Bay Hill and is 5th in the stat overall in his 24 rounds. During this stretch of golf, he also ranks T5th in SGT, T3 in SG on P4s, and 5th in BOB%.
He missed the cut in his first attempt at Sawgrass in 2016, but has posted a T4 and T17 the last two seasons. RCB is just another golfer that is simply too cheap and his 55/1 odds to win are the best of the all players under $7,400.
Low End Buys:
Lucas Glover: (7,100)
Glover’s 4/12 history at TPC Sawgrass is tough to swallow, but he has made the cut here the last two seasons (career best T6 in 2016) and his ball striking has been among the best this season. (16th in SGT2G, 17th in SG APP, and 4th in GIR) This has led him to a 7/8 record, with an impressive seven top 20s in 2019.
Plus, in his last 24 rounds, Glover ranks 1st in bogeys avoided. In this kind of form, it is hard to imagine him missing the cut at a course that favors strong iron players and I am sure Glover would like to redeem himself after the fiasco he had with his wife here last year.
Keith Mitchell: (6,800)
Following his first PGA tour victory two weeks ago at The Honda Classic, I thought Mitchell would have a down week at Bay Hill, but responded with an impressive T6. It’s a small sample, but in these last two impressive starts, he has gained 10.95 strokes and ranks 4th in SGT2G, 6th in SG APP, 6th in BS, 7th in BOB%, and 5th in bogeys avoided.
Also, after struggling with his flat stick (negative SGP in five straight events), Mitchell has been decent on the greens at these last two courses that are both home to Bermuda type grass. (34th in SGP in L8 rounds) He missed the cut in his debut here last season, but I am going to give Mitchell a pass with this and roster him at this low cost.
Jason Kokrak: (6,700)
Kokrak’s T46 here last season is his only made cut at a Players over the last six years, but his form is just too strong to overlook. He hasn’t missed a cut since last year’s Open Championship (15 in a row) and is coming off two consecutive top tens. (T9 at The Honda and T10 at The API)
In his last 24 rounds, Kokrak ranks 4th in SGT2G, 3rd in SG APP, 2nd in GIR, 3rd in BS, 3rd in SG on P4s, 11th in BOB%, and 4th in bogeys avoided. His putting is always suspect (99th in SGP in L24 rounds), but Kokrak is at his best on Bermuda greens and this is a serious discount from last week. (-$1,600) Nothing is guaranteed, but I am expecting Kokrak’s best Players finish to date.
Sung Kang: (6,000)
Kang was terrific at Bay Hill last weekend (T6) and has made seven of his last eight cuts. He missed the cut at last year’s Players, but proceeded to weekend the two previous seasons. (T61 and T30) Avoiding big numbers has been the key to Kang’s success lately (8th in bogeys avoided in L24 rounds) and if he can continue to play it safe, he should make the cut.
There is no way he should be priced at a bare minimum $6,000 and in fact, Kang has the same odds to win as Cameron Champ (77/1 via Bovada), who costs a $1,700 more. For star and scrubs lineups, he is the ultimate punt.
*Please note that some of these rankings are from Fantasynational.com