Pictured: Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Great news! This is Players Championship week, one of the most highly anticipated events on the annual schedule.
Not-so-great news! This is also one of the most unpredictable events each year, so buckle up.
The winner’s list since the turn of the century includes stars (Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson) and surprises (Craig Perks). It includes long hitters (Adam Scott) and short knockers (Fred Funk). It includes old guys (sorry, Funk again) and young studs (Si Woo Kim).
I’ve always maintained that this is one of the toughest tourneys to handicap, for both the eclectic group of winners and the oft-eclectic group of contenders who finish behind each of them.
My fallback stat, if you need to look at one, has always been ball-striking — the theory being that laser-like iron play is usually a good place to start at any event when seeking potential leaderboard stalkers.
Of course, guessing at these things is no longer necessary.
I asked The Action Network’s own data scientist, Colin Davy, for one statistic that has been a successful fit for TPC Sawgrass over the years. The analytics surprised me. According to his numbers, of the major statistical categories, driving accuracy was the most important on this venue, followed by driving distance, greens in regulation, scrambling and, finally, putting.
Score another point against the ol’ “drive for show, putt for dough” crowd.
Based on these numbers, let’s examine the best drivers of the golf ball this season, before getting to my pick to win, along with some top-five, top-10 and head-to-head matchup props I’m eyeing.