Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Fantasy Golf: The Players Championship Preview

Way back in July of 2011 I wrote a recap of the British Open after Darren Clarke's win where I compared the tournament to Mad Men because "it seems like everyone including the kids in the gallery are smoking cigarettes, the announcers make a drinking reference every fifteen minutes and the winner essentially declares during his acceptance speech that he's going to get pissed drunk that night." I then declared it to be the "cool" major and went on to make some very lame general assessments of the other three (give me a break, it was like the seventh post in FGR history and I hadn't even started overusing parenthesis yet).*  

So this random memory led me to wonder what TV show The Players Championship would be. At first I considered overrated shows that use cheap ploys and schlocky storylines to lure viewers like How I Met Your Mother, Sex and the City and This is Us. The problem is that I didn't feel right taking shots at shows I've never actually watched because I've deemed them beneath me intellectually (says the guy who watched every episode of Friends . . . and The Dukes of Hazzard . . . and Melrose Place). Let's keep moving shall we?


I had to look elsewhere. It would have to be some form of television with a really overblown ego combined with a huge inferiority complex to capture the constant self promotion of The Players and its hopelessly pathetic attempts to be regarded as the "5th Major."** (Footnotes are back this week so be sure to read to the bottom). It would also need to be something that relied on a lot of visual gimmicks to cover-up for the fact that, beneath all of the hype, there is zero substance (most who have played TPC Sawgrass are nodding in agreement). And as with most things, the answer was right in front of me all along. 

The Players Championship is the 24-hour cable news of golf tournaments. Go ahead and pick the one out of the big three that you hate the most and think about it. The golf tournament that wants to be legitimized by being called a major is essentially the news networks that want to be legitimized by being called, well, news networks. Consider the following:

The 17th hole is the perfect golf metaphor for Wolf Blitzer's wonderful world of holography where its all about the production value and the actual news is an afterthought. (Wait, the 17th hole is just a 130 yard par 3? Yeah but get this . . . it's surrounded by water. With sharks? Well no but it's still quite scary). 

Dan Hicks and Brian Williams were either separated at birth, developed in the same synthetics lab or both. 

FGR faithful meet Paige.
Paige meet the derelicts.
Johnny Miller is a cross between Bill O'Reilly and Chris Matthews. (Grandpa's cranky again!)

And Peter Jacobsen makes the rubes on Fox & Friends look like Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow and John Chancellor.

I will give The Players credit for creating a relatively entertaining TV show posing as a golf tournament but I will never understand why anyone takes it seriously. Pro golfer Paige Spirinac posted a poll on Twitter*** asking whether The Players should be a major. The poll had over 8,000 votes and the results so far are Yes - 44% and No - 56%. I can only believe that those "yes" voters are the same 44% who think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. (OK that's really only 7% but I know that 7% is part of the 44%).

Here's how we know The Players is not a major: (1) Craig Perks won it for his only professional title and he only qualified for eight majors in his entire career making the cut in two of them; (2) From 1998 to 2007 as Tiger Woods was racking-up fourteen major titles and fourteen WGC titles, he only won The Players once; and (3) They play the final round on Mother's Day. Seriously? I know they're moving it to March next year but that's just absurd. If you want a full rant on that, check-out last year's preview that just cracked me up (God I'm a douche).

If The Players really wants to be in the major conversation, let's call it what it really is - the tournament you win when you're almost but not quite good enough to win a major. The list of guys who've won it and then gone on to eek-out one major later in their career is long and mildly distinguished: Hal Sutton (1983), Fred Couples (1984), Tom Kite (1989), Steve Elkington (1991), Davis Love, III (1992), David Duval (1999), Adam Scott (2004), Sergio Garcia (2008) and Henrik Stenson (2009). In fact, outside of Tiger (who won it again in 2013), the list of players who have won it twice at Sawgrass reads like the who's who of guys who underachieved by only winning one major (Couples, Sutton, Love and Elkington). Based on that, I can almost guarantee you that Sergio or Adam Scott will win another one. 

This layout makes me feel like I'm
going shopping for a training bra.
Note, however, that this bodes well for recent winners Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar but they kind of help prove the point don't they? As do other almost (but not quite) major worthy types who have played well at Sawgrass like Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Francesco Molinari. So what exactly do you call a golf tournament regularly won by players who appear almost ready to win a major but just need a little more time to mature. Hmmm . . . (scratching my chin and looking skyward) . . . 

Despite all of this, I still have to forecast this turd which brings us to another reason why this tournament sucks. You can never count on a leaderboard stacked with the best golf has to offer at the time. Since 2009, the only guys to finish top five more than once are Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Ian Poulter and Ben Freakin' Crane a/k/a five guys who have combined to win two majors. Dustin Johnson has finished in the top twenty-five once in nine tries and Jordan Spieth has missed the cut the last three years. Check-out the chart below and note the almost completely random scattering of top ten finishes by all levels of players over the past five years. If this was a shot dispersion chart for an 8-iron, you'd assume the shaft was made out of linguine. 

It also doesn't seem to matter if you've been playing well when you arrive as Si Woo Kim proved last year having missed the cut or withdrawn from eleven of the sixteen events he played before winning The Players by three shots. Jason Day came in hot when he won in 2016 but Rickie Fowler was on a roll of mediocrity before his victory in 2015. I guess the one thing you could say is that the course favors ball strikers over the putters and doesn't seem to care where you're from which would explain the somewhat consistent success of players like Sergio, Henrik Stenson and Adam Scott. With that in mind, I give you the following ten man roster of multinational golfers who have as good a shot to win as anybody led by FGR pick of the week and future multiple major runner-up Alex Noren. I can envision him now taking the lead on the back nine just as I turn-off the TV and sit down to Mother's Day dinner.  

A reference to The Other Guys
can really only mean one thing.
The One and Done Pick: Alex Noren

The Other Guy I'd Pick: Justin Thomas

The Sleeper Pick: Rory Sabbatini

The DraftKings Top Ten Values


Justin Thomas
$10,800
Rickie Fowler
$9,600
Sergio Garcia
$9,000
F. Molinari
$8,100
Alex Noren
$7,900
Matt Kuchar
$7,800
Emiliano Grillo
$7,500
Chesson Hadley
$7,400
Kyle Stanley
$7,200
Rory Sabbatini
$6,700

I suppose the two glaring omissions are Day who just won at Quail Hollow and Rory McIlroy who is the one top player with a respectable recent track record. Let's start with Day who, aside from his win and a tie for 6th in 2011, has been ok to awful at The Players with three missed cuts and a tie for 60th last year. I see a few typical Sawgrass bad bounces bothering him early and causing a lack of interest going into the weekend. As for Rory, I don't think he's all the way back yet and the second round 76 last week has me nervous because that could be an 82 at Sawgrass. On the other hand, he's probably going to blister this course one year and win by double digits. If you think this is the year, you have my blessing to pick him.   

                                THE LINGUINE SHAFT DISPERSION CHART


DK Price
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
Rory McIlroy
$11,600
T35
T12
T8
T6
T8
Jason Day
$11,400
T60
1st
MC
DNP
T19
Jordan Spieth
$11,100
MC
MC
MC
T4
DNP
Justin Thomas
$10,800
T75
T3
T24
DNP
DNP
Dustin Johnson
$10,300
T12
T28
T69
T59
W/D
Rickie Fowler
$9,600
T60
MC
1st
T77
MC
Jon Rahm
$9,300
T72
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
Justin Rose
$9,100
T65
T19
MC
T4
MC
Sergio Garcia
$9,000
T30
T54
T2
3rd
T8
Paul Casey
$8,900
T22
T23
W/D
DNP
DNP
Henrik Stenson
$8,800
T16
MC
T17
T34
T5
Patrick Reed
$8,700
T22
MC
T24
MC
DNP
Tiger Woods
$8,600
DNP
DNP
T69
DNP
1st
H. Matsuyama
$8,500
T22
T7
T17
T23
DNP
Phil Mickelson
$8,400
T41
MC
MC
MC
MC
B. DeChambeau
$8,300
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
T. Fleetwood
$8,200
T41
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
F. Molinari
$8,100
T6
T7
DNP
T6
MC
Kevin Kisner
$8,000
T56
MC
T2
DNP
DNP
Alex Noren
$7,900
10th
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
Bubba Watson
$7,900
MC
T43
T42
T48
T37
Ian Poulter
$7,800
T2
T57
T30
T65
MC
Matt Kuchar
$7,800
82nd
T3
MC
T17
T48
Brooks Koepka
$7,700
T16
T35
MC
DNP
DNP
L. Oosthuizen
$7,700
T2
T28
T69
MC
T19
Marc Leishman
$7,700
MC
T64
T24
T23
T8
Billy Horschel
$7,600
MC
T28
T13
T26
MC
Daniel Berger
$7,600
T65
T9
MC
DNP
DNP
Brian Harman
$7,500
T53
T54
T8
MC
MC
Emiliano Grillo
$7,500
11th
MC
DNP
DNP
DNP
Patrick Cantlay
$7,500
T22
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
Tony Finau
$7,500
MC
MC
DNP
DNP
DNP
Zach Johnson
$7,500
T48
T54
T13
T26
T19
Adam Scott
$7,400
T6
T12
T38
T38
T19
Brandt Snedeker
$7,400
DNP
MC
MC
T48
T8
Chesson Hadley
$7,400
DNP
MC
T24
MC
DNP
Kevin Chappell
$7,400
T35
2nd
MC
T26
T68
Luke List
$7,400
MC
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
R. Cabrera-Bello
$7,400
T4
MC
DNP
DNP
DNP
Tyrell Hatton
$7,400
T41
DNP
DNP
DNP
DNP
Adam Hadwin
$7,300
T30
T39
MC
DNP
DNP
Pat Perez
$7,300
T22
DNP
T17
T48
MC
Webb Simpson
$7,300
T16
DNP
T66
MC
T19
Brendan Steele
$7,200
T6
T57
MC
T26
MC
Charley Hoffman
$7,200
T30
MC
T30
T38
T37
Chris Kirk
$7,200
T12
W/D
T13
T13
T55
Gary Woodland
$7,200
T75
T28
MC
T11
DNP
Jason Dufner
$7,200
T60
T49
MC
T48
T62
Jimmy Walker
$7,200
T56
MC
MC
T6
T15
Kevin Na
$7,200
W/D
MC
T6
T38
DNP
Kyle Stanley
$7,200
T4
DNP
DNP
71st
T33
Russell Henley
$7,200
T35
MC
T24
T17
MC
Si Woo Kim
$7,200
1st
T23
DNP
DNP
DNP
Kevin Streelman
$7,100
T72
T74
MC
MC
T2
Lucas Glover
$7,100
T6
DNP
DNP
MC
MC
Russell Knox
$7,100
MC
T19
T17
T34
DNP
Bill Haas
$7,000
MC
T43
T4
T26
MC
Martin Kaymer
$6,900
T69
T39
T56
1st
T43
Ryan Palmer
$6,900
MC
T23
MC
T59
T5
Rory Sabbatini
$6,700
DNP
DNP
T6
T38
71st

Footnotes

* It's amazing how raw and unrefined I was back then as opposed to the graceful, dignified writer I have evolved into since. I kind of miss the unbridled bitterness I had on display back then. May need to work on getting some of that back and no better time to start than the present.


** Arguably the greatest dig at The Players and TPC Sawgrass came from Phil Mickelson after he missed the cut in 2015 and told the press room "I can't believe I've actually won here." Of course NBC then used a clip of that quote to promote the tournament in 2016 completely oblivious to the fact that he in no way meant it as a compliment. 

*** As evidence that Twitter is humanity's black light for delusional thought, one guy responded to the poll by saying "I think the 'majors' are nothing more than another tournament. In my opinion the only major is the fed ex championship!" The exclamation point at the end leads me to believe that it's Dan Hicks tweeting under a fake account.   

Email the Fantasy Golf Report at fgr@fantasygolfreport.com
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