2015 Players Championship: Preview, Strategy, Picks
PGA daily fantasy is back! Best of all, we have the Players Championship to come back to, the best non-major event.
The field is always strong, and this year is no exception. The Players is often regarded as the fifth major. With the exception of Victor Dubuisson withdrawing (he’s still listed on DraftKings, so do not use him), every player in the Top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings is in the field (oh, and Tiger Woods is in).
Since the tournament is always held at TPC Sawgrass, what score usually wins the tournament? Remarkably, exactly 13-under has been the winning score each of the last four years. Usually wind can make Sawgrass even more of a nightmare with all the water hazards the track provides, but the weather has been fairly cooperative in recent years. As of right now, no more than 10 mph winds are expected Thursday through Sunday.
While Sawgrass is a completely different kind of golf course than Augusta National, it’s actually very similar from a daily fantasy perspective. Both courses are very challenging, and both courses are used in two of the biggest events on the PGA Tour. However, both tracks have four par 5s, and eagles can be had on all four.
There were 47 eagles made at the 2015 Masters. While you shouldn’t expect that many eagles at Sawgrass since the greens at Augusta were soft all weekend with the humidity, there will be plenty to go around this weekend.
Let’s take a look at Sawgrass a little more in depth and what holes strategy come into play.
No. 2, 532 yards, Par 5 – Obviously a reachable par 5. If you miss the fairway, the trees will likely block any attempt you have at going for the green in two. If you do find the fairway, pretty much everyone will go for the green in two, since there’s no forced carry of a hazard or there isn’t exactly an ideal layup zone. However, for the long bombers, being able to hit iron into the green will be an advantage. It’s not a requirement though as this is the second-easiest hole to eagle on the course.
No. 9, 583 yards, Par 5 – This is often the toughest par 5 on the course from an eagle perspective, but you usually get a handful every year. There is a creek that runs through the fairway that prevents long hitters from bombing driver. The second shot is tricky. The fairway winds right to left with a long-running bunker to the left of it. The angle into the green is narrow from the fairway, and you have to draw it in if you want to go for it. Most shorter or average hitters will just take a utility club and hit to the fairway a little bit short of the green. Some of the longer hitters will go for it. Some players also aren’t bothered hitting it into the rough to the right of the green with the rough usually not that long, so they’ll go for it anyways. However, it really depends on the pin placement, and the green is severely sloped from back to front which makes eagles that much harder. Length is overall necessary here.
No. 11, 558 yards, Par 5 – If this green is soft, it will yield plenty of eagles. If the ground is firm, it’s much more difficult. This is a hole where length doesn’t look completely necessary, but it actually really helps more than you think. Unless you bomb a drive and catch a good lie in the right-hand rough, you need to hit the fairway to go for the green in two. Some players could have iron into it, but a utility club is more likely. The green is surrounded by a bunker on the right and water to the right and long of that. The key is that this green just isn’t very big, and there’s a lot of trouble surrounding it. There is more of an ideal layup area too that medium-range hitters may feel more comfortable laying up to in order to have a simple approach. Essentially, hitting iron into the green on your second shot and having softer grounds is a huge bonus for eagles.
No. 12, 358 yards, Par 4 – This hole is a slight dogleg left, so it actually plays slightly shorter than 358 yards if a player chooses to go for the green. One day the PGA will probably move the tee box up as well. The problem is that there is no fairway surrounding the green to run tee shots onto and the green has several mounds that make putting an adventure. There haven’t been any eagles converted here the last two years, but there were five earned the two years prior. You will see someone like Bubba Watson or Dustin Johnson go for this green. The chances of picking someone who gets an eagle here is very slim, but hey, with length as an advantage, it’s a nice incentive.
No. 16, 523 yards, Par 5 – This is the start of the dramatic finish at Sawgrass that everyone talks about. It is a short par 5, and eagles are definitely possible. As long as players find the fairway, they are going for the green in two, regardless how long they hit it. However, there is water directly off the green short-right, right and deep of the green. The only good miss is short left, but there is a bunker and huge tree guarding that area, so the approach is very complex. If the conditions cooperate, we could see 15-plus eagles on this hole.
So, as you can see, length is certainly beneficial, but it’s not a significant thing in comparison to some other tournaments. In fact, we want to consider and favor longer hitters who are also accurate and good ball strikers, particularly as of late. The reasoning for this is that accuracy with all the hazards and difficult greens this course provides is necessary to shoot a great score.
This is why I wouldn’t use someone like Bubba. He’s a great long hitter who fits very well at Augusta and some other courses, but there are significantly more forced carries with water and bunkers, the fairways are tighter and the greens are narrower so his style of golf isn’t as effective over a 72-hole stretch.
Odds Per Dollar
Our odds per dollar tab is updated. There are some good values, specifically Jimmy Walker, Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Reed. All three of those players hit it a decent length, but they are also accurate and are having relatively strong seasons. Consider these top picks to go with my sample lineup.
Patrick Reed $7,600 – Fantastic odds for the No. 15 player in the world. His odds took too much of a dive after his one and only missed cut a month ago. Reed is 23rd in birdie or better percentage despite being 87th in driving distance. He’s an aggressive player at his young age.
Jimmy Walker $8,800 – Amazing odds for someone who hasn’t missed a cut all year. Walker is one of the best players on Tour when it comes to both power and accuracy, and he already has two wins (and a second) this calendar year.
Hideki Matsuyama $8,800 – Matsuyama continues to be underestimated by DraftKings. He’s only missed one cut this year, has six top 10s and has posted nine eagles in his last six events. Matsuyama also played very well at the WGC Match Play, and he would have gone further than the Round of 16 had it not been for Rory McIlroy going 6-under in his first 12 holes.
Billy Horschel $7,700 – Solid odds and the fill in play, but his odds are almost as good as Reed;s. Despite some inconsistencies, Horschel typically shows up at the big events, and he coulda, woulda, shoulda beat Rory to advance to the Knockout Stage at the Match Play. He’s also typically an aggressive player at his young age with solid distance.
Ryan Moore $6,700 – He’s 17th in driving distance and tied for 25th in birdie or better percentage. With great odds, Moore has also only missed one cut this calendar year and has six top 20s.
Henrik Stenson $10,400 – He’s been absolutely on fire this year. After going second, tied for fourth, fourth and second in all his noteworthy PGA events this year, he finished tied for 19th at the Masters, but he was battling an illness in the beginning rounds where he shot 73-73. Stenson has an eagle at every PGA event this calendar year, is seventh in driving accuracy, tied for 25th in birdie or better percentage. He’s tied for 94th in driving distance (288.3 yards), but he averages 300.4 yards on the European Tour, and he’s played more rounds there to give us more accurate data that he’s still a lengthy hitter. Stenson also has the best odds for players around his price.View all posts by Nick Juskewycz