Francesco Molinari capped off an impressive comeback on Sunday by draining a 30+foot putt for 64 that put him out of reach of the rest of the field at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his first event as a Callaway staff member. The PGA Tour will remain in Florida this week for what has become golf’s fifth major, THE PLAYERS, held at TPC Sawgrass, just outside of Jacksonville. While the venue has not changed, due to the revamped PGA Tour schedule, the event has been moved back to March after a long stint in May. Here is our course breakdown of the iconic Pete Dye design:
TPC Sawgrass: Par 72, 7,189 yards. This is one of the shorter courses on the PGATour despite being a par 72. It will play a bit longer this week as the tournament has moved from May to March where the average temperature is about 13 degrees cooler to go along softer conditions that should make the fairways play somewhat wider. Additionally, we will still see some overseeded conditions that will make chipping around the greens easier and grain less of a factor on the greens. The length of the rough is expected to be short this week as Phil Mickelson has confirmed in a tweet reporting the length to be a mere 2.5 inches. What has not changed at TPC Sawgrass is the layout of the course that is a typical Pete Dye design that features a lot of water hazards, tight tee shots, and requires players be able to work the ball both ways. There are four par fives that are relatively short in length and contribute around 40% of all fantasy points scored at Sawgrass. The signature hole is the par three 17 th that plays around 130 yards to an island green where wind is expected to be more of a factor than in years past. The most recent redesign incorporated a drivable par four that is guarded on the left by water. The average driving distance at Sawgrass is about 4 yards shorter than the PGA Tour average on fairways that are about 3% easier than average to hit, a number that is likely to rise with the softer conditions. Greens have been hit at about an average rate, however, average approach proximity is about 10% further than the PGA Tour average so putting well and avoiding three puts on the quick Bermuda greens will be an important factor this week.
In terms of stats, we’ve seen a mix of both shorter and longer hitters win at Sawgrass over the years. However, with the course playing longer this year and the rough down, I may take a closer look at the bombers this week. With four par fives I’ll be focusing on proximity from 200+ yards as players who excel from this distance will leave themselves with opportunities for eagles or easy birdies. The other most commonly seen approach distance is 125-150 yards so we will want to look proximity from that range as well.
Here are our top stats to consider this week:
Strokes Gained Approach
Good Drives Gained
Par Five Efficiency
Strokes Gained Putting (Bermuda)
THE PLAYERS annually boasts the strongest field in golf and typically sees at least 95 out of the top 100 in the OWGR each year so the question goes from who is in to who is not in. To give you an idea of how strong the field is the highest ranked golfer who is not teeing it up this week is #52 in the OWGR, Justin Harding. We do have a couple of updates relating players that were questionable as of a few days ago. Tiger Woods (neck) and Phil Mickelson (course fit) have both announced their intention to play along with Jason Day (back) who seemed to be showing no ill effects of the injury that caused him to withdraw from the API as he was spotted at Disney World with his family the following day. With a strong field we can safely play our normal volume in cash games but I wouldn’t go overboard as we always tend to see a couple of surprised missed cuts here. However, DraftKings has posted some nice sized GPPs so this is a good week to embrace the variance and fire up some lineups into tournaments. Here are three targets for your cash game / single entry tournament lineups on DraftKings:
Upper Mid-Range – Tommy Fleetwood – $8,800
Tommy Fleetwood was looking primed for his first PGA Tour win at the Arnold Palmer on Friday afternoon when he and Keegan Bradley had distanced themselves from the pack. However, a 76 on Saturday along with Molinari’s 64 on Sunday scuttled those hopes. I often like to look at how players perform on Sunday after playing poorly on Saturday to see if it was an aberration or a sign that a run of good form may be coming to an end. With Fleetwood, a Sunday 68 with solid tee to green play not only showed some mental toughness but also provided data that showed his strong play on Thursday and Friday was more indicative of his current form than Saturday’s blow up. TPC Sawgrass is a course that rewards precision so I will take my chances with a ball striker that appears to be rounding into form and posted a top 10 finish at this event last year.
Lower Mid-Range – Hideki Matsuyama – $8,300
Hideki gained 11.6 strokes tee to green last week at Bay Hill so to say we were disappointed to see his name T36 on the leaderboard is a bit of an understatement, given the ball striking. The reason we did not see him in the top 10 was due to the 8.3 stokes he lost on the greens. Although Bermuda is statistically his least preferred putting surface, last week’s performance was an outlier as he has only lost more strokes on the greens in one out of his last 125 events. Historically at Sawgrass he has been around the field average in putting and is in the top performing third of the field in strokes gained putting on fast Bermuda surfaces. With the iron play at this high of a level I’m willing to fire up him with confidence again this week as some positive regression on the greens makes him an outstanding value at $8,300.
Value – Rafa Cabrera Bello – $7,400
RCB has been on fire as of late as he has posted top 25 finishes in each of his last six starts. He has always been somewhat of a streaky player so we want to get on board while the form is still good. Last week at the Arnold Palmer he gained 4.5 strokes tee to green and putted well on greens that should play similar to those at TPC Sawgrass. In this price range we are primarily looking for a made with the opportunity for upside, something that is well within reach for an in form Rafa who has posted top 20 finsihes in his last two trips to THE PLAYERS.
How we did last week:
Cash/Single Entry Article Plays:
Hideki Matsuyama – T33
Ian Poulter – T23
Zach Johnson – T40
Optimal Sports Subscribers Core Plays:
Hideki Matsuyama – T33
Ian Poulter – T23
Zach Johnson – T40
Tommy Fleetwood – T3
Bryson DeChambeau – T46
Stewart Cink – MC
Last Week’s DraftKings Double Up Contest Result: Loss
2018-2019 Season Double Up Record: 12-6
Record in Double Ups Since 1/1/18: 37-16
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