Power Rankings for THE PLAYERS Championship: Cantlay, Finau Headline Star-Studded Field at TPC Sawgrass
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Tony Finau
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How do you prognosticate a tournament that in the past two decades has been won by a big hitter like Rory McIlroy and a pea-shooter like Fred Funk? Or an all-time great like Tiger Woods and a one-hit wonder like Craig Perks? Or a young player like Si Woo Kim (who was 21) and a veteran like, well, Funk again (48)?
The answers to those very rhetorical questions is that we start our plays by not eliminating any players based on the lack of one specific skillset, as TPC Sawgrass is an equal-opportunity venue.
Sure, ball-striking – as usual – is the most important metric for this one, but there are few other stats (or lack thereof) which should specifically preclude us from a certain type of player.
Instead, as I wrote in this week’s betting guide, the most important data point for this one might simply be recent form, as each winner over the past decade finished 22nd or better in his most recent start before triumphing here.
With that in mind, let’s get to my personal top-25 for this one – and yes, there will be ties.
1. Patrick Cantlay (+2200)
Elite-level ball-striker, trending in the right direction and ready to win a bigger event, Cantlay opened with a 67 before last year’s edition of this one was canceled.
2. Tony Finau (+2200)
OK, so he still hasn’t won that elusive second title, but nobody in the world has collected more OWGR points in the first two-and-a-half months of 2021 than Finau.
3. Collin Morikawa (+2200)
If the jury was still out on whether Morikawa could win an East Coast-based event on Bermuda greens, his recent WGC win at The Concession sealed that verdict.
4. Joaquin Niemann (+6600)
Casual observers of this sport will soon learn more about this 22-year-old ball-striking machine who opened the year with back-to-back runner-up finishes.
5. Scottie Scheffler (+5000)
With finishes of 5th-20th-7th in his last three starts, Scheffler is still flying a bit under the radar in what will be – like Morikawa and Niemann – his first official Players appearance.
6. Justin Thomas (+2200)
Some prices are meant to change and it wouldn’t surprise me if JT, who owns a nice track record at this event, is shorter than 20/1 when the opening round tees off Thursday.
7. Jason Day (+5000)
It’s a testament to how much talent is abound in the game right now that a former world No. 1 is trending in the right direction, yet going largely unnoticed, as well.
8. Webb Simpson (+2200)
The winner of this event in 2018, he triumphed that week based largely on exemplary putting – and his numbers now are close to what they were back then.
9. Tommy Fleetwood (+4500)
It’s taken some time for him to bounce back, but it looks like Fleetwood has rekindled that spark, fresh off his first top-10 in the U.S. in just over a year.
10. Jordan Spieth (+3000)
This course should be meant for him, but perhaps he’s not meant for this course, as a T-4 debut has devolved into a series of disappointments, even when he was playing his best.
11. Will Zalatoris (+7000)
Yet another debutant at this event, Zalatoris should find that if his elite ball-striking is mixed with just field-average putting, he can contend for this one.
12. Justin Rose (+12500)
A third-round WD due to back spasms will keep plenty of people off Rose’s scent, but a big number and recent improvement should have us taking some risk here.
13. Viktor Hovland (+2800)
Another guy who was on the verge of being a popular play, until he was undone by the weekends rounds at API; maybe he, too, was just throwing us off the scent.
14. Jon Rahm (+1600)
Owns one of the game’s highest floors right now, which means that even if he continues to be frustrated by TPC Sawgrass, he still shouldn’t be too far off the board.
15. Xander Schauffele (+2000)
The world’s fifth-ranked player is whispered about in hushed tones because he hasn’t won in over two years, but it’s only a matter of time until that changes.
16. Sungjae Im (+5500)
One of the better players in the Sunshine State recently – he owns four top-five finishes in the past two years – Im should improve on his lone start (MC) at this one.
17. Chris Kirk (+15000)
Everyone loves a good story and Kirk’s battle with depression and sobriety could become a major plot this week if he continues his strong recent play.
18. Tyrrell Hatton (+3500)
If we get the Hatton who posted 67-66 in the middle rounds at API as opposed to the one who sandwiched them with a pair of 78s, he should be in the mix at this one.
19. Dustin Johnson (+1200)
Maybe this ranking is more in reflection of his odds, but the tourney favorite is coming off a T-54 and final-round 78 at the recent WGC at The Concession.
20. Daniel Berger (+3300)
A Florida course which rewards ball-striking accuracy should be right up Berger’s alley, though he owns just one top-50 finish in five career starts here.
21. Max Homa (+11000)
At some point, we have to start looking at Homa less as a social-media star on a nice run and more as a terrific ball-striker who consistently shows up and contends.
22. Bryson DeChambeau (+1500)
Length and strength is always an advantage for any top player, but less so at TPC Sawgrass than Bay Hill, where he won this past weekend to be plenty of fanfare.
23. Russell Henley (+12500)
He’s been less visible (and viable) than he was during a stretch of elite play late last summer, but this is still a course which should suit Henley very well.
24. Carlos Ortiz (+15000)
There’s a little potential star-power here, considering when Ortiz gets hot, he tends to get extraordinarily hot and he’s already been on the verge of big things recently.
T-25. Rory McIlroy (+1600)
Henrik Norlander (+20000)
Paul Casey (+4000)
Francesco Molinari (+12500)
Abraham Ancer (+8000)
Hideki Matsuyama (+4000)
Brendan Steele (+20000)
Cameron Davis (+15000)
Hey, if they can tie on the leaderboard, they can tie in my ranking. McIlroy sounded not only disappointed, but dejected after a poor API finish, which hurts his chances to successfully defend. Matsuyama will be a popular play based on his opening 63 that was wiped away last year, but he hasn’t seriously contended for a title in months.