The Players Preview: Picks To Win, Contend And Fade
Nineteen of the Top 20 players in the world are set to tee it up at TPC Sawgrass this week for The Players as they’ll compete for the largest purse in all of golf. This week will mark the third of what will be four straight weeks the Tour makes a stop in Florida.
Rory McIlroy will be looking to become the first player in tournament history to go back-to-back. The world’s No. 1 player held off Jim Furyk by one shot to win last year’s event.
Tiger Woods is the one marquee name not among the 144 player field this week in Ponte Vedra Beach as he continues to get his back into proper shape ahead of the Masters.
The Top 65 and ties will make the cut to play the weekend.
We know pretty much all there is to know about TPC Sawgrass as it has played host to The Players since 1982.
It’s a Par 72 track that will play just under 7,200 yards and it serves as a stiff test given the fact that it’s not a course where players will pull driver out on every tee box. The layout itself is filled with variety thanks to four Par 4’s playing at over 460 yards, another three playing at 400 yards or less and then, of course, the short yet daunting Par 3 17th that’s nothing more than a wedge for these players.
As far as turf goes this week, expect to see a lot of bright green turf thanks to overseeded rye. Plus, with the move to March that began last year, the rough shouldn’t be too penal for players this week; think Augusta National as far as green grass and shorter rough. The putting surfaces this week are overseeded Bermuda and should be on the faster side; maybe not Arnold Palmer Invitational fast, but quick.
Last week’s picks for Arnold Palmer Invitational: Pick To Win: Xander Schauffele (MC), Pick To Contend: Hideki Matsuyama (T-56) and Player To Fade: Bryson DeChambeau (4th)
Pick To Win
Rahm led The Players heading into Sunday last year before he imploded for a final-round 76 that featured one of the most memorable moments of the season. The Spaniard and his caddie disagreed on a shot at the 11th before Rahm eventually opted to go for the green to find the water with his approach shot.
The world’s No. 2 player is certainly seeking some revenge after last year’s struggles and he enters the week in strong form.
Rahm hasn’t finished worse than T-17 in his five starts on Tour since the new year which includes a T-3 at the WGC-Mexico Championship in late-February. He enters the week ranked third on Tour in strokes gained: total and sixth in scoring average. As long as the irons are working for the recently married 25-year-old expect to see him in contention come Sunday.
Pick To Contend (Top 5 Finish)
No, I’m not just trying to cover my ass here by picking DeChambeau this week after he was my player to fade last week before he went on to finish fourth at Arnold Palmer. As I noted in last week’s preview, I think DeChambeau has his sites set on putting something together this week.
He finished T-20 here a season ago and enters this week in uber impressive form thanks to three straight Top 5 finishes.
DeChambeau leads the Tour in driving distance, is 10th in strokes gained: tee to green and the putter hasn’t been too bad either ranking 22nd in strokes gained: putting for the season. He also finished 15th in the field during last week’s event picking up almost 3.5 shots with his approach game.
Player To Fade
Something just isn’t right with Koepka at the moment. Perhaps it’s his knee still causing some issues, but it’s impossible to ignore the fact he’s coming off of a missed cut at the Honda Classic and a T-47 last week at the Arnold Palmer that featured a third-round 81.
Usually a machine off of the tee, Koepka enters this week ranked 214th on Tour in driving accuracy and 83rd in strokes gained: off the tee. The putter has been even worse sitting at 208th in strokes gained: putting, which may have something to do with the fact that he’s 219th on Tour in scrambling.
Koepka earned a T-56 finish here a year ago.