Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: THE PLAYERS
THE PLAYERS Championship is often referred to as the “fifth major,” but it doesn’t quite have the punch of the Masters, the U.S. Open, the Open Championship, or the PGA Championship.
Though it doesn’t actually break into the Big 4, THE PLAYERS boasts some of the toughest fields each and every season, via the Official World Golf Rankings, and the course (TPC Sawgrass) can provide a tough test. That came to fruition after some tweaks prior to the 2017 iteration.
Overall, THE PLAYERS offers up some of the best non-major golf each and every year, so it deserves extra attention.
Course and Tournament Info
TPC Sawgrass -- specifically, TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course -- has been on the PGA Tour sheet to host THE PLAYERS since 1982. Since 2000, it has ranked as one of the 10 toughest courses on the PGA Tour calendar six times -- but only twice in the past 10 years.
|Year||Difficulty Rank||Par||Yards||Avg Score||Avg O/U Par|
Renovations to the course prior to the 2017 tournament played part in the difficulty returning to top-10 caliber, and the course also features some of the most iconic holes on the PGA Tour, namely the island green on the 17th.
|TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course||Value|
|Yardage||7,189 to 7,245|
|Average Green Size||5,000 square feet|
|Fairway Surface||Celebration bermudagrass|
|Greens Surface||Tifeagle bermudagrass|
|Rough Surface||419 bermudagrass|
We're dealing with fast, small bermudagrass greens and a course that doesn't require or allow for big drives from the tee box.
THE PLAYERS will feature more than 140 golfers, with the top 70 plus ties making it through the cut after two rounds (36 holes).
Past Winners and How They Did it
Here is how the past 10 PLAYERS winners have fared in some key stats.
|2017||Si Woo Kim||2||2||17||3||37||10||15||37||1|
Eight of the past 10 winners ranked top-10 in strokes gained: tee to green, which shouldn’t surprise anyone, as that stat encompasses every stroke that isn’t a putt and compares it to the field average.
Four of the past five champions ranked top-10 in strokes gained: approach. Consider golfers whose irons are on point entering THE PLAYERS.
Strokes gained: around the green weren’t overly vital, though four of the past five winners were top 13. Around-the-green performance as measured by scrambling has been important for success at TPC Sawgrass. Each of the past two winners led the field in scrambling, and eight of the past nine PLAYERS champs were top-10 in saving par via scrambling.
Every course on the PGA Tour is different, so different stats are required to navigate different events. Based on golfers who made the cut at THE PLAYERS from 2008 to 2017, here is how some of the most important stats have correlated to a player’s stroke differential during the event.
A correlation of 1.00 would indicate a perfect relationship between two stats. A correlation of 0.00 indicates no relationship between the variables.
|THE PLAYERS 2008-17||Correlation with Stroke Differential|
|Strokes Gained: Tee to Green||0.726|
|Strokes Gained: Approach||0.511|
|Strokes Gained: Putting||0.398|
|Greens in Regulation||0.395|
|Strokes Gained: Around the Green||0.335|
|Strokes Gained: Off the Tee||0.333|
Understandably, stroke differential correlates nearly perfectly with finish position over these 10 years of data. Overall scores fluctuating year to year explain why the relationship isn’t a perfect 1.00.
Second on the list is clearly strokes gained: tee to green. Tee-to-green play accounts for all strokes other than putts and are compared to the field.
As we saw with the winners’ table, strokes gained: approach has been the most important of the strokes gained stats at TPC Sawgrass over the past 10 years, suggesting that it’s a second-shot course. This is also supported by the weak correlations between off-the-tee play (driving distance and accuracy).
With all of this in mind, these stats can act as a cheatsheet for us this week.
|Key Stats for THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass|
|Strokes Gained: Tee to Green|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Greens in Regulation|
Course History Studs
Depending on who you ask, course history either matters quite a lot or doesn’t matter at all. At a tough track such as TPC Sawgrass, which always has a difficult field attached to it, golfers who have done well should be noted.
The following golfers have played at least five rounds at TPC Sawgrass in the past 10 years and are sorted by stroke differential per round (a player’s score compared to the field average per round).
|Golfer||Rounds||Stroke Diff per Round||Wins||Top 10s||Top 25s||Made Cut%|
|Si Woo Kim||8||2.70||1||1||2||100%|
|Rafa Cabrera Bello||6||1.80||1||1||50%|
Si Woo Kim, last year's winner, also finished T23 in 2016. Rafa Cabrera Bello missed the cut in 2016 after a 72-71 to open and bounced back with a T4 in 2017. Francesco Molinari has three missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass (2011 through 2013) but was ninth in 2010 and has three straight top-seven finishes in 2014, 2016, and 2017.
Hideki Matsuyama has played here four years straight and has finished 23rd, 17th, 7th, and 22nd. Sergio Garcia has played here each of the past 10 years, making the cut in all of them and winning in 2008. His past five include a T30 last year, a T54, a T2, a 3, and a T8.