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This week’s stop on the PGA Tour is huge for golf fans, as it signifies the legitimate start to the golf season. Weather is starting to warm, and all of the stars will be out at TPC Sawgrass competing in the 5th major. This is one of the new elevated events, so names like Rahm, McIlroy, Scheffler, Thomas, and Spieth will all be putting their talents on display this week.
Last week brought us many outright heartbreakers, as I gave out 3 outright winners that finished within 2 strokes of Kitayama. We will employ the same strategies this week, and hopefully hit our first outright winner this PGA Tour season!
Let’s travel to Ponte Verde Beach, Florida and take a look at the course. TPC Sawgrass has hosted The Players Championship for 43 years, since the course opened in 1980. Driving accuracy is extremely important at this track, which offers a change of pace from the courses the Tour has visited this season. Most courses offer benefits to those that bomb the ball off the tee, but not Sawgrass. While distance off the tee is a skill that is universally beneficial on tour, its elevating properties are dampened here at Sawgrass.
Driving accuracy is the only skill that is more important at Sawgrass compared to the average of other courses. Every other stat (driving distance, approach, around green, and putting) are less important at Sawgrass than your average PGA Tour course. However, we can see that approach is the second most important trait, followed by driving distance, putting, and around the green bringing up the rear.
It is also worth mentioning that TPC Sawgrass is a niche course, and players that have had success in the past will continue to have success. This is something to consider when looking at the field, and we can assume that first time players may have some trouble this week.
So which golfers are the best fit at Sawgrass?
Russell Henley (+11000) - Henley has posted positive strokes gained in driving accuracy in the last 5 tournaments he has played in. What he lacks in distance, he makes up for in the strokes he gains by being accurate in his approach and off the tee.
Collin Morikawa (+2500) - Morikawa has been extremely accurate off of the tee this season, but his recent performance has been lackluster. He missed the cut at this event last year, and in his debut in 2021 he finished T41. Collin may be someone to fade heading into this tournament.
Joel Dahmen (+25000) - Golf’s newest darling. Since the debut of First Swing on Netflix, Dahmen has stolen the hearts of casual golfers with his chill misdemeanor and plethora of drinking stories. Dahmen is another player who has been spot on off the tee and his approach shots have been on par as well. He has struggled so far this year, but Dahmen has seen success here in the past. He is averaging 1.85 strokes gained in 3 years playing at Sawgrass, tallying two top 40 finishes and one missed cut. This could be where Joel gets back on track!
Si Woo Kim (+6600) - Kim already has one win on the season, which came in January at the Sony Open. Kim is a former winner, and has not missed a cut here in the last 5 seasons. In addition to his local success, he has yet to play a tournament this year where he hit less fairways than the tournament average. He has had no trouble finding fairways, and if he can get that putter going Kim could see some success this week.
Viktor Hovland (+2800)
Justin Thomas (+2000)
SungJae Im (+3500)
Russell Knox (+5000)
Rickie Fowler (+6000)
Aaron Rai (+25000)
Keith Mitchell (+5500)
Corey Conners top Canadian (+230) - Conners has not missed a cut since last September, and has multiple top 20 finishes. Conners has not missed a cut at the Players in the last 5 years, finished 7th in 2021, and is poised to have a nice week in Ponte Verde Beach!
SungJae Im 1st Round Leader (+4000) - Im has had great success off the tee this season, and is a great course fit for TPC Sawgrass. He has had multiple top 10 finishes in 2023, and his 67.9 first round scoring average is the 4th best on the PGA Tour.
The rest of my picks will be logged on the Award Winning Action Network App! Let me know on twitter (@wilkersonadylan) if you are tailing!