2021 THE PLAYERS Championship Buys & Fades Using Strokes Gained Data: Target Kirk, Fleetwood, Matsuyama
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Kirk
Bryson DeChambeau held tough in difficult conditions on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as he took home his second win of the new season. He and Lee Westwood made it a two-man race down the backstretch as Bryson shot one of just three under-par rounds on the day to beat Westwood by one stroke.
The TOUR will now head to the “fifth major” as it travels to PGA headquarters at Ponte Vedra Beach for The Players. This was the spot where the golf world was officially halted last year after the first round, and it led to a three-month hiatus due to the pandemic.
This year, 48 of the Top 50 players in the world will gather at TPC Sawgrass and battle it out for the largest purse of the season, $15,000,000. Several players that just finished the grind of Bay Hill will tee it up and battle it out for the $2.7M top prize. Let’s take a look at who will come into the week with confidence after playing well at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
3 Buys for The Players Championship
One of the best stories of the season is Chris Kirk, and he continues to put out good results. Kirk made his first big splash when he finished second in Hawaii at the Sony Open, which was the result he needed in order to keep his TOUR card following a leave of absence to deal with addiction issues. That kind of result would understandably leave many satisfied, but Kirk has continued to play well and take advantage of added opportunity.
He finished eighth at Bay Hill this week and would also finish in the Top 10 in strokes gained tee to green. It will be a tougher field this week for Kirk to navigate at TPC Sawgrass, but he has two top-15 finishes in his last five trips to the event and is playing some of the best golf of his career.
The week certainly didn’t finish the way that Tommy Fleetwood hoped after he climbed his way into sixth place heading into the final round at Bay Hill. He struggled on Sunday with a 5-over round that dropped him into a tie for 10th on the week.
He would still make it out of the week gaining 5.42 strokes on the field tee to green, including more than three-and-a-half strokes gained on approach. Fleetwood has always been known for his ball striking, and he seemed to find a groove with his game in that aspect at Bay Hill. I expect him to be able to carry that momentum into next week at The Players as he looks to improve on the top-five finish he had at the event in 2019.
It looked like Hideki Matsuyama would have a short week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational as he started with an opening round 75. He bounced back from there with a 2-under 70 to make the weekend, and a solid final 36 to finish inside the top 20.
Matsuyama improved his approach game each and every round at Bay Hill. The first round leader at The Players Championship last year, seems to be dialing in his ball striking to make another run at TPC Sawgrass. Hideki gained 2.32 strokes on the field Sunday at Bay Hill in difficult conditions during an even par round. He will look to carry that momentum into next week.