Rickie Fowler made it two weeks in a row for us with his victory in a playoff over Rory McIlroy and DA Points. The Wells Fargo was an extremely entertaining tournament that was highlighted by Fowler hitting a wedge on the 1st playoff hole to 4 feet. He went on to make his birdie and obtain his first career PGA TOUR victory.
We now move onto The Players Championship. This week is easily one of my favorites on Tour, and when you watch for the next 4 days you will understand why. Large galleries at TPC Sawgrass cheer on the golfers, and getting to watching professionals struggle on a 137-yard hole is a bonus. This week we will be looking for not only another outright winner but also a profitable head to head match up week.
Betting on an outright winner is a difficult challenge on the PGA Tour. With fields of more than 140 players, some see it as a ridiculous bet to make. I on the other hand see it as an excellent opportunity at value and large payouts.
Let’s take a closer look at this gorgeous course that will challenge the players this week.
The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is about as nice of a layout as someone could ask for. Pete Dye was the original architect in 1979 and then redesigned the course in 2006. The course measures 7212 yards, and is a Par 72 that forces players to be accurate on almost every shot. With a total of 93 bunkers and 24 water hazards, players must be wary of trouble all around them.
The most difficult hole last year (and for the past 27 years on average) has been the dreaded 18th hole. A Par 4 that will play around 450 yards this week is one of the most impressive finishing holes in the world. Water lines the entire left side of the hole forcing players to aim at the right side of the fairway. A wayward tee shot right though will be in long rough that has plenty of mounds, causing major discomfort. The green forces players to position their golf balls in the proper place in order to have a make able putt. The 18th very well could decide the tournament this week.
The other hole everyone will enjoy is the 137-yard Par 3 with the island green. A hole that has been replicated on plenty of golf courses around the world but still gives me chills when I watch these professionals struggle on it. With moderate winds expected for the weekend rounds, expect club selection to be crucial on the 17th. Spectators are now positioned directly behind the hole, creating a more vocal stadium feel. Enjoy the 17th hole, as the broadcast will be showing it all week.
Here let me break down how I came to my selections in both head to head and outright winners. Winning at The Players Championship is all about accuracy. The course has a very narrow layout and well placed bunkers. The shape of the hole sometimes gives the players a poor sightline off the tee, forcing an errant shot. Players who find the bunkers are fortunate on some holes, as trouble lurks on every hole on the course.
Here are the three criteria needed to play well on TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)
1. Greens in Regulation
Hitting Greens in Regulation is essential to winning this tournament. Only 2 players in the last 9 years has finished outside the Top13 in GIR for the week and won the tournament (Phil Mickelson and KJ Choi).
When we look at the PGA Tour statistics for GIR it has a mixture of long bombers and short accurate players. Lee Westwood leads the way with Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, John Senden and Hunter Mahan all close behind.
2. Driving Accuracy
3 of the past 9 champions have finished 1st in driving accuracy for the week and only two worse than 22nd (Mickelson and Scott). It is imperative to put the ball in the fairway for many reasons, but most of all to avoid hazards. This course has certain holes players can attack off the tee, but others they have to dig down deep and make sure their ball ends up in the short grass.
This year Graeme McDowell leads the Tour in Driving Accuracy with David Toms, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan all in the Top 12.
3. Par 4 Performances
Seems like an odd statistic that is extremely crucial in the tournament, but it is. Players on Tour are used to ripping apart Par 5’s and winning tournaments. TPC Sawgrass however puts a premium on Par 4 Performance. If you can maintain a score between 2 and 5 under on Par 4’s for the week, you have a very good shot of winning the tournament.
Bubba Watson leads the Tour in Par 4 Performance and is closely followed by Justin Rose.
We are now ready to get into the selections for the Players Championship.
STEVE’S SIX-PACK SYSTEM + HEAD TO HEAD PICKS
These picks are for members only. I will provide one “sneak peak” pick of a head-to-head selection I’ve made for this week, but I won’t be sharing any outright winner picks for this week’s Players Championship.
If you want access to all 10 picks I’ve released for this great tournament please visit www.GolfBanker.com to sign up for a membership.
Charley Hoffman (-110) over DA Points – We will go against the hot hand in our first selection. DA played great golf last week but has not enjoyed much success at TPC Sawgrass. I look for Charley to make the cut (as he has done many times here) and win this matchup.