The Confidence Factor: THE PLAYERS Championship Preview 2019

Webb Simpson returns to defend his title as the top 50 players in the OWGR and FedExCup standings converge at TPC Sawgrass.

It’s a different kind of madness in March for gamers as the field is as LOADED as it can be.

Oh, and watch yer balls…

THE PLAYERS Championship

PLAYERS Stadium Course

TPC Sawgrass

Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

PLAYERS Stadium Course Cheat Sheet

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,189
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: 5,500 square feet; TifEagle Bermudagrass.
Stimpmeter: 13′
Rough: 419 Celebration Bermuda over-seeded with ryegrass/fescue at 2.5″
Bunkers: 88
Water Hazards: 17
Architect(s): Pete Dye (1980); Pete Dye and Steve Wenzloff (2016).
Purse: $12 million; $2.25 million, 600 FedExCup points (winner).
Defending Champion: Webb Simpson, -18
Notes: Field of 144; Top 70 and ties play the weekend.
Notes II: All 50 of the FedExCup and OWGR are entered and playing this week. #Deep.

History Lessons

Previous Winners:

Year Winner   Comment
       
2018 Webb Simpson -18 Trashed too many records to list here as he shot OVER-par in the final round and still won by four.
2017 Si Woo Kim -10 Won by three to become the youngest winner at 21 in his second attempt (T17).
2016 Jason Day -15 Set the 36-hole record at 15-under before playing the weekend even-par to win by four. #Breezy.
2015 Rickie Fowler -12 Defeated Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a playoff.
2014 Martin Kaymer -13 Held off local Jim Furyk to win by one before winning the U.S. Open at Pinehurst a month later.
2013 Tiger Woods -13 Garcia dumped two in the water on No. 17 on Sunday as Woods picked up his second trophy.
2012 Matt Kuchar -13 Outlasted a quartet of chasers including Fowler, Zach Johnson (best) and Martin Laird.
       

Recent History Lessons

2018-19 Winners

Event Winner
   
Safeway Open Kevin Tway**
CIMB Classic Marc Leishman
CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES Brooks Koepka
Sanderson Farms Championship Cameron Champ**
WGC-HSBC Champions Xander Schauffele
Shriners Hospitals for Children Bryson DeChambeau
Mayakoba Golf Classic Matt Kuchar
The RSM Classic Charles Howell III
Hero World Challenge* Jon Rahm
Sentry TOC Xander Schauffele (2)
Sony Open in Hawaii Matt Kuchar (2)
60th Desert Classic Adam Long**
Farmers Insurance Open Justin Rose
Waste Management Rickie Fowler
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Phil Mickelson
Genesis Open J.B. Holmes
WGC-Mexico Championship Dustin Johnson
The Honda Classic Keith Mitchell**
Arnold Palmer Invitational Francesco Molinari

(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)

Facts and Figures:

The last major renovation was after the 2016 edition.

Tournament Record: 264 (-24); Greg Norman, 1994.
Course Record (last): 63; Brooks Koepka, Round 4, 2018.
Course Record (recent): 63; Webb Simpson (2018, Rd. 1), Jason Day (2016, Rd. 1), Martin Kaymer (2014, Rd. 1).
Recent Defending Champion(s): There has never been a champion defend.
Multiple Winners (entered) Tiger Woods (2001, 2013).
First TOUR Win: Craig Perks (2002), Tim Clark (2010).
First-time in the field: Hal Sutton (1983), Perks.
Youngest Winners: 21, Si Woo Kim (2017); 23, Adam Scott (2004).
Oldest Winner 48, Fred Funk (2005).
Low Round 2018: See above.
Class Above: Winner of a major, WGC and PLAYERS Woods, Mickelson, Stenson, Kaymer, Day and Scott.
Odd Fact: No Englishman has ever won.
Odd Fact II: Woods is the only multiple champ this century and the only player to win the week before.

The Confidence Factor was the weekly column I wrote for PGATOUR.COM. It has evolved into Horses for Courses. I’ve included the link here for you. It can also be found in The Confidence Factor section at my website.

Inside the ropes

March to May and back again!

The course was designed for March play so here we are.

The “New” Stuff:

Weather: cool, damp and soft leaves behind hot, burned out and crusty. Plus, different wind directions this time of year will test the space between the ears on every shot.

Trophy: 24-carat Tiffany gold replaces Waterford Crystal.

Announcer: Paul Azinger takes over for Johnny Miller.

Theme Music: Yep, brand-new as well.

Grass: Over-seeded rye/fescue is lush while patchy, jumper Bermuda lies dormant underneath.

Greens: Same but different as Velvet Bent and Poa Trivialis (same as TPC Scottsdale for the WMPO) “green” up the greens.

Course: Soft conditions will expand fairways and reward those who can carry it further off the tee. It’s target golf here, as usual, accurate length is always favored.

Trend or Not a Trend?

Stats 2018 2017 2016 2015
  Webb Simpson Si Woo Kim Jason Day Rickie Fowler
Winning Score -18 -10 -15 -12
         
Distance of All Drives 70 8 18 6
Driving Accuracy 1 T15 T51 T43
Greens in Regulation T5 T37 T15 T51
Ball-Striking 17 T18 10 32
Proximity to the Hole 69 T39 T50 T3
Putting: Birdie-or-Better % 2 45 10 2
SG: Off-the-Tee 32 2 28 26
SG: Approach-the-Green 62 17 9 5
SG: Around-the-Green 3 3 11 33
SG: Putting 1 37 8 20
SG: Tee-to-Green 16 2 3 5
Scrambling 24 1 1 10
Bogey Avoidance T7 T1 1 T15
Par-3 Scoring T1 T27 T25 T3
Par-4 Scoring T1 1 1 T7
Par-5 Scoring T3 T36 T15 T20

Horses for Courses

Each week I’ll put the major players in here. There are always exceptions to rules and “new” players every year so use this as a guide or tiebreaker.

Player Cuts Top Top Most Best (Others)
  Made 10s 25s Recent  
           
Webb Simpson 5/9 1 3 Win (2018)  
Jimmy Walker 6/9 2 3 T2 (2018) T6 (2014)
Charl Schwartzel 6/8 1 1 T2 (2018) T26
Xander Schauffele 1/1 1 1 T2 (2018) debut last year
Jason Day 5/8 3 4 T5 (2018) Win (2016), T6 (2011)
Jason Dufner 8/10 2 2 T5 (2018) T6 (2011)
Keegan Bradley 5/8 1 1 T7 (2018) T35 is next best
Harold Varner III 3/3 1 1 T7 (2018) improved each time
Danny Lee 2/4 1 1 T7 (2018)  
Tommy Fleetwood 2/2 1 1 T7 (2018)  
           
Si Woo Kim 3/3 1 2 Win (2017) T23 on debut (2016)
Ian Poulter 12/15 2 5 T2 (2017) T11 (2018), 2 (2009)
Louis Oosthuizen 4/8 1 2 T2 (2017)  
Kyle Stanley 3/5 1 1 T4 (2017)  
Rafa Cabrera Bello 2/3 1 2 T4 (2017) T17 2017
Adam Scott 14/17 4 9 T6 (2017) T6 (2007), T11 (2018), T12 (2016)
Francesco Molinari 4/8 4 4 T6 (2017) T7 (2016), T6 (2014), 9 (2010)
Lucas Glover 4/11 2 2 T6 (2017) 3 (2010)
Brendan Steele 4/8 1 1 T6 (2017) cashed last 3
Alex Noren 2/2 1 2 10 (2017) T17 2018
           
Matt Kuchar 10/14 2 7 T3 (2016) Win (2012)
Justin Thomas 4/4 1 3 T3 (2016) T11 (2018)
Hideki Matsuyama 4/5 1 4 T7 (2016)  
Alex Cejka 7/9 2 3 T9 (2016) T9 (2009)
Daniel Berger 3/4 1 1 T9 (2016)  
           
Rickie Fowler 4/9 2 2 Win (2015) T2 (2012)
Sergio Garcia 17/19 6 9 T2 (2015) Win (2008),  2 (2007), 3 (2014),
Kevin Kisner 2/4 1 1 T2 (2015) T56
Kevin Na 6/12 3 3 T6 (2015) T7 (2012), T3 (2009)
Rory Sabbatini 9/17 1 1 T6 (2015)  
Rory McIlroy 5/9 3 4 T8 (2015) T6 (2014), T8 (2013)
Brian Harman 4/7 1 1 T8 (2015)  
           
Martin Kaymer 9/10 1 3 Win (2014)  
Jim Furyk 17/22 4 9 2 (2014) T5 (2009)
Justin Rose 9/15 1 4 T4 (2014)  
Jordan Spieth 2/5 1 1 T4 (2014)  
           
Tiger Woods 17/18 5 10 Win (2013) T11 (2018), 8 (2009)
Kevin Streelman 5/10 1 2 T2 (2013)  
Henrik Stenson 10/13 4 9 T5 (2013) Win (2009), T3 (2006), T10 (2008)
Martin Laird 5/9 2 2 T5 (2013) T2 (2012)
Ryan Palmer 5/13 1 3 T5 (2013)  
Marc Leishman 6/9 1 3 T8 (2013)  
Brandt Snedeker 3/10 1 2 T8 (2013) T12 on debut (2007); T48 (2014)
           
Zach Johnson 13/14 2 7 T2 (2012)  
Jhonattan Vegas 4/6 1 1 T7 (2012)  
           
Nick Watney 5/10 1 2 T4 (2011)  
J.B. Holmes 7/12 2 4 T6 (2011) T10 (2008)
Aaron Baddeley 6/14 2 2 T6 (2011) T9 (2009)
           
Player Cuts Top Top Last Best (Others)
  Made 10s 25s    
Vijay Singh 17/24 4 8 T9 (2009)  
           
Phil Mickelson 16/25 3 8 Win (2007)  
Stewart Cink 11/19 1 4 T3 (2007)  
           
Pat Perez 8/15 1 4 T3 (2006)  
           
Paul Casey 4/11 1 4 T10 (2004) on debut

My Favorite Section: The 54-Hole Graveyard

These players either had the outright lead or co-led after 54 holes.

 

·       2007: Sean O’Hair finished T-11 after quad on 17, bogey 18.

·       2008: Paul Goydos, 74; lost playoff.

·       2009: Alex Cejka, 79; T-9.

·       2010: Lee Westwood, 74; T-4.

·       2011: Graeme McDowell, 79; T-33.

·       2012: Kevin Na, 76; T-7.

·       2013: Sergio Garcia, 76; two in the water on No. 17 (co-leader with champ Woods, Lingmerth).

·       2014: Jordan Spieth 74, co-leader with champ Kaymer.

·       2015: Chris Kirk, 75; T-13.

·       2016: Jason Day went wire-to-wire to become the fifth winner ever to do so and first since Hal Sutton in 2000. #Notable.

·       2017: J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley played in the final group and shot 84 and 75 respectively, finishing T41 and T4.

·       2018: Webb Simpson shared the first round lead before wiring the field.

The Chalk

Rory McIlroy: All the pieces are lined up and ready to go and there’s nobody better at target golf for my money.

Justin Thomas: Leads the TOUR in scoring average and is second SG: TTG.

Tiger Woods: If he’s healthy, which I believe he is, he should be licking his chops this week. There is nobody who grinds it better and if his putter tinkering pays off, look out.

Sergio Garcia: There aren’t many who qualify in the premium category for course horses this week but the Spaniard qualifies easily. It also doesn’t hurt that he knocked it around PGA National for a top-10 paycheck the last time we saw him.

Paul Casey: No Englishman has ever won this event. Hell, Paul Casey hadn’t won in seven years before last spring in Florida at Innsibrook. He’s hit the podium three times in his last four starts worldwide so I’m down to clown.

Francesco Molinari: So the new clubs work! Bogey-free 64 on Sunday to win API has turned the light from yellow to GREEN. He’s four of eight here with all results inside the top 10.

Tommy Fleetwood: Tuned up nicely with T3 last week in Orlando and didn’t make anything. Super bunker game won’t hurt around here either.

Dustin Johnson: He’s one of the many happy to see this event move because he had ZERO fun during the May event. In 10 starts he never found the top 10 and that almost sounds ridiculous of a player of his calibre. Confidence won’t be a problem as he won in Mexico the last time out.

Xander Schauffele: As usual, he wasn’t bothered on his debut last year as he tied for second. His well-rounded game (4th SG: Total) should fit well again plus this time he already has two wins under his belt.

Rickie Fowler: The 2015 champ laid an egg last week as his every-other-event pattern (Win, T36, T2, T40) continues much to the chagrin of gamers. I’ll argue his bag of 14 against all comers and that’s what’s necessary this week.

Rafa Cabrera Bello: Since he’s arrived from the Middle East for Pebble Beach he’s rattled off T22, T25, T19 and T3 last week in his four outings.

Brooks Koepka: Is there a Feherty curse I need to know about? This event should be big enough to get his undivided attention and no, I’m not worried about the MC last week. Shit happens.

Justin Rose: Form is temporary, class is permanent. I’ll remind gamers that he had five weeks off before T63 last week in Orlando. Rust should be busted.

Gary Woodland: Held it together to rack out his 21st-consecutive paycheck at PGA National, the longest streak on TOUR. Too many superlatives to add up here.

Patrick Cantlay: He’s second this season in scoring average and doing so at No. 180 in fairways. Currently fifth in SG: Total it’s not a surprise that his worst finish this season is T17.

Lucas Glover: Gotta earn it to get in here and he’s done just that. His eight paydays are all top 25 and his last three are top 10. The last two are both on TifEagle in Florida so he’s not readjusting to anything.

Ian Poulter: T33 or better in his last six worldwide, the Orlando resident is used to these conditions this time of year. He’s also one of the 23 who has played the March edition.

Jon Rahm: With top-10 paydays in five of his first six of 2019 I’ll let the Spaniards ball-striking speak for itself this week. This change for Rahm should be viewed as positive as he had no luck here the last two years.

Jason Day: He’s made a big deal about the internet saying it was a big deal that he went to Disney World, which he claimed was no big deal, after his WD last week. Got all that? Good. He plays better when he has a chip on his shoulder or an injury and we’ve checked both boxes here.

Next Group

Hideki Matsuyama: Should be thrilled with the over-seed just as he annually is at TPC Scottsdale.

Adam Scott: No respect? Maybe. Dude is putting with a cast-iron skillet on a stick. His ball-striking display at Honda was a disaster as he was holing putts. REMEMBER WHAT YOU DO REALLY WELL DUDE.

Bryson DeChambeau: If this is a thinking man’s golf course, the shoe fits. His recent form is a bit cool (T56, T46) so he’s down here. I’m always learning with BDC.

Jason Kokrak: Back-to-back top-10’s in Florida; 14th SG: Total and that includes No. 148 on the greens.

Ben An: My default this week is guys who rake tee-to-green. Get it to the green then worry about getting it in the hole. T10 last week in tough conditions in Orlando.

Keith Mitchell: He’s not signing up for any putting contests but is absolutely in flying form and knocking the cover off the ball.

Matt Fitzpatrick: Riding into town on solo second and STM from last week, the Englishman was T14 at Harbour Town, another Dye track last year. He’s not long but that didn’t bother him at almost 7,500 yards last week or at Augusta where he’s top-tenned it before.

Marc Leishman: If he won, I wouldn’t bat an eye. If he was cut, I wouldn’t bat an eye. He’s too solid through the back and in less-than-perfect conditions makes excellent support staff.

Matt Kuchar: He’s won twice and won here plus made 10 of 14 cuts. I can’t leave out a guy who is sixth in fairways and third in greens.

Matt Wallace: Ok, got it. T37, T20 and T6 in his last three. #Trending.

Coming in HAWT

Long Shots, Course Horses, Wings, Prayers

Zach Johnson: Glossed over him in HFC but 13 of 14 is something. His current form suggests my instinct on leaving him out wasn’t completely basis.

Martin Kaymer: Banged out nine straight before last year and wasn’t terrible last week at Bay Hill.

Charl Schwartzel: The last time he was a late WD he cashed T6 in Puerto Rico. He followed that with T16 at Honda before another late WD last week at API. Yep, he was T2 here last year as well.

Ryan Palmer: Remember when he posted 63 and the clubhouse lead on Sunday at PGA National? Nice momentum heading into this week after T4 there.

Chesson Hadley: T20, MC, T20 and T17 in his last four on TOUR.

Trey Mullinax: Seven straight but nothing spectacular. Has plenty of giddy-up to get it around here if he can keep it on the property.

J.T. Poston: Seven straight with his best at the Stadium Course at PGA West, another Dye design for you dot-connectors.

Talor Gooch: Long-shot ball-striker that has chalked up three MC and solo fourth (PGA West), T3 (Torrey) and T20 (PGA National).

Chris Kirk: T15 last week and three of his last five here are T13 or better.

Adam Hadwin: Nothing wrong with non-flashy and steady this week.

Henrik Stenson: Two caddies and top 20 last week on a course he’s always dominated. The bold will bet the come again this week.

Branden Grace: Never missed in four trips but his second in Phoenix seems like 100 years ago. Pro.

Sungjae Im: His streak of 50 weeks has been quite incredible considering all the factors of age, inexperience, travel, you name it. There SHOULD BE another learning curve this week…

Kevin Kisner: Make it four top-30 finishes in a row after last week’s disappointing Sunday. It’s moving in the proper direction and this is his surface of choice.

Jhonattan Vegas: T16 at Honda followed by T23 at Bay Hill is plenty for me. Balance the roster with power guys.

Jim Furyk: Home game for the steady one. He’ll be familiar with all of the conditions and surroundings.

Jordan Spieth: More doubt creeps in weekly and I’m not sure this is the place to right the ship. Less-than-ideal conditions might be exactly the focus he needs to get the train back on the tracks. Lovely and ballsy contrarian play this week but nothing more.

Harold Varner III: He had 25 circles on the card last year to lead the field.

Alex Noren: Nope, sorry.

Russell Knox: “Local” lad as well; should have the proper feel for the weather, wind and course conditions plus has cashed 10 straight on TOUR.

Cameron Smith: Streak of 14 makes ended at Honda but his short game is nasty.

Bud Cauley: Weekly placeholder.

History’s Mysteries

Charles Howell III: Classic current v course again this week for Three Sticks. He has one top 25 in 16 events, last year’s T17.

Bubba Watson: T37 is his best.

Phil Mickelson: He’s MC in five of his last six with T41. No wonder why he was waffling on entering. When Mickelson waffles, so do I. BAI.

Tony Finau: Not sure what’s happened here.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter (@MikeGlasscott) or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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