The Players Championship attracts one of the strongest fields in golf each year. Almost everyone in the top 50 of the Official World Rankings makes this event a priority. After all, it is their Championship. So building a fantasy golf team at DraftKings this week will be fun, but also challenging, with so many big names to choose from.
The Players Championship is played at TPC Sawgrass which was designed by Pete Dye. The Par 72 course will stretch to close to 7,220 yards and is known across the world for the short 17th island hole that is surrounded by water.
Players will notice one slight change this week. After the final putt dropped in the 2016 event, the grounds crew went to work renovating every green by going from Tif Eagle grass to Mini Verdi. Both grasses are Bermuda and both are fairly close to the same putting surfaces, but Mini Verdi is easier to upkeep and can be mowed a little lower. Players will have to adapt to harder surfaces than normal at Sawgrass this week as newer greens are always firmer the first couple of years. This may lead to a higher winning score as the average over the last five years has been slightly lower than -13.
One thing to keep in mind this week when looking at course history: golfers playing The Players Championship for the first time tend to miss the cut more often than not and rarely land in the top 20 even if they do advance into the weekend. Fading the newbies seems like a great idea for DFS purposes.
Par 4 Scoring should be one of your main stats this week as the winners tend to dust the field average in that area. The PGA Tour plays on three other Pete Dye courses throughout the year (RBC Heritage, Zurich, and Travelers), although the Zurich was a team format and the Travelers is played after the Players so only the Heritage should be used to judge how players are playing Dye courses this year. A minor stat that you can look at this week is Round 1 scoring as winners have averaged five strokes better than the field in the past. Finding fast starters may be a key this week.
Key Stats: Birdie or Better % (BoB%), Par 4 Scoring, Approaches 150-175 yards, Scrambling, Greens in Regulation (GIR)
Justin Rose ($9,200)
Rose fits the mold for a likely winner this year at The Players Championship. The winner of the last 10 Players Championships has posted a 16th or better at Sawgrass before winning. Rose finished fourth in 2014. One of the best all-around games on tour, the reigning Olympic Champion is looking for his first win of the season on the PGA Tour and will look to better his runner up finish at The Masters. You should note that Rose should be fairly low owned compared to the other top tier plays as most people will be taking DJ, Rory, Spieth, or Rahm.
Rose is coming into The Players with three top 15s in his last three starts including the runner-up at Augusta. He ranks 6th in BoB%, 5th in Par 4 Scoring, and 24th in GIR. He also ranks 5th in our mini stat of Round 1 Scoring. Rose is the perfect play this week as his price allows you to build a more balanced DraftKings lineup at his price point.
Rory McIlroy ($11,200)
When on his game, Rory is the best golfer in the world. The problem is he hasn’t been on lately. Even still, he finished seventh at Augusta and fourth at The Arnold Palmer Invitational. We don’t have any official stats to share as hasn’t played in enough PGA Tour events to register a ranking, but we do know he plays TPC Sawgrass well, finishing no worse than 12th in his last four trips. Rory seemed to have found the way to play Sawgrass after missing three straight cuts from 2009-2012 (he did not play in 2011). Unofficially, Rory ranks first on tour on approaches 150-175 yards, 33rd in GIR, 10th in Scrambling and 11th in Par 4 Scoring.
Value Picks and Sleepers
Russell Henley ($8,200)
Russell Henley comes into The Players in great form after winning the Shell, placing 11th at Augusta and finishing 26th at the RBC Heritage (Pete Dye Course). Although Henley missed the cut last year at The Players, he did finish 24th and 17th the two years before. Henley ranks 15th in BoB%, 12th in Par 4 Scoring, 14thh in GIR, and he leads our mini stat of Round 1 Scoring. He has the perfect price to fit in any lineup whether you want to go balanced or stars and scrubs. Henley has the form and has the history to contend on Sunday this week.
Paul Casey ($8,300)
Paul Casey at $8,300? Yes, please. Casey posted a 23rd at Sawgrass last year and comes into the week in good form after finishing 12th at The Wells Fargo last week and 6th at The Masters. He is another one of those players who seems to be hitting on all cylinders. Casey comes into the week ranking 12th in Par 4 Scoring, 11th in GIR, 5th in Scrambling, and 12th in approaches 150-175 yards. Like Henley, Casey fits perfectly in any lineup this week. He should definitely be on your radar.
Daniel Berger ($7,300)
Berger is way underpriced here. In his last three events he placed 36th at The Wells Fargo, 27th at Augusta, and 5th at The Shell. He finished ninth at Sawgrass last season and also finished fifth at the 2016 Travelers Championship (Pete Dye course). Berger ranks 26th in Bob%, 32nd in Par 4 Scoring and 12th in Scrambling on Tour this season. He should find his way into your lineups when you need to dig a little lower on the pricing.
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