Course Preview & Picks By Salary Tier – The Players Championship

By May 8, 2017PGA, PGA Premium

Introduction

The top golfers in the world head to Ponte Vedre, Florida for The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass. With a total purse of 10.5 million dollars, every golfer wants to come here to try and earn a healthy paycheck and test their skills on a difficult course. Another reason golfers like this course so much is because any type of golfer can win here. There is no “type” that consistently does well here. Everyone has a chance as you can see with some of the past winners at TPC Sawgrass. Tim Clark, KJ Choi, Stephen Ames, and Fred Funk have all won here in the past 12 years. Paul Goydos actually has two Top 3 finishes here since 2008. In that same time span, big names like Stenson, Sergio, Mickleson, Tiger, Day, and Fowler have won here as well. Like I said, EVERYONE has a chance. That’s what makes this tournament so great and why it can be very difficult to predict for DFS purposes. Names like Day, Spieth, Rose, Rory, and Mickleson have all missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass recently. Last year 16 of the Top 32 ranked golfers in the field missed the cut. There are so many dangers on this course and everyone can fall victim to this at some point during the week. Even though this tournament is tough to predict, there are some trends and stats that stick out and I’ll try to help guide you to DFS glory with the information I have.

Course Description

TPC Sawgrass is a Pete Dye designed par 72 course that plays around 7,200 yards, with four par 3s and four par 5s. Three of the par 5s are reachable by most and the par 5 9th hole can only be reached in two by the longest of hitters. There have been a few changes to the course this past year.  The bunkers have been redone, another water hazard was added, the 12th hole added a new tee box to make it a drivable par 4, and most importantly the grass on the greens were switched from Mini Verde Bermuda to TifEagle Bermuda. I say that this is the most important change because new grass on greens usually leads to firmer conditions and a large first hop on approaches. This could lead to these already tough to hit greens even more difficult to hold on approach shots. Off the tee golfers will face narrow tree lined fairways with bunkers and water in play on almost all shots off the tee. There is A LOT of water on this course. Over 24 ACRES of water to be more exact. Like most Pete Dye designs, there are many different type of doglegs on many of the holes. This will lead to players hitting less than driver on many of the holes played. The fairways have a lot of mounds and undulation and can be very firm if the course is dry. Missing it in the rough on the right side can make the golfers approach shots even more difficult because of the “Stadium Mounds.” Everyone thinks that TPC Sawgrass is a Stadium Course because of the seating and atmosphere on the last three holes. While this is true, Pete Dye also created “Stadium Mounds” on a lot of holes so fans can get a better view of shots and he placed them on the right side of the hole so fans can see the golfers faces. If golfers miss right on their tee shots, they could be facing a baseball type swing on their approach shots. Since a lot of water is on the left side of greens, it makes these baseball type swings even more hair raising since the ball will be sitting on a draw/hook lie. On approach shots golfers will see very small and firm greens. Bunkers surround most greens and once again, A LOT of water will be surrounding them as well. The greens themselves are multi tiered, undulated, and tricky which is a very typical Pete Dye design. Since 1992 there have been more three putts on this course than any other non Major course on Tour. The course uses TifEagle Bermudagrass on the greens and they are fast, with a stimpmeter rating of 12.5 and above. The outcome of the tournament will come down to the final three hole stretch, which is nerve racking but can be played under par if golfers can get over nerves and the intimidation factor. Hole 16 is a reachable par 5 with a lot of trouble around the green. Anything from a 3 to an 8 is definitely possible here. Then golfers move on to the iconic island green at 17, which in reality is usually one of the 6 easiest holes on the course but with the intimidation factor, it makes the hole play much harder in the final round if golfers are in contention. Finally golfers play the 18th which is a visual and physical test for all golfers. In other words, it’s hard. It’s a long par 4 with water down the entire left side. Since 2003 this hole has played nearly 1800 strokes OVER PAR!!! The tournament can definitely be won or lost on these final three holes.

Key Stats For The Course

***In order of importance with the most important first. Not including Strokes Gained Putting (SG:P), Strokes Gained Tee to Green (SG:T2G), and Birdie or Better % (BoB%) which are key stats every week.

Strokes Gained: Approach (SG:A):

Sawgrass is a less than driver course so once again SG:A is my most important stat. Since 2005 41/46 golfers with recordable stats that finished Top 3 were inside the Top 85 in SG:A for that specific year.

Par 3 Scoring (P3) and Par 4 Scoring (P4):

Golfers will still need to play well on Par 5s but unlike most courses, the trends say that better Par 3 and Par 4 scorers are more likely to succeed here at TPC Sawgrass. Since 2005 33/46 golfers that finished inside the Top 3 with recordable stats were 78th or better in P3 for the specific year they finished Top 3. 31/46 golfers that finished Top 3 were inside the Top 78 in P4 scoring for the year they finished Top 3.

Overall Proximity (Prox):

Since putting on these greens can be very difficult, hitting it close on approach shots will be the easiest way to avoid the dreaded three putt and as I stated in the Course Description, there have been more three putts on this course than any other non Major course on Tour since 1992. Since 2005 32/46 golfers that finished inside the Top 3 were ranked 75th or better in this stat for the respective year they finished Top 3.

Scrambling (Scr) w/ a focus on Sand Save % (SS%):

The greens are small and firm. They will be missed. How a golfer does in getting it up and down will be very important this week. Nine of the last eleven winners at Sawgrass were inside the Top 60 in Scr the year they won. Also there are 93 bunkers on the course. Golfers will inevitably hit into a few of them this week, so finding good sand players will be something to look for as well. Seven of the last eight winners here were inside the Top 35 in SS% for the year they won. Six of those eight winners were inside the Top 20 in SS% for the year they won.

High End Picks ($9000 and up)

Rory McIlroy (DK-$11,200 FD-$10,500):

Picking between Rory and DJ was tough and I didn’t want to write them both up because that would be too easy. DJ is playing the best golf of his life and has actually won the last two times he has played on a Pete Dye course (WGC Match Play, BMW Championship) but I went with Rory because DJ just hasn’t played well at Sawgrass in the past. In seven appearances his best finish was last year when he was in 28th place. Now this doesn’t mean he can’t light it up and win this year but I’m picking Rory over DJ not only for the fact that Rory has a better track record here (4 consecutive Top 12 finishes) but also because Rory has been playing great golf pre injury and post injury. In his last nine events worldwide Rory has eight Top 10s and two victories. After coming back from injury he has three Top 7s in three events played and has gained nearly 15 strokes on the field with his approaches (excluding the Masters since they don’t have SG stats). He’s dialed in from tee to green and if he can get a few putts to drop, he can easily win this week. (GPP and cash)

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