Preview: THE PLAYERS Championship
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This week the PGA Tour heads to Ponte Vedra, FL for THE PLAYERS Championship, being played at TPC Sawgrass.
THE PLAYERS boasts one of the strongest fields of the entire year and one of the largest prize purses. The host course, TPC Sawgrass, has been a staple of the event and is famous for its iconic 17th Par-3 island green. The course plays as a Par-72 at 7,189 yards with many hazards as the first line of defense. Water will be in play on 17 of 18 holes, which will lead to a lot of the randomness we tend to see at this event year in and year out.
The field will not overpower Sawgrass from the tee box, but they will need to be precise to avoid all of the trouble. There are also four holes that the field typically does not use the driver on, taking away this weapon for the bombers. In fact, in 2016 when Jason Day won the event, he only used driver on 32% of Par 4s/5s, opting to use irons 41% of the time! Iron play is always key most weeks but quite evident amongst the past champions of this event. Success around the green has also been shown as a way to gain on the field more than at the average tour course and there is a higher cost for missing greens in regulation at TPC Sawgrass.
The first golfer who caught my eye on the Tipico odds board was Tyrrell Hatton at 30/1. The No. 7 ranked golfer in the world has cooled off a little bit but bounced back nicely last week to finish 22nd despite opening the tournament +5. His long-term form has been incredibly good, built on strong iron play at putting; a winning combination for Sawgrass. He is, by far, the best putter of the upper-tier iron players in this field, all the while being no slouch around the greens and off the tee. The depth of the field has pushed him to 30/1 and hopefully, we can take advantage.
Another one of the field's elite iron players, Will Zalatoris, is the next target at 70/1. Although he has not yet secured a victory on the PGA Tour, Zalatoris has flashed his brilliance multiple times during his short stint playing tour events, and a win is just over the horizon. It would be quite incredible for this to be the week considering he’s not yet a full-time member of the tour so grabbing his first victory at their pinnacle event would be a truly amazing story. When I say “elite,” that is not hyperbole; Zalatoris has been one of the best iron players in the world over his limited rounds with strokes gained data, posting numbers that compete with, or exceed, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa. It will be a tall task in this field but as we saw at the US Open in the fall, he’s more than capable of finding his way onto the leaderboard playing with the world's best.
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