Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: THE PLAYERS

THE PLAYERS boasts one of the best fields in golf every year, but what do we need to know about the course itself: TPC Sawgrass?

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
2017 5 72 7,189 73.291 1.291
2016 19 72 7,215 72.055 0.055
2015 18 72 7,215 72.083 0.083
2014 25 72 7,215 72.155 0.155
2013 19 72 7,215 72.323 0.323
2012 19 72 7,215 72.466 0.466
2011 23 72 7,215 72 0
2010 28 72 7,215 71.734 -0.266
2009 12 72 7,215 72.69 0.69
2008 6 72 7,215 74.286 2.286

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
Par 72
Yardage 7,189 to 7,245
Stimpmeter 13 feet
Average Green Size 5,000 square feet
Sand Bunkers 75
Water Hazards 15
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
2016 Jason Day 3 28 9 11 8 1 51 15 1
2015 Rickie Fowler 5 26 5 33 20 11 43 51 10
2014 Martin Kaymer 2 20 4 13 19 19 39 3 4
2013 Tiger Woods 1 30 2 6 38 22 19 3 6
2012 Matt Kuchar 10 20 12 38 2 47 37 3 21
2011 K.J. Choi 28 45 27 23 2 43 10 21 3
2010 Tim Clark 18 25 16 36 1 59 5 4 3
2009 Henrik Stenson 1 15 8 7 19 18 11 12 8
2008 Sergio Garcia 2 1 10 14 33 41 1 1 49

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.

Key Stats

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
Finish Position 0.969
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green 0.726
Strokes Gained: Approach 0.511
Scrambling 0.428
Strokes Gained: Putting 0.398
Greens in Regulation 0.395
Strokes Gained: Around the Green 0.335
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee 0.333
Driving Accuracy 0.193
Driving Distance 0.080

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).

GolferRoundsStroke Diff per RoundWinsTop 10sTop 25sMade Cut%
Si Woo Kim82.70112100%
Rafa Cabrera Bello61.80 1150%
Francesco Molinari221.76 4457%
Hideki Matsuyama161.76 14100%
Sergio Garcia401.58146100%
Tiger Woods191.30122100%
Justin Thomas111.27 12100%
Kevin Na261.17 3367%
Henrik Stenson341.1613670%
Zach Johnson381.15 1590%
Matt Kuchar351.1112580%
Adam Scott361.10 1480%
Russell Knox141.04
Rory McIlroy261.03 3463%
Brooks Koepka101.01
Jason Day221.0012357%

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.