There have long been arguments over where the Players ranks on the list of golf's signature events and more recently, a debate over whether it should move back to March. But there's no question that it remains the game's most unpredictable stroke-play event thanks to TPC Sawgrass. No one has ever defended his title on Pete Dye's Stadium Course, a track that produces the most maddening track record for even the best tour pros. But Joel Beall and I are brave enough to give our predictions for golf's (very) unofficial fifth major. In this week's podcast, we discuss the underrated key to taming TPC Sawgrass, Rory McIlroy's new equipment, and a curious streak you probably don't know about. Please have a listen:
And if you're more old school and would rather just read my normal weekly fantasy golf picks, here's my fab foursome at the Players:
Sergio Garcia: The reigning Masters champ (Still can't believe I'm typing those words) is actually one of the few golfers who feels comfortable on this Pete Dye track. Garcia won the 2008 Players and is the event's all-time leading money winner. He'll be trying to match Tiger Woods -- the man he famously had a squabble with in 2013 -- as the only player to win the Masters and the Players in the same year (Woods pulled off the feat in 2001). Garcia returning to Ponte Vedra Beach with a green jacket -- and undoubtedly more crowd support -- won't hurt his chances.
Jon Rahm: Sticking with the Spanish theme (after all, TPC Sawgrass' sparkling clubhouse is was redone Mediterranean style), we're rolling with the rookie who has finished in the top 5 in a third of his first 24 career PGA Tour titles.
Jason Day: A year ago, this was almost a foregone conclusion. Day arrived on an incredible roll, shot an opening 63 and cruised to a wire-to-wire win. Even in a trying season so far, Day ranks third in strokes gained: around-the-green. Why do we care? Seven of the past eight Players champs finished that week in the top 10 in scrambling.
Pat Perez: Brian Harman's putt ended Dustin Johnson's bid for a fourth consecutive, but it also kept Perez from possibly becoming the fourth multi-tournament winner of the season. Perez's Players record is a mixed bag, but who's isn't? More importantly, he's seventh in strokes gained: around-the-green, he's made nearly $3.5 million already this season, and he does cool things like this:
Just missed: Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas.
That's right, no Dustin Johnson (no top 25s in eight starts at TPC Sawgrass) or Rory McIlroy, who is newly wed -- both with Erica Stoll and TaylorMade -- in the lineup. For Rory, those are big adjustments to make before a big tournament. Well, the equipment one, at least.
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And for those of you playing other fantasy golf formats:
Yahoo! lineup: Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Adam Hadwin, Sergio Garcia (Starters); Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Jonas Blixt, Jon Rahm (Bench).
Knockout/One-and-done pick: Sergio Garcia.
And here's the podcast link again, if you want to hear Joel and I jabber: