The Players. The Fifth Major. Ok maybe it isn’t but people will call it that anyway, and based on strength of field, it is hardly an outrageous claim, even if I don’t agree with the title. Players are more committed to this event than any other on the calendar outside of the majors, and that includes the WGC events.
All of the world’s top-50 are slated to start, including Jason Day (Back) and Tiger Woods (Neck) who were both injury concerns coming into the week.
From a DraftKings point of view this week, pricing is soft, which means you can create line-ups with six very good players, so it is important to find a way to vary from others. Ownership is always important but this week is seems even more imperative, so I think it worth looking at FanShareSports for their ownership projections, amongst the other great content on their site.
Pete Dye Design – Check out the Pete Dye specialists according to futureoffantasy here
Bermuda grass (Over seeded with Rye this year)
Par 4 Performance (Par 4 Scoring Average for season-long) – Of the last six winners, only Martin Kaymer (13th) has ranked outside the top-7 for Par-4 Performance, with each of the last three all rankings 1st.
Scrambling – Of the last six winners, the only winner to rank outside the top-10 is defending champion, Webb Simpson who ranked 24th!
Other stats to consider: Driving Distance, SG: Approach
The Favourite – Brooks Koepka ($10,000)
Every year Brooks Koepka has returned to TPC Sawgrass and improved, and I anticipate that being the case again this week.
Since missing the cut on debut in 2014, Koepka’s form here reads 35-16-11 and this year he can crack the top-10 for the first time.
Koepka missed the cut last week at Bay Hill, after opening 74-73, but just a week before he finished T2 at the Honda Classic, and on the third leg of this Florida Swing, Koepka can find his second win of the season.
Brooks was born, educated and still resides in Florida, so this is something of a home game for the three-time major winner, and the Players Championship would be a nice addition to his trophy cabinet.
Koepka ranks 29th in Par 4 Scoring Average this season, but a lowly 180th in Scrambling, but I am hoping he can overcome that this week, on a course he is clearly beginning to enjoy.
The Alternative – Tiger Woods ($10,500)
With Tiger seemingly ready to rock and roll this week at TPC Sawgrass, he certainly make some appeal both from a betting and fantasy standpoint.
After an on/off relationship with this golf course over the years, Woods won his second Players Championship on his return from injury in 2013, and 12 months ago he bounced back from a quiet start to shoot the best score of anyone in the field over the weekend (65-69).
That weekend effort last year was good enough for an 11th place finish and he can better that this week, if as he indicates he is playing at full health.
In 2019 he has got better with every start, going T20-T15-T10 and he will hope to piece it all together here, vindicating his decision to skip the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which he has won eight times.
The Favourite – Xander Schauffele ($9,000)
This was an easy pick for me. Xander Schauffele is a two-time winner already this season, and has not finished outside the top-25 in his last eight starts, highlighting an exceptional level of consistency.
That T25 finish at Torrey Pines was his worst showing in his last eight starts, however this was on a course he has notoriously struggled at, missing his first three cuts. T10-T15-T14 since, Schauffele will return to Sawgrass in great form, and well rested after a two-week break.
Hal Sutton and Craig Perks remain the only two debutants to win here in 37 renewals, but Schauffele managed to finish T2 last year after shooting four under-par rounds, including three in the 60’s. In truth he was nowhere near winning, as Webb Simpson dominated, but that was the case for everyone else as well.
An improved and more experienced player, who has two more wins under his belt since his debut here, Schauffele looks an obvious selection this week.
He ranks 11th in Par 4 Scoring Average and 16th in Scrambling which are additional positives.
The Alternative – Patrick Cantlay ($8,700)
Patrick Cantlay’s missed cut at the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year was just the third time since he returned to golf in 2017 that he’s missed the weekend, which is an astonishing record.
What this means is that almost every week, Cantlay is giving himself a chance if not to win, to at least work his way into the top-10 and he can do that this week.
On his course debut in 2017, Cantlay finished in a tie for 22nd despite shooting a final-round 77. A level-par round on Sunday would have been good enough for a T6 finish, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it four rounds of par or better that week. The story was eerily similar in 2018 as he finished T23, with a final round 74 undoing his 66-68 effort over Thursday and Friday.
When he finished his second round last year he co-led, before Simpson shot a course record 63, and if he can piece it together for four rounds this week, for the first time, a win is surely a possibility.
Bryson DeChambeau took one stroke less to deny Cantlay a second PGA Tour victory at the Shriners earlier in the season and he’s finished in the top-9 in three of his five starts since.
No one is playing the Par 4’s better than Cantlay this season, and whilst this is slightly skewed due to his limited starts (7), it’s encouraging nonetheless. Cantlay also ranks 8th in Scrambling.
Others to consider: Francesco Molinari ($8,600), Adam Scott ($8,200)
The Favourite – Lucas Glover ($7,100)
No one really suits this event more than Lucas Glover on current form, with the American leading the Tour in Scrambling and ranking 6th in Par 4 Scoring Average.
It’s not just statistics though, as we know relying solely on these can be dangerous, Glover is also playing arguably the most consistent golf of his career. The former U.S. Open champion has made 8/9 cuts this season, finishing inside the top-20 every time he has made the weekend. Four of those top-20’s double up as top-10 finishes, including his last three straight.
A lot of this is down to his improvement with the putter, as he ranked 7th in SG: Putting last week and is now 37th on Tour in SG: Putting and 6th in Total Putting, which is huge for a player with his ball striking talent.
Whilst he’s predominantly struggled around Sawgrass, Glover finished 3rd in 2012 and 6th two years ago, and given his form he can match or even eclipse those results this week.
Glover will be desperate to take advantage of such great form and get back in the winners’ circle for the first time in almost eight years.
The Alternative – Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($7,400)
I wanted to put someone else here, because you really don’t need me to make Bello’s case for you, but here we are.
His T3 at Bay Hill last week was his second result of that kind this season (CJ CUP) and he’s been consistent on the PGA Tour ever since. Four-straight top-25 finishes, including a T19 in Mexico, after bouncing back from an opening-round 76, Bello arrives at Sawgrass in fine fettle.
After missing the cut on his Players debut in 2016, Bello finished 4th in 2017, largely thanks to the first ever albatross on the Par-5 16th on Sunday. 12 months ago, Bello played well again, finishing in a tie for 17th, and ended up just two strokes outside the top-10.
T3 in Par 4 Scoring Average and 35th in Scrambling, Bello suits this test statistically as well. A chalky play at a ridiculously low price, but one that’s worth playing in my opinion.
Others to consider: Paul Casey ($7,900), Emiliano Grillo ($7,200), Jim Furyk ($7,100),
The Favourite – Chesson Hadley ($6,700)
To me, no one in this range makes more sense than Chesson Hadley. His T17 finish at Bay Hill last week was his fifth top-20 of the season, and third in his last four events.
Three-straight missed cuts from the RSM Classic to the Farmers Insurance Open overshadowed top-7 finishes at both the CIMB Classic (T2) and the Shriners (T7) earlier this season. He certainly seems to have found form once again though, and he returns to a course he’s enjoyed in the past.
Four starts here have seen him go 2/4 for made cuts, but when he has made the weekend he has two top-24 finishes. In 2015 and third-round 66 gave him a shot at a top-10 finish but a final-round 74 put an end to that, but three years later he got a lot closer.
Hadley co-led after a round one 66 and a Friday 69 saw him one stroke off the lead after the morning wave had finished. A course-record 63 in the afternoon from Simpson saw him end the day six strokes off the pace though, which left him with work to do over the weekend. A third-round 75 meant he had no chance of contending but a Sunday 67 saw him finish T11 a one-stroke out of a tie for 7th. A level-par round on Saturday would have seen him in the group in 2nd place, and he can put in a similar performance here.
He has gained 1.6 strokes on the field on Pete Dye designs since 2014, which exceeds his expected SG of 0.916, according to futureoffantasy.com. This is largely down to his T7 finish at the RBC Heritage last year, where he went into the final round with every chance of winning.
At $6,700 he looks a great play, to fill your line-up after picking bigger names elsewhere.
The Alternative – Ryan Palmer ($6,600)
One player who may well benefit from the scheduling change is Ryan Palmer, who has played some of his best golf at this time of year. Any windy conditions could actually play into his hands, so that won’t bother him one bit.
Palmer who is a former winner in Florida (2004 Funai Classic) and twice a runner-up in this part of the world (2010 WGC Bridgestone, 2014 Honda Classic), enjoys the conditions he faces in this state and can perform well at this course again.
Three top-23 finishes in his last five starts here, including 5th in 2013, Palmer will relish the chance to play here again after finishing T4 at the Honda last time out.
That T4 adds to his top-7 finishes at the CJ Cup (T3) and the Shriners (T7) as well as another good showing at Torrey Pines, where he was T13 and shot three rounds of 68 or better.
Palmer also ranks T6 in Par 4 Scoring Average.
Other options to consider: Byeong Hun An ($6,800), Aaron Baddeley ($6,300)