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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: THE PLAYERS Championship (2024)


At last, we’ve made it to one of the biggest weeks in the sport of golf.


Although we’ve seen several Signature Events to this point of the PGA Schedule, none have been as big as what is in line for this week.


THE PLAYERS Championship, informally known as the “fifth major,” is finally here as a full field of PGA Tour players takes to the infamous TPC Sawgrass this week.


In the previous signature events - The Sentry Tournament of Champions, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Genesis Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational - we’ve seen limited fields. That won’t be the case this week as 144 golfers will head to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.


THE PLAYERS Championship also holds the biggest purse in the sport. The purse sits at $25 million as the eventual winner will take home $4.5 million and the top five will all clear $1 million. 


The other Signature Events hold $20 million purses and the Majors range from $16.5 million to $20 million.


This once served as the first event of the PGA Tour schedule where we would all see the World’s best in one spot heading into the Major season. With the inclusion of the Elevated Events last year and the Signature Events this year, the allure of THE PLAYERS is dismissed a bit.


It is still one of the premier events of the Tour and we could be in line for some fireworks this week. Or so we hope.


The Field

As previously mentioned, this is the first and only Signature Event of the season where we’ll see a full field of 144 golfers.


World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler comes into this week as the odds on favorite to win after running away with the Arnold Palmer Invitational a week ago.


Scheffler is also the defending champion as much like last week, he ran away with this event a season ago, winning by five strokes over Tyrrell Hatton.


World No. 2 Rory McIlroy comes in behind Scheffler on the books but the two are far-and-away the two favorites to claim the “fifth major” title. McIlroy won this event in 2019 as well.


Of course, beyond those two, the rest of the Tour’s big names will be in attendance with the likes of Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, and Max Homa teeing it up.


Other former THE PLAYERS Championship winners playing this week include Justin Thomas (2021,) Webb Simpson (2018,) Si Woo Kim (2017,) Jason Day (2016,) Rickie Fowler (2015,) Matt Kuchar (2012) and Adam Scott (2004.)


The Course

TPC Sawgrass plays as a par 72 at just under 7,200 yards and requires a well rounded golf game to be in contention.


This is Pete Dye’s most famous design and like the majority of his designs, the course baits golfers into facing the extensive list of hazards head on.


The course was built simply to be a state-of-the-art tournament golf course to host THE PLAYERS Championship.


What we got from the 1970’s construction of this course is a modern marvel and the quintessential tournament stadium course that features some of the most pristine manicuring in golf.


The course is one of, if not the biggest, risk-reward type tracks on Tour as the constant hazard threat makes for a very volatile leaderboard.


There is water in play on 17 of the 18 holes at TPC Sawgrass. Quirky greenside bunkers that don’t allow for a smooth up-and-down too are included in the list of hazards.


TPC Sawgrass mitigates the advantage of longer hitters off the tee with the hazards and a plethora of doglegs going both left and right.


It however does reward those with elite approach and short games.


The par fives are arguably the most important holes on the course in terms of scoring and any hopeful winner must take advantage of them.


Along with the par fives, the short par four 12th hole too much be taken advantage of.


TPC Sawgrass is most notably known for its par three island green that may be the most recognizable hole in all of golf. 


Included in the final three holes is the island green, but the final three hole stretch is simply one of the best closing stretches on Tour.


Weather will almost certainly be a factor as we saw two years ago. The weather made the event nearly unplayable for half the field.


Wind is often up and can play a big part in the event. However, since the events move to March, the greens play much softer, making controlling approach shots and of course putting, much easier.


The winning score of the event will hover around the mid-teens under par as the average score of the event since its move to March has been -15.


The Weather

As of the time of writing this, it appears that the weather may play its hand in affecting this event. They are calling for scattered thunderstorms for both Saturday and Sunday. There is also a 40-percent chance of precipitation for Friday. Temperatures will begin at 75-degrees on Thursday before climbing to 80-degrees on Sunday. Winds will be at the highest on Sunday at 16 miles-per-hour and if the forecast is to be correct, we could be in line for carnage on Sunday. Winds are also set at 14 miles-per-hour for Friday but will be in the single digits in terms of miles-per-hour for both Thursday and Saturday.


Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Driving Accuracy

  • Bogey Avoidance

  • Par Five Average Scoring

  • Scrambling

  • Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG) 

  • Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)

  • Ball Striking

  • Birdie or Better Percentage

  • Sand Saves Percentage


DFS Suggestions

$10,000+

Obviously the play here is Scottie Scheffler ($12,300.) He’s in line to dominate the Tour for the foreseeable future. He gained 4.348 strokes putting last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The switching of putters seems to be going in his favor. The problem with him is he’s going to have a 35-to-40-percent ownership number. Hard to differentiate with that. However, if he is to win, as he is expected to, you have to have him in your lineup. I don’t think I need to go into detail on why he’s here. Enough talking about Scheffler as everyone else has done that. My play in this price range is Xander Schauffele ($11,300.) Schauffele was a bit of a disappointment a week ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a T25th. Prior he placed T4th at the Genesis Invitational as well as T9th at the Farmers Insurance Open, T3rd at The American Express and T10th at The Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s currently third on Tour in bogey avoidance, eighth in SG: OTT, 15th in both ball striking and birdie or better percentage, 18th in SG: ATG, 26th in par five average scoring, 40th in both SG: APP and scrambling, 54th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 102nd in driving accuracy and 110th in sand saves percentage. His track record isn’t the best here. He placed T19th here a season ago but prior to that, missed three straight cuts. He did place T2nd here in 2018 however. Schauffele hasn’t won on Tour since the 2022 Genesis Invitational. Now’s the time. I’m also playing two units on him at +2200.


$9,000-$9,900

I’m not sure why I’m doing this but fire up the Sam Burns ($9,200) train because I’m back on board. He burned me last week with a T30th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but prior to that was one of the hottest golfers on Tour. He placed T10th at The Genesis Invitational, T3rd at the WM Phoenix Open, tenth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and T6th at The American Express. He too doesn’t have the best track record here, placing T35th a season ago and T26th in 2022. He is currently second on Tour in birdie or better percentage, seventh in bogey avoidance, eighth in par five average scoring, 18th in both SG: OTT and ball striking, 20th in both scrambling and SG: PUTT Bermuda, 58th in SG: APP, 69th in driving accuracy and 91st in sand saves percentage. His downfall comes around the green as he’s been one of the worst on Tour, ranking 158th. He’s dropped strokes there in every tournament he’s been in. In the event he can spike with his wedge game, he’ll be in contention on Sunday. I’m also playing a unit on him at +3300. Also consider Jordan Spieth ($9,500.) Spieth placed T30th alongside Burns at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a week ago and prior to that, he withdrew from The Genesis Invitational as he had the flu. He did place T6th at the WM Phoenix Open and third at The Sentry Tournament of Champions however. His track record here is also not that great, missing the cut more than he’s made it. However, he did place T4th here in 2014 and T19th a season ago. Spieth is currently sixth on Tour in birdie or better percentage, seventh in SG: ATG, 13th in bogey avoidance, 19th in sand saves percentage, 26th in scrambling, 33rd in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 40th in par five average scoring, 43rd in ball striking, 74th in SG: OTT, 95th in driving accuracy and 101st in SG: APP. Spieth did gain strokes on approach at both The Sentry and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. A lot of what he does can’t be measured by a statistic however. I’m also playing a unit on him at +3500.


$8,000-$8,900

I’m backing the 2017 THE PLAYERS Championship winner Si Woo Kim ($8,000) this week. He is currently tenth on Tour in bogey avoidance, 16th in driving accuracy, 18th in SG: OTT, 29th in scrambling, 31st in both SG: APP and ball striking, 53rd in SG: ATG, 71st in birdie or better percentage, 90th in par five average scoring and 123rd in sand saves percentage. His red flag comes in the form of a 174th placement in SG: PUTT Bermuda. We know that when we back Kim. Part of that figure comes on the back of a god awful putting performance a week ago where he lost eight strokes putting. However, he did gain strokes on the greens at the WM Phoenix Open, although slightly. That’s all we need out of him to see him across the finish line however. Kim has played in seven tournaments on the season, never missing the cut in any of them. He has a run of events where he placed T12th at the WM Phoenix Open, T14th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and T25th at The American Express. This is also an event and course where Kim thrives. Outside of winning it in 2017, he placed T9th in 2021. He did withdraw in 2022 but outside of that, has made the cut in each of the six times he’s played here. I’m also playing a unit on him at +6000. Also consider Tony Finau ($8,500.) I believe this to be a play where we get a low ownership out of Finau as he has a bounce-back performance. He’s currently first on Tour in par five average scoring, third in SG: APP, eighth in birdie or better percentage, 12th in ball striking, 21st in SG: OTT, 61st in bogey avoidance, 88th in SG: ATG and 109th in both driving accuracy and scrambling. Of course his downfall comes with the flat stick as he ranks 141st in SG: PUTT Bermuda as well as 177th in sand saves percentage. He did gain strokes putting in Mexico, although slightly. We last saw him in Mexico for the Mexico Open at Vidanta where he placed T13th. He also placed T19th at The Genesis Invitational and T6th at the Farmers Insurance Open on the season. He does have two top 25 finishes here across the last four years here, placing T19th a season ago. 


$7,000-$7,900

One of my favorite value plays this week is Alex Noren ($7,200.) He placed T9th in his last outing at the Cognizant Classic and also placed T25th at The American Express. Although the form recently here hasn’t been great, he did place T26th two years ago. He also placed tenth in 2017 and T17th in 2018. He’s currently second on Tour in bogey avoidance, third in scrambling, sixth in driving accuracy, 11th in ball striking, 26th in par five average scoring, 27th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 43rd in SG: OTT, 44th in sand saves percentage, 64th in SG: ATG, 78th in SG: APP and 128th in birdie or better percentage. Not a bad resume for someone in this price range. I’m also playing him on the betting card at +12000. Also consider Keith Mitchell ($7,500.) Mitchell placed T9th alongside Noren in his last outing at the Cognizant Classic. He also placed T19th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta and T17th at the WM Phoenix Open. He placed T9th earlier this season at The American Express as well. Mitchell has only missed the cut once in his five times playing this event. He placed T13th in 2022. He is also currently first on Tour in ball striking, fourth in SG: OTT, tenth in par five average scoring, 23rd in SG: APP, 24th in birdie or better percentage, 25th in bogey avoidance, 45th in driving accuracy, 105th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 106th in SG: ATG, 123rd in sand saves percentage and 126th in scrambling.


$6,900-

This may be a bad thing but Doug Ghim ($6,800) ranked rather high in my model this week. He’s currently fifth on Tour in par five average scoring, seventh in ball striking, 12th in both SG: APP and bogey avoidance, 13th in driving accuracy, 32nd in scrambling, 34th in SG: OTT, 65th in SG: ATG, 80th in birdie or better percentage, 110th in sand saves percentage and 121st in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Ghim has been much improved with the putter this season, gaining 1.353 strokes at the Farmers Insurance Open, 1.127 strokes at the WM Phoenix Open and 4.747 strokes at the Cognizant Classic. Additionally, he’s one of the hottest golfers on Tour coming into this week. In his last four outings he’s placed T16th at the Cognizant Classic, T8th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta, T12th at the WM Phoenix Open and T13th at the Farmers Insurance Open. Although he missed the cut here last year, he placed T6th in 2022 and T29th in 2021. I’m also playing a unit on him at +17000. Also consider Andrew Novak ($6,400.) Novak is currently fourth on Tour in SG: APP, sixth in SG: ATG, eighth in scrambling, tenth in sand saves percentage, 21st in ball striking, 26th in par five average scoring, 30th in bogey avoidance, 80th in driving accuracy, 100th in SG: OTT, 131st in birdie or better percentage and 140th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Novak is also in some insane form, placing T9th in his last outing at the Cognizant Classic as well as T8th at both the Mexico Open at Vidanta and the WM Phoenix Open. He has played this event just one time where he did miss the cut last year.


Betting Card

  • Xander Schauffele (+2200) - 2u

  • Sam Burns (+3300) - 1u

  • Jordan Spieth (+3500) - 1u

  • Si Woo Kim (+6000) - 1u

  • Alex Noren (+12000) - 1u

  • Doug Ghim (+17000) - 1u

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