Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Fantasy Golf: The Players Championship Preview

We've taken a few shots at the Players Championship (a few?) for everything from its spotty list of champions to the suspect caliber of the golf course on which it's played. Maybe we were too harsh but it's not our fault that from 1997-2012, Tim Clark, Fred Funk, Stephen Ames, Craig Perks and Tiger Woods all had the same number of wins or that Phil Mickelson walked-off the course after missing the cut last year and announced to the assembled press that "I can't believe I've actually won here" not meaning it in the least bit as a compliment.*   

Over the last four years, however, the Players has started to redeem itself with quality winners (Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Tiger and Matt Kuchar) and some drama on the closing holes which, if nothing else, are designed to manufacture action like a Hunger Games arena. So in the spirit of goodwill, we're going to give it the full major treatment with a power rankings preview. No need to thank us. Just let our pick win. And by "our pick" we mean Kevin Na because we've already used/wasted most of the players at the top of the rankings. As of this moment, we're resisting the urge to use Rory . . . though the temptation is growing and that is subject to change.     

Remember that these are value rankings which means that we're looking at sticker prices before we buy so high priced players with no positive vibes like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson don't even draw the slightest consideration and we might check-out the smooth Corinthian leather interior on a Jason Day but he probably won't even warrant a test drive. Despite the seemingly perfect fit of his game on this course, something ain't right because all he has to show for his past efforts is a T19th in 2013 and a T6th in 2011 to go with three missed cuts and a couple of "thanks but no thanks" non-entries. If you don't save Day for a major this year, you should have your head examined . . . by a doctor . . . for defects.  
   
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP POWER RANKINGS

1. Sergio Garcia (Odds: 28/1 . . . $9,900**)  

It seems kind of fitting that Sergio would enjoy a course that no one else likes because Sergio has always been something of a contrarian. (How's that for a positive spin on Sergio?) He won here in 2008, finished 2nd last year and has another runner-up along with a 3rd, 4th and 8th. Forget how he might be playing now. He almost always finds his game in Ponte Vedra. 

No, not that Swede. Nice try though.
2. Henrik Stenson (Odds: 28/1 . . . $9,500)

Stenson is another guy who has displayed some love for TPC Sawgrass with a win in 2009 and three other top tens. It's hard to pinpoint the exact traits required for success on a course that has produced winners ranging from Tiger to Tim Clark but all-around driving would be near the top of the list and look which Swede is at No. 3 in that category this year.

3. Rory McIlroy (Odds: 8/1 . . . $11,700)

With four reachable par fives, Rory will have some places to make-up for the inevitable doubles and he's got a decent trend going at Sawgrass with a T8th, T6th and a T8th in his last three starts. There is at least a 10% chance he annihilates the field this week with one of his fireworks displays so if you're feeling that . . .  

4. Rickie Fowler (Odds: 18/1 . . . $10,600)   

The only reason Rickie isn't at least two spots higher is that he won last year and this is the kind of quirky tournament that no one wins back to back (as evidenced by the fact that no one has ever won it back to back). In addition to last year's title, he finished T2nd in 2012 so the win wasn't a fluke. It doesn't hurt that he's really good at the two things you need to be really good at here - total driving (11th) and putting (23rd).  

5. Kevin Na (Odds: 70/1 . . . $7,800)

This could be a case of me stretching to justify my pick but he does have a T6th last year, a T7th in 2012 and T3rd in 2009. As I sit here imagining what it will be like to root for him on Sunday, however, I find myself longing for other options (like Rory?!?!?).   

6. Jordan Spieth (Odds: 10/1 . . . $11,400) 

It wouldn't be a surprise to see him contend this week and maybe even win because you know he's burning to show everyone that he's shaken the demons from Augusta. However, the fun thing about golf is that effort can often be your enemy, especially when you combine it with a desire to prove something. You gotta let it flow baby and I doubt that Spieth is back to that mindset yet.


Nope. Wrong again.
7. Marc Leishman (Odds: 100/1 . . . $7,300)

We're going all-in on this total driving theory with the guy at the top of the list. And looky here, Leishman is another guy who doesn't hate the golf course with top 25's the last two years and a T8th in 2013.

8. Zach Johnson (Odds: 55/1 . . . $8,300)

Based on the composition of his game (straight driver + great wedge player + good putter), you'd think his resume would include more than just a T2nd in 2012 and five other top twenty finishes. Maybe that just means he's due.

9. Daniel Berger (Odds: 60/1 . . . $8,000)

Berger looks like he could be the solid young gun who makes a run like Kevin Kisner did last year. That's all I got on him. 

10. Billy Horschel (Odds: 60/1 . . . $8,200)

He let us down in New Orleans a couple weeks ago when he opened with a promising 68 before going into the mediocre tank but we'll blame some of that on the rain delays. Decent track record at Sawgrass with a T26th in 2014 and a T13th last year. 

11. Matt Kuchar (Odds: 66/1 . . . $8,100)

Kuch won here in 2012 and has a bunch of other top twenty finishes and I refuse to believe he's done despite the fact that he hasn't had a top five at a PGA event since the RBC Heritage . . . of 2015. What can I say? He even makes his goofy charm work when he's butchering those Skechers commercials. Speaking of which, I played against a guy wearing Skechers the other day. Of course he was from another club and fortunately he left the cargo shorts at home or it would've been really awkward. The lesson as always is that I'm a douche. 


12. Luke Donald (Odds: 100/1 . . . $6,900)

Back when he was good, he was good at Sawgrass with a 6th in 2012 and a T4th in 2011. He's been pretty good lately with a T2nd at the Heritage and a T13th in Texas. Ignore the T71st last week. He had no business being on a course that long against guys like Rory, Justin Rose and James Hahn? (Best line regarding Hahn's missed cut streak came from Jim Nantz . . . "the last time Hahn played on Sunday was on Super Bowl Sunday"). 

13. Kevin Chappell (Odds: 80/1 . . . $7,600)

We're going to double down on Chappell who we picked last week only to watch him blow a fast start by stumbling through the weekend to finish T41st. Not because he plays Sawgrass well but because we can't admit when we're wrong.

Man you suck at this.
14. Martin Kaymer (Odds: 100/1 . . . $7,200)

If you think he's playing badly now, you should have seen him before he won here in 2014. Oh yeah, he also hasn't missed the cut in seven tries. (Not that he tries to miss the cut). 

15. Rafa Cabrera-Bello (Odds: 125/1 . . . $7,100)

He's never played the tournament before but that can be a good thing and he's got four top four finishes in his last seven events around the world plus a T17th at the Masters and a T11th at the WGC-Cadillac so he's got a game that appears to be working everywhere right now.

Footnote

* In classic Players Championship tone deaf self-promotional fashion, they included the clip of Mickelson saying this in one of their ads for the 2016 tournament. Either they didn't get that he was bashing the course or they just figured they'd use it out of context to show what? How proud Mickelson is of his random 2007 Players win? Phil's won five majors including three green jackets to go along with thirty seven other PGA Tour wins, a U.S. Amateur title and three NCAA titles. I'm pretty the Players win isn't the one that causes him to randomly stop in his tracks, smile and say "wow." Remember, this is the tournament that tried way too hard to get itself called the "5th major" like a guy trying to force his own nickname. (Hi my name's Phil but everyone calls me "Razor"). 

** These are DraftKings dollars in case you just woke-up from a seven year coma. If that's the case, welcome back and be sure to check-out Game of Thrones, The Americans and Veep. And oh yeah, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president and we were a few delegates away from him running against a self-avowed socialist. Things got weird.