Horses for Courses: THE PLAYERS Championship 2020

Sadly, this week will be the first without world renowned architect Pete Dye. The celebration will include 47 of the top 50 and 122 of the 125 who secured a TOUR card last year.

The deepest field in golf will tee it up with heavy hearts for the biggest prize pool in the game at Pete Dye’s Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Of the 125 TOUR players eligible, 122 are teeing it up this week and the 47th PLAYERS will be contested, in part,¬† by 47 of the world’s top 50 players.

On the line for the second consecutive March will be the biggest prize in golf: A purse of $15 million, including a winner’s share of $2.7 million, plus 600 FedExCup Points.

 

Dye’s masterpiece returned to the March portion of the schedule last year. Sadly, that would be his last PLAYERS, as he passed away in January. His legend and legendary track will frustrate, taunt and mislead the world’s best again this year.

The Stadium Course features no two consecutive holes routed in the same direction, so judging the wind is always top-of-mind. Speaking of mind, don’t let it play tricks, as angles into fairways and greens don’t always appear what they seem. The genius of Pete Dye was planting the seed of doubt and forcing the player to make a decision. Having a strong conviction this week won’t hurt either!

The course isn’t long, but can play so this time of year as the over-seeded rough and greens are more receptive since they haven’t dried out over the spring. Without run-off or run-out, fairways become easier to hit, but distance is sacrificed, favoring the power players, as usual.

It’s another week of TifEagle greens, wind, sand, water and Palm trees, but this time with the deepest field in golf.

RECENT WINNERS

2019: Rory McIlroy (-16, 272)

Began the final round one shot back of Jon Rahm (T12) before posting 70 to win THE PLAYERS for the first time (10th attempt). … Opened 67-65 to co-lead after 36 holes with Tommy Fleetwood (T5). … Led the field in Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green and Par-3 scoring. … Became the third winner in the last four to lead or co-lead the field in bogey avoidance. … Opened 2019 on TOUR T6 or better in his first five events. #Hawt. … Cut was 143 (-1).

Notables in the field this week:¬†Jim Furyk (2nd), all 48 years of him, tied 54-hole leader Rahm for the low round of the week (64) and finished just one back. … Furyk was looking to become the first local to win since Fred Funk (2005). … Jhonattan Vegas (T3) closed 67-66. … Dustin Johnson graced the top 10 (T5) for the first time in 11 tries and posted all four rounds in the 60s. … Brandt Snedeker (T5) ended a streak of three straight MC and co-led the field in birdies (23) with Abraham Ancer (T12). … Webb Simpson (T16) provided the best title defense since Adam Scott (T8) in 2005.

2018: Webb Simpson (-18, 270)

Led or co-led every round en route to a four-shot victory in his ninth attempt. … Set 36-hole record (-15) and tied the 54-hole record (-19) in the final event during May. … Led by a record seven shots after Saturday. … 73 tied the highest score in the final round for a winner. … Missed Greg Norman’s tournament record by five. … 63 in Round 2 tied the course record. … Last in the field in driving distance yet first in fairways as May played firm and fast. Cut was 143 (-1).

Notables in the field this week:¬†Debutant Xander Schauffele and Jimmy Walker shared second four back. … Jason Day and Jason Dufner shared fifth. … Tommy Fleetwood (T7) started his hot streak. … Brooks Koepka tied the course record (63) Sunday for T11. … Defending champion Si Woo Kim T63.

2017: Si Woo Kim (-10, 278)

Won by three shots in just his second attempt and became the youngest winner (21). … Only player double-digits under-par. … One of three players to put all four rounds at par-or-better. … Led the field in scrambling, bogey avoidance (T1) and Par-4 scoring. … Just seven rounds in the 60s on Sunday and his was the only one without a bogey!

Notables in the field this week:¬†Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter shared second. … 54-hole leaders Kyle Stanley (T4) and J.B. Holmes (T41) didn’t break 75 on Sunday. … Francesco Molinari (T6) picked up his third top-10 finish in a row. … Adam Scott (T6) picked up his first top-10 payday since 2007.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-20 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

¬†* –¬† previous top-10 finish here since 2015 or previous champion

Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green

1  *Rory McIlroy

2  *Justin Thomas

3  *Hideki Matsuyama

4  *Adam Scott

5  Patrick Cantlay

6  Paul Casey

7  Byeong-Hun An

8  *Dustin Johnson

9  Corey Conners

10 Jon Rahm

11 *Xander Schauffele

12 Brooks Koepka

13 *Tommy Fleetwood

14 Jason Kokrak

15 Emiliano Grillo

16 Gary Woodland

18 Matthew Fitzpatrick

19 Kevin Streelman

20 *Webb Simpson

21 Tony Finau

22 *Henrik Stenson (2009 winner)

23 Joaquin Niemann

24 *Sergio Garcia

25 *Lucas Glover (T6, 2017; 3, 2010)

Strokes-Gained: Putting

1  Denny McCarthy

2  Jordan Spieth

4  *Graeme McDowell

5  Andrew Putnam

6  Aaron Baddeley

7  Patton Kizzire

8  Wyndham Clark

9  Vaughn Taylor

11 *Webb Simpson

12 *Brandt Snedeker

13 *Rickie Fowler

14 Pat Perez

15 Harris English

16 Billy Horschel

17 *Justin Rose (T8, 2019)

19 Peter Malnati

20 *Kevin Kisner (P2 debut 2015)

22 Patrick Rodgers

23 Sam Ryder

24 *Ian Poulter

24 *Rory McIlroy

Par-4 Scoring

1  *Rory McIlroy

1  Brooks Koepka

3  *Justin Thomas

3  *Webb Simpson

3  Jon Rahm

3  Patrick Cantlay

7  Cameron Tringale

8  Nate Lashley

8  Brice Garnett

8  Joaquin Niemann

8  *Rickie Fowler

8  Sam Ryder

8  *Lucas Glover

8  Scott Piercy

8  Charles Howell III

8  Patrick Reed

8  *Chez Reavie

8  Ryan Palmer

8  Abraham Ancer

Horses     

Rory McIlroy: Of the last seven, five are T12 or better, including the only player to win in March.

Sergio Garcia: All-time money leader and 2008 champ has cashed in 16 straight; closed 67 last year for T22.

Adam Scott: 2004 winner in March has taken home T12 or better the last four years; only Garcia has more rounds in the 60s.

Webb Simpson: Hard to ignore T16-WIN-T16 in the last three editions.

Jason Day: 2016 champ closed out the May portion with T5 (-13) and began March with T8 (-12).

Jim Furyk:¬†Local has cashed in 18 of 23 over his career for second-best on the money list, but he’s 49. Caution.

Cut Makers

Matt Kuchar:¬†2012 winner has been paid in 10 of his last 11 visits; T26 last year but soft conditions won’t help him or Furyk. Caution.

Tommy Fleetwood: T7 in the final May event (-12) and T5 (-13) in the return to March last year.

Hideki Matsuyama: Six trips have resulted in five weekends with the worst being T23; T8 last year.

Justin Rose: Four straight and five of his last six with T8 last year, which included playing the final 54 holes 14 under.

Ian Poulter: Stayed all weekend in 13 of 16 including six straight; nine-under (T3) after 36 last year before fading.

Justin Thomas: Perfect from five tries and all four rounds par-or-better last year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s