The Players Championship has often been regarded as the fifth major and the PGA Tour’s flagship event is definitely an event adored by the golfing universe. Be it players; coaches, caddies, spectators or just us sitting at home, everyone tends to get excited for this week and it is easy to see why.
Firstly, TPC Sawgrass, the host course for this event since 1982 is simply stunning and we all know about the island “17th green” where the fear of going into the water is meant to torment the players, especially when in contention on Sunday.
Not only is the course a treat for the players, but so is the purse. The $10.5m purse is the biggest on TOUR eclipsing both the Masters and the U.S Open kitty by $500,000.
Course information & Key Stats:
TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)
Pete Dye design
Greens in regulation
It is well-known that you don’t have to hit it a country mile to win at the Players but at the same time, I wouldn’t base my picks on whether the player does or doesn’t hit the long ball off the tee. Now it can be argued that it levels the playing field a little bit, as shorter hitters have a better chance but realistically you need to look at who is pounding greens and scrambling well when they miss them.
Since 2003, 8 of the winners have finished inside the top-5 for the week in Greens in Regulation, whilst only two of the last 11 winners here have ranked outside the top-10 for Scrambling on the week so these are two vital statistics.
Another thing to bear in mind is who designed the course. Pete Dye designed the Stadium Course here at TPC Sawgrass and he is also responsible for Harbour Town (RBC Heritage) and TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic) which have already been used this year and TPC at River Highlands which is used each season for the Travelers Championship. If a player has struggled in minimal starts (2 or less) at the Players Championship, but have performed well at one of the other correlating courses I would be inclined to give them another chance if you like them, however if a player has made 3/4 starts here and not cracked the top 20/25 I would leave them alone.
The last 9 winners of this event have all posted a top-20 at Sawgrass before they won, making it vitally important that players have at least seen the track and ideally made the weekend, much like Augusta.
With this in mind, here is my sole pick for the 2016 Players Championship.
Russell Knox 100/1 (Boylesports) 90/1 (Bet365 & PaddyPower) 1pt e/w: Statistically, Knox looks perfect this week and with current form and a win this season to boot I am going to give him a shot at 100/1.
Not only does Knox rank 3rd in Greens in Regulation and 20th in Scrambling but he has also already posted that golden top-20 here which for me is very important. The Scotsman finished 17th last year after a respectable 34th place finish on debut in 2014 and I see no reason why he cannot build on his form here once again on his third start.
In addition to his form here at Sawgrass, Knox has also played some great golf on other Pete Dye designs, most recently at the RBC Heritage where he finished in a tie for 2nd, two shots shy of winner Branden Grace. He had already finished 18th and 9th in the two years prior at the same course, so the Pete Dye layouts look to suit his eye.
On top of his respectable efforts at both Hilton Head and Sawgrass, Knox has played well at the Travelers Championship (T13 in 2013) and even at the Zurich Classic where he has tended the struggle he finished T30 in 2012, so I am confident he can play well again here.
Now that Knox has a win under his belt (WGC-HSBC Champions) I am confident he can get the job done in an event like this and with a T2 finish on his last start, he could barely come into the event in better shape, 100/1 certainly looks generous to me.
I may add another player before the off and if so I will post on Twitter and update on here, but for me the head of the market is opposable and I can definitely see Knox in contention come Sunday.
Draft Kings Selections
Elite Picks ($10,000+):
Adam Scott ($10,000) – I could easily sit here and make a case for Rory McIlroy ($11,700) and Rickie Fowler ($10,600) in this category but with lingering doubts hanging over both of them I am happy to pass them both and take the guy who has 2 wins on the season, made 10/10 cuts finishing in the top-5 on five of those occasions and also played well last week (T17).
Scott has won this event in the past, albeit 12 years ago, but he has only missed two cuts at this event since then and whilst on the most part he has flattered to deceive, he has made four straight cuts here and has two top-20s in that time.
Scott wasn’t in great form heading into the event this time last year and finished an above average T38, so if he can find anywhere near the form he found when winning back-to-back in February/March, he will no doubt contend this week.
He also ranks 14th in Greens in Regulation, a promising sign heading into the week.
High-End Picks ($8,000 – $9,900):
Sergio Garcia ($9,900) – Right at the top of the budget is Sergio Garcia, who I absolutely 100% cannot bet this week as his inability to get over the line drives me insane, however in terms of fantasy I think it is a must that you have him in a couple of line-ups just in case he does sleep-walk over the line.
Garcia is one of only two (McIlroy the other) to have finished inside the top-10 on each of the last three years, with form figures of 2-3-8. Now if you are giving up $9,900 of your budget to a player, you would certainly expect them to be one of your favourites to win the event and whilst I have my doubts, he is definitely worth bearing at mind.
You could easily argue that the Spaniard could be over the $10,000 mark, so with that in mind I’ll take my chances *gulp*.
Taking Scott-Garcia 1 and 2 gives you some nice salary cap space and lets me fill the line-up with some nice value picks.
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,700) – In two starts here, Matsuyama has finished 17th and 23rd, so again he has that golden top-20 I always look for and is in fine current form as well.
Since his withdrawal after the first round of the Honda Classic back in February, Matsuyama has played four stroke-play events and has finished inside the top-11 of three of them, most recently last week when T11 at the Wells Fargo.
He should better his first two showings at this course and I firmly believe he can win this week, so at $9,700 if I am happy to take a chance on Garcia, Matsuyama looks a smart play too.
Mid-Range Picks ($6,800-$7,900):
Chris Kirk ($7,800) – On his last two starts at Sawgrass, Kirk has finished 13th both times and in five total starts has only missed the cut once (on debut in 2011).
With this alone he looks a good pick but add to that four top-23 finishes in his last six starts, including a 5th on his last start at the Zurich Classic (Pete Dye design) and he looks even better value.
I fully expect to Kirk to match or better his last two top-13 attempts and as a result he looks a fine pick at the money.
Russell Knox ($7,600) – See all the above in the betting preview. He is going to win*. Bet him, roster him, whatever you do just make sure you have him on-side.
Bill Haas ($7,500) – Posted his career-best finish at this event last year (4th) and is in typically steady form this season.
In 12 starts on Tour this season, Haas has finished inside the top-10 33.33% of the time or 4 times out of 12 if you prefer to read it that way and before missing the cut last week was on a 14-24-4 stretch.
He’s exactly 50% here in cuts made (4/8) but he has made 3 of his last 4 and certainly seems to be figuring out this course.
Marc Leishman ($7,300) – After missing his first two cuts at this course, Leishman has made his last four with results reading 24-23-8-45 and if he can post a finish between the 8th and the 23rd I will be happy with him giving his salary.
He hasn’t set the world alight recently but he has finished 20th and 30th on his last two starts which should provide him with some confidence heading to a course he has enjoyed some success at.
David Lingmerth ($7,000) – Lingmerth finished runner-up at this course back in 2013 and despite missing the cut in 2014, I do think he can play well again this week and will hopefully go a little bit under the radar, even though he is great value.
Since his 2nd at the CareerBuilder back in January, Lingmerth had struggled, missing two cuts and failing to break par in any stroke-play event until last week. He finished T17 at the Wells Fargo last week and finished T33 at the RBC Heritage in the start before that and as he has proven to be a fan of Pete Dye tracks, I am willing to roll the dice with him at $7,000.
Low-Value/Good Up-Side Picks ($6,700 and below):
Daniel Summerhays ($6,600) – Daniel Summerhays has played a lot of golf so far this season (15 events) but he has quietly gone about his business, making 12/15 cuts and posting five top-20’s in the process.
Two of those top-20’s have come on his last two starts (14th Wells Fargo & 13th Texas Open) and therefore comes into this week with some good form behind him.
Summerhays has played in this event three times, making his first two cuts (26th and 23rd) before missing the cut in 2015. Due to his good form of late, I can definitely see him popping up around the top-20 mark and at $6,600 I am happy for him to do just that, anything better would be a bonus.
Robert Streb ($6,100) – Streb finished 30th on his debut here last season and finally looks to be rounding into a nice bit of form once again.
He has finished 28th and 36th in his last two starts and if he can flirt with the top-20 mark at $6,100 I will be very happy with him propping up the rest of my line-up.
There are a lot of risky plays at the lower-end of the salary cap and as a result I would much rather fill out my team with Mid-Range picks, where it is stacked this week.