Hello again PGA family and thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller! Players found things to be difficult at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, as Florida winds and a tough Bay Hill layout caused scores to skyrocket. Englishman Tyrell Hatton emerged from the dogfight at the API to log his first career win on the PGA Tour, edging out Marc Leishman and Sungjae Im in the final round.
Mr. Hatton was one of this article's featured players last week and it always feels good to nail a winner! Rory McIlroy logged a slightly disappointing T5 for us, while Bryson DeChambeau came through with a solo fourth-place finish. Our $6,600 value play Patrick Rodgers even got in on the act with a nice top-25 result, with only Henrik Stenson failing to play the weekend. A very strong week for HFTC! Let's keep that momentum going for one of the biggest events of the year, THE PLAYERS Championship!
Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!Editor's Note: Golf is back! Come join the fun and win big with RotoBaller. Get our full-season PGA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off! Our exclusive DFS Lineup Optimizer, Research Station, DFS Projections and weekly DFS/betting articles! Sign Up Now!
THE PLAYERS Championship Overview
Some view it as the "Fifth Major", while others see it as a very long PGA Tour commercial. Whatever your feelings on the magnitude and importance of THE PLAYERS Championship, there's no doubt that it is an event that we earmark on the calendar every year. The tournament brings together perhaps the best field of the year and offers a ridiculous amount of prize money.
We're about to dive into some of the players that will be teeing it up this week, but one of the biggest stories is who won't be in action at TPC Sawgrass - as Tiger Woods is slated to miss the PLAYERS due to back stiffness. It's a concerning sign from the legend that was last able to tee it up at the Genesis Invitational, where he struggled mightily down the stretch.
One player that will definitely be in attendance is the defending PLAYERS champion Rory McIlroy, who has been on a scorched-earth tour so far this season, but again failed to actually win a tournament Sunday at Bay Hill. He'll be joined by basically every elite player in the world. Guys like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Patrick Cantlay will be returning from layoffs, while others like Sungjae Im and Bryson DeChambeau head to TPC Sawgrass with lots of positive momentum off of recent starts.
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week. And be sure to read all of our other top-notch weekly PGA DFS articles to help you win big!
The Course: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course)
Par 72 - 7,189 Yards, Greens: Bermuda
At just under 7,200 yards, the Stadium Course is one of the shortest layouts these players face on the PGA Tour schedule, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for in bite. The Pete Dye design that opened in 1982 has endured as one of the trickiest courses in the world. In true Dye fashion, it's a second shot golf course with danger lurking everywhere in the form of water hazards and bunkers.
This layout was specifically designed to not favor any one style of play, so we see holes of varying length in Par 3's, 4's, and 5's, doglegs that go both left and right, with no two consecutive holes playing in the same direction. THE PLAYERS' most iconic hole is, of course, the Par-3 17th 'Island Hole'. The 17th is short, but its psychological impact on players in key moments makes it difficult. A recent update to TPC Sawgrass now has the 12th hole playing as a driveable Par-4 with water in play to raise the risk/reward stakes.
With TPC Sawgrass being such a balanced course, it's tough to give the edge to one type of player this week. While we can normally classify courses as a 'bomber' track or an 'accuracy' layout, we have no such luxury this week. I will say that I'm not giving the distance guys their usual bump this week (though we did see Rory McIlroy win last year). I'm targeting ball strikers with strong approach games that are solid from tee to green. I will also consider a player's short game strength and ability to avoid bogeys, as big numbers are seemingly lurking everywhere at TPC Sawgrass. It's always hard to predict putting, but this week's winner will need to get hot with the flatstick on these fast bermuda-grass greens. I will also lean towards those in the field that have some PLAYERS experience, as this track can be brutal on first timers
Webb Simpson (DraftKings - $9,200)
Notable Course History: T16 ('19), Win ('18), T16 ('17)
There's a lot of elite talent in this PLAYERS field, so I'm foregoing plenty of big-time names to dub Webb Simpson this week's Horse. Simpson doesn't jump off the page as a freakish talent like Rory or DJ, but the veteran has been absolutely getting it done at a world-class level over the last few years. From the 2018 season until now, Webb has made 48 of 52 cuts with two wins (including this event in 2018 and the Waste Management earlier this year) and 19 top-ten finishes!
While Webb can find ways to compete pretty much anywhere, we really want to target him on shorter tracks due to his lack of length off the tee. TPC Sawgrass plays perfectly into this strategy, as the year Webb won this event in '18, he ranked last in the field in driving distance and first in driving accuracy. We can expect more of the same this go 'round, as he's solid in every facet of the game and heads to the PLAYERS ranked sixth in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his last 50 rounds.
I'm fully prepared for the Webber to be one of - if not the most - popular player on the board this week. Even in this stacked field he feels really underpriced at just $9.2k. Despite the expected high ownership, he's an impossible player to ignore due to his current form, consistency, course fit, and recent history at the Stadium Course.
Adam Scott (DraftKings - $9,600)
Notable Course History: T11 ('19), T12 ('18), T6 ('17), T12 ('16), Win ('04)
The sweet-swingin’ Aussie has been a bit out of form in his last couple of starts after scoring a massive victory at Riviera (and a winter win at the Australian PGA), but his PLAYERS history puts him squarely into consideration this week.
Scott won this tournament back in 2004 (it’s hard to believe he’s been this good for this long) and hasn’t finished outside of the top-12 at TPC Sawgrass since 2015. We know what we’re getting with Scott...world-class ballstriking with a putter that’s hit or miss. I like his experience and feel that enough time has passed since his win that he should be coming out of the “hangover”.
Tommy Fleetwood (DraftKings - $9,000)
Notable Course History: T5 ('19), T7 ('18), T41 ('17)
It's been a roller coaster couple of weeks for Tommy Boy, after he narrowly missed a victory at the Honda Classic and then played horribly at the API. I'm willing to chalk his bad outing at Bay Hill up to a "hangover" from the letdown at Honda and I expect Fleetwood to get back on track at THE PLAYERS this week.
He doesn't have an extensive history at TPC Sawgrass, but his PLAYERS resume is very impressive. The Englishman has went T5-T7 in his last two starts in this event and - despite last week's trainwreck - is one of the most consistent players in the world. The layout sets up perfectly for Fleetwood's game, as he's accurate off the tee, a strong ball striker, and a great scrambler.
Tommy is normally a very popular DFS option and his $9k price tag will once again make him a reasonably-priced target this week, but we can hope that his missed cut last week will scare some folks away, as this feels like a great rebound spot.
Hideki Matsuyama (DraftKings - $8,800)
Notable Course History: T8 ('19), MC ('18), T22 ('17), T7 ('16), T17 ('15)
It's the same old story for Hideki Matsuyama this year. He's striking the ball beautifully, but can't find any consistency with the putter. Things kinda reached rock bottom last week at Bay Hill when he lost a ridiculous 6 strokes putting. Out of curiosity, I looked back at Matsuyama's putting performance at last year's API and was surprised when I found that he lost 8.3 putting in 2019...so perhaps he's just totally mystified by Bay Hill's greens. He's had better luck at TPC Sawgrass and actually gained 2.7 strokes putting at last year's PLAYERS en route to a T8, so I'm hopeful for a similar type of turnaround this week.
We all know that 'Deki is a ball-striking beast and his excellence has continued in 2020. He heads into this week trailing just Rory McIlory and Bryson DeChambeau in Strokes Gained: T2G over the last 12 rounds. He's averaging a gross 6.9 SG: T2G over his last five tournaments and we know from his prior TPC Sawgrass outings that he's very comfortable on this layout. As always, the concern is his putting and if you roster Matsuyama you are simply hoping for at least a decent week on the greens.
Matt Kuchar (DraftKings - $7,800)
Notable Course History: T26 ('19), T17 ('18), 82nd ('17), T3 ('16), Win ('12)
It's never really EXCITING to write-up Matt Kuchar, but the vanilla veteran deserves consideration this week. Kuch has a PLAYERS win to his credit (2012) and has ran off five straight made cuts at TPC Sawgrass, which passes for extremely consistent on this diabolical track.
Kuchar isn't off to the type of red-hot start that he was last season, but he's played well in 2020, recording four top-25s in six starts on the PGA Tour with a runner-up finish at the Genesis Invitational. He also scored an international win in Singapore earlier this year. His fairways-and-greens style ain't sexy, but it is exactly what's called for on this TPC Sawgrass layout. Kuchar also brings legitimate tournament-winning upside to the table at his modest sub-$8k salary.
Ian Poulter (DraftKings - $7,300)
Notable Course History: T56 ('19), T11 ('18), T2 ('17), T57 ('16), T30 ('15)
Ian Poulter is another player that fits the "cagey veteran" mold at TPC Sawgrass. The Englishman is similar to the aforementioned Matt Kuchar in his somewhat boring style of play, but it has proven to be very effective in prior PLAYERS starts, as Poults last missed a cut in this event in 2013 and has two runner-up finishes ('17 & '09) on his Stadium Course resume.
Poulter has eased into 2020 and didn't make his first U.S. start until the Honda a couple of weeks ago, but he's looked solid in tough conditions at both PGA National and Bay Hill, gaining strokes T2G in both starts with a T27 at the Honda and a T32 at the API. He's a tremendous scrambler that is excellent at keeping big numbers off the scorecard and he's a great value option this week.