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The Players Championship Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 05/07/2014
The PGA Tour heads back to Florida this week for the "Fifth Major", THE PLAYERS Championship. "THE PLAYERS" is capitalized for a reason since this is THE Championship for the PLAYERS and a lot of them covet this tournament more than any of the four real Majors. That may sound narcissistic but this game is about the players and this is exactly what this tournament is about.
While a lot of the current regular stops on tour value experience, TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National are arguably the two biggest venues where experience matters the most. Check out this stat from the PGA Tour. The average number of starts before a victory here is just over 7 so just like Augusta, it takes a few years to win here, not including the 2002 win by Craig Perks.
Four years ago was the first year since 1996 that TPC Sawgrass played under par and overall, it ranked 28th out of 52 stops on tour in difficulty. Three years ago, it played even easier. Two years ago though it came back to 72.47 which was fifth highest among the 20 par 72's. Last year it was close to the same at +0.323 strokes to par. It is a course that rewards accuracy but at the same time, scramblers can have success as long as their misses are in the right spots.
When you think of TPC Sawgrass, you think of the 17th island par three, arguably the scariest 130-something shot in golf. It is definitely a risk-reward hole and getting out of there with a par is huge going into 18. Why? The 18th at Sawgrass is the second-toughest closing hole on tour going back to 1983. We have seen many PLAYERS won and lost on these final two holes and that is what it should all be about.
With this being such a prestigious tournament, the field is full of big names with the top ten in the OWGR in the field excluding Tiger Woods of course and Jason Day who is out with a thumb injury. Additionally, nine past PLAYERS champions are here along with 28 Major winners and 22 World Golf Championship winners. This makes for an exciting event that should again come down to the final holes on Sunday.
Sergio Garcia (+2,200) won here is 2008 and was right there again last year until hitting two balls into the water at the 17th hole but still finished T8. In addition to his win, he has made the cut his last 10 starts here and has four career top tens. He comes in playing some of his best golf despite a missed cut at the Masters in his last start.
We used Jim Furyk (+3,000) last week and his Sunday 65 vaulted him to a solo second at the Wells Fargo. It was his fifth straight top 20 which includes three top sevens in his last four starts. He has missed the cut only four times in 18 starts at THE PLAYERS and even though one was last year, we was not coming in playing well at all.
Lee Westwood (+3,500) was also on our list last week and he surprisingly did not stick around for the weekend but that could be a blessing in disguise here. He won the previous week in Malaysia so he could have just been spent and prior to that, it was a solo seventh at the Masters. He finished T8 at Sawgrass last year as well as T4 in 2010.
Rickie Fowler (+5,500) got off to a very slow start to the season with three missed cuts in his first six events but he has been much better. He has two top six finishes since April and despite a T38 last week (another one on our list) he closed with a Sunday 67. He missed the cut here last year but finished T2 in 2012.
The biggest pub that Harris English (+5,500) is getting is that he is paired with Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose so he is flying under the radar here. He won twice in the first part of 2013 and while he has not been in contention since then, he has five top 16's including three top tens. He finished T33 here last year after a T64 in his debut in 2012.
Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at THE PLAYERS Championship- All for 1 Unit
Sergio Garcia (+2,200)
Jim Furyk (+3,000)
Lee Westwood (+3,500)
Rickie Fowler (+5,500)
Harris English (+5,500)
2014 Record to date after 16 events: -27 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge -5 Units
Farmers Insurance Open -5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open -5 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am +22 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC - Accenture Match Play +23 Units
Honda Classic -5 Units
WGC-Cadillac Championship -5 Units
Valspar Championship -5 Units
Arnold Palmer Invitational -5 Units
Valero Texas Open -5 Units
Shell Houston Open -5 Units
The Masters -7 Units
Zurich Classic -5 Units
Wells Fargo Championship -5 Units