DraftKings Fantasy Golf Picks & Plays for The Players Championship
Welcome back for another week of PGA DFS at DraftKings, FanDuel, and FantasyDraft. We’re here to give you the full report on picks from The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The tour makes its annual stop in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for the season’s unofficial fifth Major. It’s annually one of the strongest fields and the toughest courses around. Let’s get into it.
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Golfers this week are looking at a torturous Pete Dye design. It streaks back and forth across the swampy marsh land, tucked into the dense, mature vegetation along the fertile inter-coastal grounds.
That’s TPC Sawgrass — a 7,215-yard assault ground requiring precision from tee to green with plenty of imagination necessary for the golfer hoping to hoist the crystal. For example, no two consecutive holes face the same direction at Sawgrass (not a coincidence). This will keep the players on their toes and adjusting to the often windy and changing conditions of Florida’s coast.
As we break down TPC Sawgrass this week, you will start to get a sense of the playstyle required to succeed here. There is no perfect formula. The closest you can get to an ideal game type for TPC Sawgrass is that of Sergio Garcia throughout the years.
Check out my new course breakdown video here.
As you can see, the par 5’s are the most important group of holes from a DraftKings scoring perspective. On the opposite side of the equation, the long par 4’s routinely offset the progress gained on the 5’s.
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Starting at the very reachable 2nd, golfers will need a birdie to set the pace of their round. Golfers can ill-afford to miss this precious scoring opportunity at Sawgrass, where over 40 percent of the field will score. Get a drive in play between the trees, favoring the left side, and blast the 2nd up close. Almost all the players can reach this in two strokes. The challenge will be the wind direction as players want to ensure they don’t miss left.
The Front Nine
Navigating through the front nine is treacherous. Holes 3-8 account for +.58 strokes. The 9th combined with the 2nd historically have played AT -.55. Basically, you need to score on the par 5’s to offset the bogeys around TPC Sawgrass.
The 9th is one of the more strategic par 5’s in the world with water dictating the tee shot on the right and long. Missing the green on the right is no picnic due to the mounding. This creates extremely awkward lies, with a large tree that guards the sight line to the green as well for the appropriately placed tee shot. Most players will lay back to a good number after taking a 3-wood off the tee and hope to hold a wedge close for a birdie here.
Easing in with the 11th and 12th
The 11th and 12th only get the party started on the back nine. The 11th is a great hole that will see good sand players hitting away for the green and letting the big bunker that wraps almost all the way around catch their mis-hits. You can approach this hole in many different ways, depending on the pin position and wind each day. It’s short enough for most to reach should they choose to try, but with enough danger to keep even the big hitters honest.
The 12th forces a good carry for players taking the aggressive line to the green. The bailout is to the right of some aggressive mounding. There’s also a daunting chip back towards the water and a shaved bulkhead that will do little to prevent a careening ball from getting in the drink. This hole could see a good shot rewarded with a make-able eagle putt, or a poor shot punished with a double or worse.
Finally, the par-5 16th starts the closing stretch of holes — the one where Ricky blistered after his family had left for the airport early to claim his first Players victory. The 16th can set a player up for a solid closing run, but first they need to hit a baby draw to the center of the fairway to even think about going home in two. Approaching 16 with the intent of scoring is not as straightforward as the near 44 percent birdie rate would have you think. It requires a daunting second shot that cannot be blocked right and just a sliver of fairway. Daunted or not, players will need to catch fire on the easiest hole on the course. A clutch birdie here builds confidence for the treacherous 17th ahead.
The 14th and 18th
The holes most likely to cost players a stroke this week are the 14th and 18th. The 14th is traditionally the most difficult hole on the course. It plays 0.29 strokes over par and claims a bogey for nearly one third of the field. The drive is ideally a cut that works just past the dogleg but avoids the right-side miss. Narrow sight lines and small landing spots on this green make for a very difficult hole each year.
To close it out, the 18th will claim plenty of bogeys. Very exposed to the wind, and requiring a driver, 18 mandates a difficult angle over the water. Get a bit ahead or tug one slightly, and watch the ball drift left and into the water. This is the hole where Hal Sutton famously exclaimed, “Be the right club today,” as he went on to win his second Players title. In short, the 18th is a carnage hole that gets a bogey or worse 30 percent of the time.
- Strokes Gained Approach
2. Par 5 Scoring
3. Birdie or Better %
4. Long Par 4 Scoring
5. Prox from 125-150 & 200+ yds
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PGA DFS Players to Consider:
PGA DFS Top Tier: $11.5K – $10.2K
Rory McIlroy (11.8K) continues to crush it this year. He’s coming off another strong performance that saw him gain strokes through the approach game last week. That’s exactly the kind of form you are looking for in an elite player who has previously posted 35/12/8/6/8 on this track. Granted, he missed the cut here his first three time outs in ’09, ’10 and ’12. I’m willing to ride the hot form and hope for a better putter this week.
Jordan Spieth ($11.1K) is coming off some solid performances but boasts a less than stellar record at Sawgrass. That should keep the masses off Spieth this week. Theoretically, his game fits well here. He has even stated he thinks this tournament and course are well suited for his game, as evidenced by his fourth-place finish his first time round in 2014.
Other to consider: Of course, Justin Thomas, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson DJ are in play this week. All have the game to get it done. I’m just not super sold on any of them at their prices.
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PGA DFS Mid Tier: $9.6K – $8.5K
Jon Rahm ($9.3K) is coming in a bit under the radar. He’s in good form, but we haven’t seen him in action the past few weeks. Considering his missed cut on his maiden attempt here last year, Rahm could go under-owned this week. I doubt he repeats last year’s follies though. He has the ability to take over and dominate the par 5 scoring if he can play within the course. I’ll be taking a few shares, as the crowd flocks to Rickie.
Henrik Stenson ($8.8K) is shaping up to be the chalk of this tier. It all lines up for Henrik to go and have himself a week. He possesses a game tailor-made for this track: elite ball-striking and a nuclear 3-wood. Stenson will be heavily touted and tagged on FanShare, and rightfully so. With his discounted price tag and upside at this event, I’ll be taking a heavy piece of Henrik this week.
Sergio Garcia ($9K) is still adjusting to #DadLife, it seems. But course history suggests his recent poor results are worth overlooking. Sergio’s return to Sawgrass should give him some good vibes this week. He’s posted some incredibly consistent results at Sawgrass throughout the years: all 11 of his cuts, with an average finishing position of 20th. With the ideal game on paper to succeed at Sawgrass, Sergio is always a threat to go low and post a top 10. Who knows; maybe he gets his baby swag going!
Others to consider: Well, there are Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed. Tiger Woods is very interesting this week given his price and game. He’s yielded mixed results at The Players but should be considered in GPPs this week.
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PGA DFS Value Tier: $8.5K and Lower
Francesco Molinari ($8.1K) wields world-class ball striking and course management. Posting really strong top 10’s in three successive years is impressive and speaks to how well Molinari’s game fits this course. Efficient off the tee, deadly with long irons, and with the mental game to compete down the stretch, Molinari is going to be pretty highly owned this week.
Alex Noren ($7.9K) is another one who has massively disappointed of late. That said, the last couple of courses didn’t really suit his game — at least not nearly as much as TPC Sawgrass does. His solid 10th here last year might intrigue enough folks to look past his recent outings, especially if they have yet to be burned by him this year. Noren makes a fine GPP play and is a value at his price.
Cameron Smith ($7.6K) didn’t show too well in his Players debut last year but has been in good form recently. I’m betting he fares much better this year in his second time around. Cam has the game you want at Sawgrass and is exceptional around the green. Give him a good look if the forecast projects high winds for any sustained time. He’s another world-class player with upside to surprise and win in a field like this.
Emiliano Grillo ($7.5K) is an excellent ball striker and in good form at the moment. He boasts the game for three solid rounds of world-class golf. Grillo should do well this week and find himself in the mix by the weekend. He’ll be chalky, but a top 5 is within his range of outcomes this week.
Zak Johnson ($7.5K) continues to post really solid results this year after getting his bag sorted with PXG. He appears ready for the big stages again. We rode him to a top 5 in Texas, and I am looking to do the same again this week. Johnson fits the bill for success here: great long irons, efficient off the tee, solid wedges for the three-shot par 5’s. Plus, he has the mental game to contend all four days. Historically, Zak has been very solid year in and year out. He misses only one of his last 11 cuts at this course. I’ll eat some of his chalk this week.
Kevin Chappell ($7.4K) may be unable to beat Jason Day. But he’s completely capable of beating everyone else in this field. Chappell seems to have found his way back after an injury had his game on the ropes for a few weeks. Despite mixed results on this course, Chappell certainly has the game and upside to compete for a top spot on Sunday. Chappell is worth a few GPP shares for me this week.
Satoshi Kodaira ($7.1K) is making his second PGA start since his maiden victory at another Pete Dye course (Harbour Town). While he was ranked much higher than one would think (since most of his play up until this point has been on the Asian and Japanese tours), he quietly comes with a skill set well suited to Dye courses. Controlled and precise off the tee and with exceptional long irons, Kodaira looks underrated going into this weekend. Anthony Kim was that underrated guy last year, the year before Rickie.
Alexander Levy ($7K) is a super talented Euro player who knows how to win. We don’t have stats to really support the play, nor do we have history to draw from at this event. But we do have some comparable events on the Euro tour that suggest this type of course should fit him very well. On tight courses with lots of water that put a premium on accuracy and hitting greens, Levy has the range. He’s a GPP-only, but a couple of shares is all you need for Levy to pay off this week.
Note: Check out @ThePME for the list of amateurs who have competed here. Lots of prestigious amateur tournaments are held at Sawgrass annually, and some of the results can help you predict the pros. Ollie, Beau, and C.T. Pan turned in interesting results.
Others to consider: There are Patrick Cantlay, Webb Simpson, Billy Horschel, Jimmy Walker, Chris Kirk, and Adam Scott. And Jonas Blixt is always in play at a Dye course as a super deep flyer.
That does it for The Players breakdown. Good luck this week, and I’ll see you next for The AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.
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