Out of the Rough: The Players
I’m a big fan of golf. I think that is obvious. Each week I analyze the statistics of the tour to determine who should and or could be successful in the upcoming week. However, this weekend was not fun for me. I had some quality DFS lineups heading into the weekend after the cut. Names such as Rory McIlroy had an opening round of -7. Many others in the negatives heading into Saturday had me feeling pretty good. Then came Saturday. Saturday was not too fun. McIlroy went +8 over the last two rounds, Marc Leishman went +12. Will Zalatoris had a final round of +7. Kevin Mitchell went +8, Lanto Griffin +9, Danny Willett +8. The list goes on and on and on. We now get The Players. The biggest non-major of the year is upon us and one of my favorite tournaments to watch. Let’s put the Arnold Palmer Invitational behind us.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational Results
Jon Rahm (+2) - T17
Will Zalatoris (+6) - T38
Keith Mitchell (+10) - T61
Luke List (+5) - MC
Danny Willett (+8) - T52
Rory McIlroy (+1) - T13
Marc Leishman (+11) - T68
Russell Henley (+1) - T13
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+3) - T20
Andrew Putnam (+5) - MC
Deemed the “fifth major” of the year, The Players is annually the first big tournament of the calendar year.
Held annually at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida this tournament arguably is the one to really “kick off” the season, or at least the calendar year.
Due to this, we will see a bigger and more talent packed field than we’ve seen recently. On top of this, unlike the four majors, this is one of the more complete fields due to the lack of “fluff” that is featured at majors due to amateur spots and what not.
TPC Sawgrass is a stadium course that was specifically made for this event. It’s a Pete Dye designed course, who is the mastermind behind multiple courses on the tour. Most notably, Hilton Head at the RBC Heritage and TPC Louisiana.
The course features some of the smallest greens on the tour that are additionally positioned to be hard to hit. These greens of course are Bermuda being in Florida.
TPC Sawgrass offers water in play on many holes, most notably the famous Hole 17 island green. It too has many dog legs, making accuracy and iron play essential.
The course features easier-than-normal fairways to hit, but placement along the sides of these fairways will still be crucial. Approaching the green is very difficult here, as greens in regulation percentages and scrambling percentages at TPC Sawgrass are annually some of the lowest on tour.
The Players is known for its run of challenging holes. Although traditionally a par 72 course, each hole offers unique challenges.
We’ve already mentioned that picturesque hole 17 island green, but hole 18 may be the hardest on the entire course. A pinpoint drive over water is needed just to hit the fairway.
The course offers many long par fours that will require long iron shots, risk-and-reward par fives and some very difficult par threes.
Weather will for sure be a major factor for this year's Players if the forecast is to hold true. Colder temperatures, rain and winds are all in play this week, especially into the weekend. There’s an 80-percent chance of rain Thursday through Saturday and winds can reach speeds of over 20 MPH.
We most likely will see a cold, wet and slow course this year. Highs are expected to only be in the mid 50’s with unpredictable wind gusts.
Statistics to consider this week include strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach and with this weather forecast, strokes gained: around the green.
SG: TTG is easily the most important as since 2011, only one winner has placed outside the top ten at the event in this specific statistic. SG: APP is always a big statistic to follow. On top of the weather with smaller greens and a low greens-in-regulation percentage, SG: ATG will be crucial as well.
Some trends worth noting here are nine of the last 11 winners have placed T4 or higher at a PGA tournament in the same calendar year, the last 14 winners had at least finished T23rd or better at The Players previously and the last five winners have placed T22 or better in the year prior at this event.
I’ve been waiting to say this since I re-started this series. I’m happy to go with my man Collin Morikawa ($10,700) here. We Know (Fantasy) Morikawa as one of the best ball strikers on tour. He’s the world number two for a reason. He’s currently sixth on tour in SG: TTG and fourth in SG: APP. We’ve seen him just twice thus far this calendar year and those two tournaments resulted in a T5 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and a T2 at The Genesis Invitational. Morikawa has only played this tournament once prior however, last season with a T41. He was really dampened by a +4 Saturday last year but came into the clubhouse with a -6 on Sunday. As the weather is projected to be unpredictable, I like Morikawa and his elite ball striking abilities. Also consider defending champion Justin Thomas ($10,400.) Thomas finished -12 across the weekend in an improbable way to claim victory at The Players last year. He’s currently fourth on the tour in SG: TTG, tenth in SG: APP and 26th in SG: ATG. On top of his 2021 victory, he has a T35 in 2019, T11 in 2018, T3 in 2016 and T24 in 2015. Needless to say, he knows his way around this course and his game caters to TPC Sawgrass excellently.
This is a price range I’m not in love with for this week. However, there are some golfers at the bottom of the price range that I do like. First off, let’s go with the hottest golfer on tour currently, Scottie Scheffler ($9,200.) Since the turn of the year, Scheffler has not finished worse than T25 in five tournaments. He has two wins in his last three tournaments. Last week he came back at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to win on Sunday. Two weeks prior he claimed victory at the WM Phoenix Open. In Between the two victories he finished T7 at The Genesis Invitational. He’s currently 15th on tour in SG: TTG, 15th in SG: APP and 36th in SG: ATG. In his lone appearance at The Players however, he missed the cut in 2021. Also consider Cameron Smith ($9,400.) Smith is currently 19th on the tour in SG: TTG, 20th in SG: APP and 23rd in SG: ATG. Last year at The Players, Smith finished T17. During this calendar year, Smith has won the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
One of my favorite picks for this week is Daniel Berger ($8,800.) He’s had a very good start to this calendar year as well. His most recent outing was a fourth place finish at the daunting Honda Classic. He also has a T5 finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and T20 at the Farmers Insurance Open this year. He’s fifth on the tour in SG: TTG, third in SG: APP and 32nd in SG: ATG. He’s made the cut at The Players in five consecutive tournaments. He finished T9th last year and T9th in 2016. Also consider Joaquin Niemann ($8,400.) Niemann began 2022 with a T6 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open followed by a victory at The Genesis Invitational. He’s ninth on the tour in SG: TTG, T26th in SG: APP and 10th in SG: ATG. Niemann had one showing at The Players last year where he finished T29th.
There is an extremely valuable play in this price range with Chris Kirk ($7,000.) Kirk finished -3 at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational with a T5th finish. Prior to that, at a nearly as difficult tournament as the Arnold Palmer, he finished T7th at the Honda Classic. Heck, prior to those top seven finishes he carded at T14th at the WM Phoenix Open. He’s hot right now, that is for sure. Kirk is also 12th on the tour in SG: TTG and 58th in SG: APP. The strongest part of Kirk’s game is SG: ATG where he currently is sixth on the tour. At just $7,000, this may be one of the best value plays of the week. Kirk also has not missed a cut at The Players since 2012 (outside of 2016 where he withdrew from the tournament.) His career at The Players has been highlighted by back-to-back T13th place finishes in 2014 and 2015. Also consider Talor Gooch ($7,200.) Gooch finished last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational T7th. He’s currently 14th on tour in SG: TTG, 14th in SG: APP and 7th in SG: ATG. Gooch finished T5th at The Players a year ago as well. He checks all the boxes to have a successful week. Kirk and Gooch at a combined $14,200 on DraftKings will be heavily featured in my lineups this week.
Martin Laird ($6,800) is 22nd on tour in SG: TTG, 23rd in SG: APP and 43rd in SG: ATG. These are some good numbers for a guy in this price range. Usually we look for golfers who do one of the important statistics very well in this price range and hope that will carry them through the tournament, but Laird all around suits this course well. Laird did make the cut at The Players last year. He has made all four cuts in each of his tournaments in 2022, highlighted by a T14th at the WM Phoenix Open. I say this often, when we get to this price range, we’re looking for golfers to make the cut mainly. Laird should be in position to do just that this week. Also consider Adam Hadwin ($6,500.) Hadwin is 48th on tour in SG: TTG, 36th in SG: APP and 39th in SG: ATG. Last year at The Players, Hadwin finished T29th. Hadwin has three top 26 finishes over his last five tournaments in 2022. Between 2016 and 2018, Hadwin made three straight cuts at TPC Sawgrass as well.
Strokes Gained: Proximity to Course
Strokes gained: proximity to course (SG: PTC) is the patented statistic developed by Lenny of the Out of the Rough Podcast. Each week, we will pick a golfer local to the course to be his SG: PTC choice. Last week was John Pak. Pak made the cut last week and finished T52.
This week Lenny is going with Billy Horschel. Horschel is a Florida guy through and through. He was born in Florida, grew up in Florida and went to college in Florida.
The Honda Classic - Chase Seiffert (+1) - T25th