The Players Championship is often called the “fifth major,” and what it lacks in prestige compared to the actual majors it makes up for in field strength. Put simply, if you want to watch all of the best golfers in the world — not just the guys at the tiptop but all the way through the field — this event at TPC Sawgrass is your nirvana. Any player in the field can win this whole thing, and we saw Si Woo Kim take it down last season at very high odds. Can a longshot grab the title again, or will one of the studs come out victorious?
TPC Sawgrass represents one of toughest mental tests on tour. At 7,189 yards, the par-72 course has a way of neutralizing golfers’ strengths while exploiting their weaknesses. The Pete Dye design forces a player to maintain focus at all times.
Historically, bombers haven’t been able to overpower Sawgrass. A mixture of right and left doglegs, along with difficult rough looming off the fairway, limits what the golfers can do off the tee. We see this aspect in the results of a player such as Dustin Johnson, who is still looking for his first top-10 at this tournament after nine starts.
On the flip side, shorter hitters and/or strong iron players have found plenty of success at Sawgrass. Guys such as Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar and K.J. Choi aren’t the longest hitters but were able to keep the ball in position off the tee then attack with their approach game.
I’ll be looking for guys who are strong with the approach game this week. I’m also looking for players outside of the bombers who are good at scoring on par-5s. At Sawgrass, three of the par-5s are reachable for most of the field, so I’ll also look for players who’ve been able to play well on shorter par-5s without having to bomb it 325 yards. These are the holes where players can take advantage of the course. The four par-5s and the 300-yard par-4 12th are the only holes on the course that play under par. — Joshua Perry
Using the FantasyLabs Trends tool, we can back-test a variety of metrics to see what types of players do well at TPC Sawgrass. The baseline golfer has historically produced a tough -1.56 DraftKings Plus/Minus. From there, I looked at how golfers in the top-20 percentile of each metric have historically fared at this course. Here’s the data …
There’s definitely a premium on ball-strikers, although the most predictive metrics have been recent form. As Josh mentioned, this is a tough course that will test all aspects of a player’s game. If a guy isn’t sharp, this is going to be a hard place to get back on track. — Bryan Mears