Horses for Courses: THE PLAYERS Championship 2022

Every year when I write this feature I’m continually amazed by how many players do not run well at TPC Sawgrass. There are some who really enjoy Pete Dye’s challenge and some, based on their results, do not. I’ve highlighted both ends of the spectrum this time around to help you navigate the waters.

The madness of March isn’t reserved for just the hardwood across America. The PGATOUR shifted its schedule in 2019 to make sure its flagship event was reintroduced to one of the most active periods on the sporting calendar. The iconic THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass serves as the canvas to identify the artist who can tame Pete Dye’s most challenging layout.


RELATED: Expert Picks | The First Look


On the scorecard Par-72 and 7,256 yards reads quite benign and nothing out of the ordinary on TOUR. A closer look reveals one of the most challenging mental and physical setups faced annually. Every major championship has its niche. The Masters is a scoring course where aggressive play is rewarded. The US Open tests all 14 clubs in the bag plus the space between the ears. The Open Championship adds weather and fescue to the proceedings while the PGA Championship adds brute force on some of the biggest ballparks around.

I believe THE PLAYERS features the best of all four with a dash of Dye on top to make it special. Similar to the Masters, Dye rewards great, not good, shots on scoring holes and we’re all familiar with the holes. The mind/eye design tricks, the 17 water penalty areas and NOT having consecutive holes run in the same direction forces players to have the concentration of a US Open. The Florida weather in March, and it’s going to be a major factor this week, will resemble a warmer Open Championship. There’s enough meat on the bones on the Par-4 holes where length is a factor like the PGA Championship. Sprinkle in the familiarity and volatility of the closing holes (Nos. 16, 17 and 18) and it’s game on!

The deepest field in golf features 46 of the top 50 players* in the OWGR and 121 from the top 125 in the 2021 FedExCup final standings will be rewarded with four rounds on  TPC Sawgrass. The top 65 and ties will play the weekend. The richest prize in golf is also on the line as the prize pool of $20 million (up from $15 million last year) will pay first place $3.6 million and award a whopping 600 FedExCup points.

*Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Kevin Na and Phil Mickelson all qualified but are not playing this week.

Let’s find some horses for courses!

Horses for Courses

Recent Winners
entered this week
(cuts made/events entered)
Top 10Top 252022 BET MGM ODDS
Win, Top 10, Top 20
    
2021: Justin Thomas (6/6)24+1400; +150; -135
2019: Rory McIlroy (6/11)45+2000; +200; -110
2018: Webb Simpson (6/11)14+8000; +600; +300
2017: Si Woo Kim (5/5)23+6600; +600; +275
2016: Jason Day (7/10)45+6600; +600; +275
    
Veteran Presence
entered this week
(cuts made/events entered)
Top 10s Top 252022 BET MGM ODDS
Win, Top 10, Top 20
    
Lee Westwood (11/15)67+15000; +1000; +450
Brian Harman (6/9)33+10000; +700; +333
Paul Casey (5/13)25+6600; +600; +275
Shane Lowry (3/6)12+4000; +400; +180
Sergio Garcia (19/21)711+6600; +500; +240
Daniel Berger (5/6)22+2500; +240; +120
Jason Kokrak (3/8)11+8000; +600; +275
Jhonattan Vegas (6/8)22+15000; +1000; +400
Dustin Johnson (10/12)13+3300; +333; +150
Brandt Snedeker (4/12)23+40000; +2800; +1100
Justin Rose (10/16)25+10000; +700; +300
Hideki Matsuyama (5/7)25+2800; +275; +130
Jimmy Walker (7/11)23+50000; +4000; +1600
Louis Oosthuizen (6/10)12+5000; +400; +180
Ian Poulter (13/17)25+15000; +1100; +450
Adam Scott (16/19)410+5000; +400; +175
Francesco Molinari (5/10)4415000; +1400; +600
    
Gaining Traction
entered this week
(cuts made/events entered)
Top 10s Top 252022 BET MGM ODDS
Win, Top 10, Top 20
    
Talor Gooch (1/2)11+5000; +500; +225
Corey Conners (2/2)11+5000; +400; +180
Jon Rahm (4/4)12+1100; +125; -160
Matt Fitzpatrick (3/5)11+3300; +300; +140
Tommy Fleetwood (3/4)22+8000; +600; +275
Harold Varner III (4/5)11+15000; +1200; +500
Alex Noren (2/4)12+10000; +700; +300
Xander Schauffele (1/3)11+2800; +250; +125

Odds sourced on Tuesday, March 8 at 1 p.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm.

Recent Event Winner Stats

Stats202120202019
WinnerJustin ThomasNo Event – CovidRory McIlroy
Score-14 16-under
MOV1 1
Cut Even 1-under
Age27 29
    
Pretournament Odds+1800 +1200
    
All Drives3 T4
AccuracyT32 T49
GIRT17 T3
Ball-StrikingT7 3
Proximity8 11
Putting: Birdie or Better %4 T17
    
SG: Off-the-Tee10 2
SG: Approach-the-Green5 6
SG: Around-the-Green12 25
SG: Putting42 45
SG: Tee-to-Green1 1
    
Scrambling14 T40
Bogey AvoidanceT8 T1
Par-3 ScoringT47 1
Par-4 ScoringT10 T22
Par-5 Scoring1 T7
    
TournamentsWon on 6th attempt Won on 10th attempt

Extra Credit (players entered this week only)

2021

Winner Justin Thomas has circled the most birdies aggregate since 2015 and won in his sixth appearance. … Lee Westwood (2nd) led after 36 and 54 holes and has posted seven, bogey free rounds here, the most since 2005. … Brian Harman (T3) led the field in Putting: Birdie or Better Percentage, Putts/GIR and Strokes-Gained: Putting. … Paul Casey (T5) co led the field in Par Breakers (22 birdies, 1 eagle) with Thomas and led the field in Par-4 scoring. … Talor Gooch (T5) matched Casey with 22 birdies. … Corey Conners (7th) opened with 68 and closed with 66 in his second visit. … Shane Lowry (8th) made only two bogeys on the weekend and picked up his best payday in six trips. … Daniel Berger (T9) was second best on the Par-5 holes (-12) to Thomas’ tournament record tying -14. … Matt Fitzpatrick (T9) was top six in both Fairways and GIR as he cashes for his first top 10 and third consecutive payday. … Sergio Garcia (T9) opened with 65 to lead and extended his cuts made streak to 18 here. … 2017 winner Si Woo Kim (T9) picked up his second top 10 and loves Dye tracks (AMEX winner). … Jason Kokrak (T9) only made five bogeys but had a quad and a double! … Jon Rahm (T9) backed up his T12 in 2019 and led the field GIR (58/72). … Defending champion Rory McIlroy (MC) opened with 79. … Just six bogey free rounds on the week and Westwood had two of them. … Thomas set the closing 36 hole record with 64-68.

2020

Tournament was cancelled after one round because of COVID-19.

2019

Winner Rory McIlroy won his first PLAYERS in his 10th attempt for his 15th win on TOUR. … Jhonattan Vegas (T3) co-led Par-5 scoring (-12) and T3 birdies (22). … Tommy Fleetwood (T5) co led after 18 and 36 and played in the final group with Jon Rahm (T12). … Dustin Johnson (T5) posted all four rounds in the 60s for the first time since Steve Elkington in 1997 and led the field in Par-4 scoring. … Brandt Snedeker (T5) led the field in Par-Breakers (24) and co-led GIR (59) and birdies (23). … 2016 winner Jason Day (T8) has hit the top 10 in three of his last five visits and will be playing in the honor of his recently passed mother this week. … Hideki Matsuyama (T8) closed 66-67 and then opened 63 (tying the course record) in 2020 before it was cancelled. … Justin Rose (T8) went out in 38 and played the rest of the week 14-under. … Abraham Ancer (T12) co-led with 23 birdies on debut. … Keegan Bradley (T16) shared the first round lead on 65 with Fleetwood. … 2018 winner Webb Simpson (T16) joined the club of defending champions not to repeat or make the top 10. … 14 bogey-free rounds. … McIlroy and Thomas both join the Major/FedExCup Champion/WGC/PLAYERS club with Woods and Stenson. 

Notes

• Third week running on TifEagle Bermuda on the greens.
• No repeat champions.
• No multiple champions entered.
• Last first time winners on TOUR were Tim Clark (2010) and Craig Perks (2002).
• Last debut winner (event) was Perks and before that Hal Sutton (1983). There are 15 debutants in the field as of Tuesday morning.
• Webb Simpson (2018) is the last to go wire-to-wire (ties included).
• Simpson is the last champion of six to finish inside the top 50 in defense.
• Brooks Koepka (2018, Round 4) is the last player to post 63 OFFICIALLY and tie the course record.
• Last playoff: Fowler defeats Kisner, Garcia 2015; three playoffs this century.
• Youngest winner: Si Woo Kim, 21 (2017).
• Oldest winner: Fred Funk, 48 (2005).
• Average winner since 20007 has needed SEVEN appearances.
• Only three players have won the week before with Woods being the last in 2001.
• 2004 winner Adam Scott has hit the top 12 four of the last five seasons.
• Keegan Bradley has cashed five straight.
• Chris Kirk hasn’t missed in his last four visits and is on fire in Florida.

Recent Course Rankings (since 2019):

2021: 72.241; 16th most difficult of 51 payed.
2020: Event Cancelled.
2019: 71.513; 23rd most difficult of 49 played.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week; Select players with top 10 finishes since 2017.

Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green
RankPlayer
  
1Jon Rahm
2Collin Morikawa
3Patrick Cantlay
3Justin Thomas
6Keegan Bradley
7Paul Casey
8Viktor Hovland
9Will Zalatoris
10Rory McIlroy
11Brooks Koepka
12Corey Conners
13Sergio Garcia
14Daniel Berger
15Hideki Matsuyama
  
Bogey Avoidance
RankPlayer
  
1Jon Rahm
2Patrick Cantlay
3Daniel Berger
4Chris Kirk
5Abraham Ancer
6Russell Henley
7Seamus Power
8Webb Simpson
8Cameron Tringale
11Louis Oosthuizen
12Hank Lebioda
13Sungjae Im
14Justin Thomas
  
Par-4 Scoring
RankPlayer
  
1Patrick Cantlay
1Seamus Power
3Abraham Ancer
3Daniel Berger
3Emiliano Grillo
3Chris Kirk
3Jon Rahm
3Webb Simpson
9Doug Ghim
9Russell Henley
9Justin Thomas
  
PlayerONE Top 10 Finish
Starts Made
  
Pat Perez16
Dustin Johnson12
Nick Watney11
Marc Leishman11
Charl Schwartzel10
Louis Oosthuizen10
Brendan Steele10
Jason Kokrak8
Jordan Spieth 7
  
PlayerZero Top 10 Finish
Starts Made
  
Brian Gay17
Bubba Watson13
Scott Piercy10
Gary Woodland 9
Russell Henley8
Billy Horschel 8
Patrick Reed7
Cameron Tringale 7
Chez Reavie7
Russell Knox7
Brooks Koepka5
  
PlayerConsecutive Cuts MadeTOUR
  
Justin Thomas14
Xander Schauffele13
Hideki Matsuyama13
Russell Henley13
Billy Horschel 12
Marc Leishman12
Rory McIlroy12
KH Lee10

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