A field of 154 of all shapes and sizes.
Let’s see who has run well before at Pete Dye’s PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
Let’s try this again.
One year ago the first round of the 2020 PLAYERS Championship was almost completed before the tournament and the PGA TOUR was completely shut down. COVID-19 arrived and was sweeping the country and the decision was made to be safe rather than sorry.
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One year later, the TOUR returns to its flagship event on its most famous course to offer a prize pool of $15 million for the deepest field in golf. Of the top 50 players in the OWGR 48 are on the property this week with only Matthew Wolff (wrist) and Brooks Koepka (knee) unable to participate. From the field of 154, 112 are previous winners on TOUR. This year’s champion will take home $2.7 million and 600 FedExCup points plus a five year exemption on TOUR.
THE PLAYERS Stadium Course designed by Pete Dye will serve as host as it has since 1982. The second full edition since the return to March will feature Rory McIlroy as the defending champion as last year’s tournament was cancelled after one round. The over-seeded conditions will apply on the 5,500 square foot greens, 2.5 inches of rough and 26 acres of Celebration Bermuda fairways. Water comes into play on 17 of the 18 holes and 88 bunkers will also gobble up loose shots.
Pete Dye plays games with your eyes, head and feet. No lies are flat. Tee boxes are set at off angles. No two holes run in the consecutive direction. No bulkheads or mounds are nearly as close or far as they appear. Your brain, caddy and nervous system are always running at 10 trying to figure out where to attack. Dye’s tracks reward the boldest lines and punish those who don’t place it perfectly. Great shots are rewarded. Good shots can be salvaged. Safe shots will take some navigating to save par.
We learned that March is different from May. There’s no chance of the course to be firm and fast this early in the season. The weather and the overseed don’t allow it so fairways get wider (no roll), greens are more receptive and the rough is easier to play from because of the extra grass. I think we should still look back to the last two editions from May because the routing of the course hasn’t changed and we can learn from those two events as well. Last year before the delay, this is what the scoreboard looked like for a point of reference:
Hideki Matsuyama 63 – tied course record
Si Woo Kim 65 – 2017 champion
Christiaan Bezuidenhout 65 – debut round
Harris English 65 – only his second round in the 60s from 21
Needless to say this should be a wide open event. The 31 first-time players from 2020 and 2021 combined won’t be at as much of a disadvantage because of the new March start. Eddie Pepperell (not entered) was T3 on his debut in 2019.
TPC Sawgrass has catered to all styles over the years. Great ball-strikers, super short games and even recent bombers like McIlroy all have found their way around. Fred Funk hit 45 fairways to win at 48 years old. Si Woo Kim only needed eight rounds to figure it out to win at 21. Kim is the only player in the last 10 events to win with less than 5 previous visits.
Experience pays on Pete Dye tracks and on TPC Sawgrass.
Recent Event Winners Stats
|Rory McIlroy||Webb Simpson||Si Woo Kim|
|Score||Event Cancelled After||16-under 272||18-under 270||10-under 278|
|Cut||1-under 143||1-under 143||2-OVER 146|
|Disantance – All Drives||T4||70 (last)||8|
|Putting: Birdie or Better %||T17||T14||45|
2020: Event Cancelled After First Day (COVID-19)
2019: Rory McIlroy (-16, 272)
Defeated Jim Furyk (not entered) by one shot to win in his 10th appearance. … Played in the penultimate group as he began Round 4 just one back. … Co-leader after 36 holes on 12-under. … Gained just over 13 shots Tee to Green. … Picked up his third victory on a Pete Dye track (Kiawah Island, Crooked Stick). … 15th TOUR victory. … 15th International winner. … Joins Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson as major, WGC and FedExCup champions who have won THE PLAYERS. … Worst finish in five events leading into the week was T6.
Jhonattan Vegas (T3) posted a bogey-free 66 for his best payday. … Tommy Fleetwood (T5) played in the final group for the first time on TOUR and posted 73. … Dustin Johnson (T5) became just the second player to post all four rounds in the 60s as he enjoyed his best finish in 11 tries. … Brandt Snedeker (T5) co-led the field with 23 birdies. … 2016 champion Jason Day (T8) hits the top 10 for the third time in four seasons. … Brian Harman (T8) only squared seven bogeys for the week. … Hideki Matsuyama (T8) closed 66-67 before opening with 63 in 2020. … Justin Rose (T8) played the final 54 holes in 14-under after opening with 74. … Abraham Ancer (T12) made 23 birdies on his debut to share the lead on the week. … Holding the 54 hole lead for the first time after firing 64, Jon Rahm (T12) closed with 76. … Adam Scott (T12) has 23 rounds in the 60s here. … 2008 winner Sergio Garcia has 24 rounds in the 60s, best all time. … Keegan Bradley (T16) shared the first round lead with Fleetwood with 65. … Webb Simpson (T16) keeps the streak alive of previous champions unable to defend. … Cut was 1-under 143. … Only 11 of the 24 who had played previously in March made the cut.
2018: Webb Simpson (-18, 270)
Led by seven after 54 holes and won comfortably by four in the last May event. … Joins the major-PLAYERS-FedExCup Playoff event fraternity as the sixth to do so. … First top 10 in his ninth start at TPC Sawgrass. … Co wire-to-wire winner as he shared the 18 hole lead with five others. … Tied the course record of 63 in Round 2 to set the 36-hole mark on 15-under. … Led by five after 36, also a record. … Led by seven after 54, another record. … Tied Greg Norman on 19-under after 54 holes. … Became only second winner to shoot an over par score (73) and win. … Just third winner to lead in Driving Accuracy. … Loves Bermuda as his best finishes that season were T4 Sony, T5 The Honda Classic, T8 Valspar and T5 RBC Heritage; T21 week before at Wells Fargo.
Charl Schwartzel (T2) picked up his only top 25 to date. … Debutant Xander Schauffele (T2) posted three rounds of 68 or better. … Jimmy Walker (P2) collected his best finish in his ninth start. … Jason Day (T5) bounced back from T60 in his title defense in 2017. … Jason Dufner (T5) grabbed his second top 10 in nine starts. … Keegan Bradley (T7) began his run of form here closing with 66. … Tommy Fleetwood (T7) closed 68-68 to suggest he was figuring it out. … Danny Lee (T7) opened 68-66 before playing the weekend 2-under. … Harold Varner III (T7) made 25 birdies and an eagle. … Brooks Koepka (T11) tied the course record on Sunday with 63 but will miss this year with a knee injury. … 2017 champ Si Woo Kim (T63) extended the streak of defending champions not to hit the top 10 (Adam Scott, 2007; T8). … Most eagles in event history and on TOUR for the season. … Warm temperatures and light wind. … Top 22 players 10-under or lower. … Cut 1-under 143. … Event followed the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
2017: Si Woo Kim (-10, 278)
Won by three shots to become the youngest champion in history at 21 years 10 months. … Began the final round two shots back. … Bogey-free 69 was the only bogey-free round on Sunday. … Highest winning total since 2008 (Garcia). … Won in only his second start. … Did not lead after any of the first three rounds. … Had seven MC and four WD on the season entering the week. … Becomes only second Korean winner (KJ Choi, 2011).
Louis Oosthuizen (T2) co-led after 36 holes and was one back after 54. … Ian Poulter (T2) posted all four rounds at par or better. … Co-leader after 36 and 54 holes, Kyle Stanley (T4) hung on for his best finish at TPC Sawgrass. … Lucas Glover (T6) shot 32 going out on Sunday but made four bogeys on the back. … Francesco Molinari (T6) was one of five players to post both weekend numbers in the red. … Adam Scott (T6) posted all four rounds par or better. … Brendan Steele (T6) fired 68 on Sunday, tying the low round of the day with Dustin Johnson (T12). … Alex Noren (10th) was the best debutant in the field. … Jason Day (T60) couldn’t defend, but nobody does. … Emiliano Grillo (11th) matched Sergio Garcia (T30) for the round of the day on Saturday with 67. … Pat Perez (T22) shared the low round of the week, 66, with Oosthuizen and Stanley. … Cut was 2-over 146. … Wind picked up on the weekend as the 36-hole lead was 9-under. … Only two bogey-free rounds on the weekend. … Only 12 rounds in the 60s.
Key stat leaders
Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-2020 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.
* – Top 10 finish here since 2015 or past champion
|Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green||Golfer|
|8||*Harold Varner III|
|Top 30 Scoring Averages at TPC Sawgrass||Golfer||Average (Rounds) minimum 8 rounds|
|1||Bryson DeChambeau||70.00 (8)|
|2||*Tommy Fleetwood||70.12 (12)|
|3||Byeong Hun-An||70.40 (10)|
|4||Richy Werenski||70.50 (8)|
|5||*Hideki Matsuyama||70.73 (22)|
|6||*Jason Day||70.73 (30)|
|7||*Justin Thomas||70.74 (19)|
|9||*Alex Noren||70.80 (10)|
|10||*Si Woo Kim||70.81 (16)|
|12||Emiliano Grillo||70.93 (14)|
|13||*Francesco Molinari||70.96 (28)|
|14||*Rory McIlroy||71.00 (32)|
|16||*Adam Scott||71.18 (66)|
|18||*Matt Kuchar||71.22 (50)|
|19||Billy Horschel||71.25 (24)|
|20||Henrik Stenson||71.27 (48)|
|21||Jon Rahm||71.27 (11)|
|22||Patrick Cantlay||71.30 (10)|
|24||Russell Knox||71.35 (20)|
|T27||Mackenzie Hughes||71.38 (8)|
|T27||*Kevin Kisner||71.38 (16)|
|30||*Sergio Garcia||71.43 (76)|
|29||*Harold Varner III|
Horses for Courses
|Player (Starts/cuts made)||Top 10s||Top 25||Most Recent (Season)||Big Finishes|
|Top 10 last five years|
|Rory McIlroy (6/10)||4||5||Win (2019)||2013 thru 15 T8 or better|
|Jhonattan Vegas (5/7)||2||2||T3 (2019)||T7 2012; T41 is next best|
|Dustin Johnson (9/11)||1||3||T5 (2019)||23-under last two; last three best three career|
|Tommy Fleetwood (3/3)||2||2||T5 (2019)||T7 2018; 25-under last two visits|
|Brandt Snedeker (4/11)||2||3||T5 (2019)||T8 2013; closed 65-69|
|Justin Rose (10/16)||2||5||T8 (2019)||T4 2014; Last six best run of career|
|Hideki Matsuyama (5/6)||2||5||T8 (2019)||Last three rounds here are 66-67-63|
|Brian Harman (5/8)||2||2||T8 (2019)||T8 2015; MC-T54-MC between|
|Webb Simpson (6/10)||1||4||Win (2018)||T16 before T16 in defense|
|Jimmy Walker (7/10)||2||3||T2 (2018)||T67 after, T56 before; T6 2014|
|Charl Schwartzel (6/9)||1||1||T2 (2018)||MC before, MC after; T26 next best|
|Xander Schauffele (1/2)||1||1||T2 (2018)||5 of 6 rounds par or better|
|Jason Dufner (9/11)||2||2||T5 (2018)||T6 2011|
|Keegan Bradley (6/9)||1||2||T7 (2018)||T16 2019; 22-under last 2|
|Harold Varner III (3/4)||1||1||T7 (2018)||3 straight busted with MC 2019|
|Danny Lee (2/5)||1||1||T7 (2018)||T35 2016|
|Si Woo Kim (4/4)||1||2||Win (2017)||T23 debut 2016|
|Ian Poulter (13/16)||2||5||T2 (2017)||T11 2018; Streak is 6; other top 10 was 2nd ’09|
|Louis Oosthuizen (5/9)||1||2||T2 (2017)||T19 2013 is the next best|
|Kyle Stanley (3/6)||1||1||T4 (2017)||MC next 2|
|Adam Scott (15/18)||4||10||T6 (2017)||2007 winner; 4 straight T12 or better|
|Francesco Molinari (5/9)||4||4||T6 (2017)||T7 2016, T6 2014|
|Lucas Glover (4/12)||2||2||T6 (2017)||3rd 2010; T50 is next best|
|Brendan Steele (4/9)||1||1||T6 (2017)||2019 MC stopped three straight|
|Alex Noren (2/3)||1||2||10 (2017)||T17 2018, MC 2019|
|Jason Day (6/9)||4||5||Win (2016)||T8, T5 last two|
|Justin Thomas (5/5)||1||3||T3 (2016)||Posted 65 twice and 66; 16-under last two|
|Matt Kuchar (11/15)||2||7||T3 (2016)||2012 Winner|
|Daniel Berger (4/5)||1||1||T9 (2016)||Best of a streak of four straight|
|Graeme McDowell (8/10)||1||1||T9 (2016)||4 straight; last visit was 2017|
|Rickie Fowler (5/5)||2||2||Win (2015)||T2 2012; T47 best since win|
|Sergio Garcia (18/20)||6||10||P2 (2015)||WIN 2008, 2nd 2007, 3rd 2014, T8 2013,|
|Kevin Kisner (3/5)||1||2||P2 (2015)||T22 stalled out Sunday 2019|
|Kevin Na (7/13)||3||3||T6 (2015)||T3 2009, T7 2012|
|Rory Sabbatini (10/18)||1||1||T6 (2015)||Five consecutive weekends with T30 next best|
|Select Past Champions|
|Henrik Stenson (10/14)||4||9||2009 win||T5 2013 last top 10|
|Phil Mickelson (16/26)||3||8||2007 win||MC in 6 of his last 7|