A new spot on the PGA Tour calendar won’t dampen the anticipation as the best golfers in the world descend upon TPC Sawgrass for the 2019 The Players Championship from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This is the first year that The Players is back to playing in March because of the new PGA Tour schedule – but that isn’t an entirely new idea for the The Players historically. The event was actually hosted in March from its inception in 1974 all the way to 2007 when the switch to May was made. This move actually moves the event back to its roots as a preparatory event for The Masters in April – and do the stars ever come out for this one!
This year’s field is once again stacked with the Top 51 players in the world according to the Official World Golf Rankings scheduled to tee it up this week. The Players often refers to itself as the strongest field in professional golf every year, and this claim is not that far from the truth as it ranked 4th last season in overall strength of field, bested only by the Open Championship, PGA Championship and US Open, so expect some great golf this week. Being that this event has the largest prize pool of any event on Tour probably helps lead to this great field year in and year out as well, with the winner this week taking home a cool $2.25 million in prize money out of a total purse of $12.5 million, more than the amount of prize money offered at any of the four major championships.
While TPC Sawgrass is known for the iconic island green at the par 3 17th hole, the toughest hole on the course is actually the 18th, which played .31 strokes over par last year and actually was responsible for more bogeys and double bogeys than the 17th, so there is no time to relax when walking off the 17th green. The 7,189 yard, par 72 layout is definitely not long by PGA Tour standards which has resulted in the course only ranking as the 29th toughest on Tour last year despite the looming water hazards on multiple holes.
While the 17th and 18th play extremely difficult, there are eagles to be had on this course. The par 5 2nd hole yielded 19 eagles last year and the par 5 16th gave up 15 of its own. Last years event saw 65 eagles recorded by the field, the most ever in the history of The Players Championship. Giving a slight bump to those players that make eagles on a regular basis may be a good tie breaker when making your lineups this week.
The fact that this course emphasizes approach shots and short game should surprise no one as it is a Pete Dye design at TPC Sawgrass. Driving accuracy is higher here than average on Tour as positioning off the tee is paramount, allowing for less-than-driver off of many tees. Coincidentally, driving distance is lower here than Tour average, presumably for the same reason as listed above. 5 par 4s stretch between 450 and 500 yards, making it a key stat range to consider this week along with the fact that 23% of all approach shots have come from 200+ yards over the past 6 years. That definitely would not be common for most short courses, but Pete Dye designs are like most short courses!
Greens are Bermuda and always play fast. Rough is much lower than what players saw last week at Bay Hill so scoring should be better than it was at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. 4 par 5s and a driveable par 4 at the 12th also aid in making scoring low traditionally here at The Players.
Last Year’s Results
The cut line has historically been around (+1), with last year’s cut falling at even par. Jason Day and Brooks Koepka were the only two players to record two bogey-free rounds at last year’s event as well, proving that while scoring opportunities are plenty here there is plenty of danger to slow the momentum of the players at this event.
Stat of the Week
Blindly playing last year’s champion Webb Simpson may not be the wisest decision if history has anything to say about it. Since 2004 only one defending champion (Adam Scott) has finished inside the Top 10 during his title defense, including 2017 champion Si Woo Kim finishing in 63rd place last year.
No significant threat for bad weather at any point this weekend should make for an even split across the board as far as favorable tee times are concerned. Winds also appear to be very steady each of the 4 days this week as well – hopefully this forecast holds and we can see the players this week take it low!
The Players Championship Video of the Week
I understand that some Tiger Woods clip could probably be used at any course on Tour, but how can you not get chills listening to Gary Koch’s “Better Than Most” call as Tiger drains this bomb on #17 from the 2001 Players Championship.
As always, thank you very much for giving my article a glance this week as you prepare for The Players Championship. If you have any questions you would like to ask me about your lineup or about my article in general, join us on DPA Premium where you can get exclusive access to myself as well as the rest of our other experts for NBA, NHL, MLB and NFL. I’ll be available to answer questions about your lineups this week from 9PM to 10PM on Wednesday March 13th!
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Hopefully we will see you back here tomorrow for my DFS Breakdown on this year’s The Players Championship. Until then, take enough club to clear the water! We will see you back here again soon!