Yahoo Fantasy Golf Contest Tournament Preview- The Players

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff April 19, 2015 15:12

After a week of match play and a week off of the Yahoo contest, the PGA Tour goes back to the traditional stroke play format this week at The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida for The Players Championship. This is always one of the year’s marquee events as it features every player in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings. Tiger Woods sees his first action since he tied for 17th at the Masters and Martin Kaymer will be defending his championship from last season when he outdueled Jim Furyk in the dark. Fresh off his WGC Cadillac Match Play championship, world #1 Rory McIlroy is in the field as well.

TPC Sawgrass is a par 72 course measuring 7,215 yards long, which is exactly the average length of all courses on tour this season. Its signature hole, is the one that everybody identifies TPC Sawgrass by, the par-3, 137-yard 17th, known as the “Island Green”. The hole is actually a peninsula, but surrounded by water nonetheless and the thousands of people behind the green add a huge level of exhilaration. Last year’s 28 balls in the water on the 17th was actually lower than the average which is 45 balls in the water since 2007. The course sprawls over 400 acres in the Florida swampland, and contains narrow fairways lined with marshes and dozens of deep pot bunkers. Thick rough will wreak havoc on stray tee shots as will palm trees, which will obstruct approach shots. The greens are always extremely speedy, which will reward the great putters and bury those that struggle with the flat stick. No two consecutive holes on the Stadium Course play in the same direction, doglegs were created in both directions and care was taken to offer both short and long holes of every par. There are four par 3 holes and four par 5 holes.

We at Fantasy Golf Insider have done a tremendous amount of research into what statistics are important this week and indicate success at TPC Sawgrass. The first statistic that we have found is important is greens in regulation (GIR). Six of the ten players highest ranked in greens in regulation last year finished in the Top 12 of the standings including champion Martin Kaymer who finished 3rd in GIR and runner-up Jim Furyk, who finished 2nd in GIR. These findings are consistent with previous years, including 2013, when the same number of players, six of the top ten highest ranked players in GIR finished in the Top 10 including champion Tiger Woods, who finished 3rd in (GIR). In 2012, champion Matt Kuchar ranked 3rd in GIR as well, are you seeing a trend? These are the types of insights that are invaluable and allow you to identify who will be successful in the upcoming tournament. The fact that TPC Sawgrass is not one of the longer courses on tour, coupled with the narrow fairways, we are going to be avoiding those players that lack accuracy of the tee and approaching the green. Putting is also a key metric this week and we will be making sure to only roster players who have the ability to putt well on these speedy, difficult greens. We will be targeting specifically those players that stand out in both greens in regulation and putting together.

We were wondering whether the guys who played through Sunday this past weekend will be able to bounce back and be effective at The Players. This includes Rory Mcllroy, Jim Furyk, Danny Willett, and Gary Woodland. Those players played seven rounds in five days with 72 holes played over the weekend then travel across country (California to Florida). We looked back to see how players who have played so much at the Match Play the previous weekend have fared immediately after in the next tournament. In 2014 and 2013, none of the final four players in the Match Play event played the following week. In 2012, Rory Mcllroy finished runner up in the WGC Match Play and then turned around and won The Honda Classic 7 days later. Also in 2012, Lee Westwood played through Sunday, placing 4th and turned around and placed 4th the following week at Honda. In 2011, Luke Donald won the Match Play and turned around and took T10 at Honda the following week. Also in 2011, Matt Kuchar placed 3rd at the Match Play and then T17 at Honda the following week. In 2010 Ian Poulter won the Match play and took T24 at Waste Management the following week. Also in 2010, Camillo Villegas played on Sunday and took 3rd at the Match Play and bounced back and took T8 at Waste Management the following week. Overall, although the sample size is small, it appears that players have not struggled bouncing back the following week and have actually thrived, leading us to believe that they are riding a wave of momentum. We are not going to place a tremendous amount of importance on the success of the players who finished well, but we are also not going to penalize them and avoid them completely.

Tournament history is always a key factor that we analyze every week and this week at TPC Sawgrass is no different. A few guys that have had a lot of success here in the past include Henrik Stenson (four Top 10s and a win in 2009), Jim Furyk (four career Top 10s and runner-up last year), and Sergio Garcia (two straight Top 10s and a win in 2008). For a complete tournament history for every player at The Players Championship, check out our tournament history page.

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The favorites:


This week we are giving the nod to Rory Mcllroy as his current form is so good. Obviously he won the WGC Match Play last week, but Prior to last week, Mcilroy had a T9 at the WGC Cadillac, T11 at the Arnold Palmer, and 4th at The Masters. Up until two years ago Rory had missed the cut three times at The Players, but since then he had an 8th in 2013 and a 6th last year. As we mentioned before, playing a lot of rounds and holes in the past few days together with a trip across the country could take its toll on anybody. Based upon our research it has not shown to negatively impact guys in the past so we will give Rory the benefit of the doubt and say that he will be able to respond. We are still hearing about this mysterious illness (flu) that Henrik Stenson has dealt with since before the Masters. This is very concerning and something that we continue to monitor closely. Stenson started on the PGA Tour white hot, but since his illness he has struggled a bit. If illness is not a factor, he is one of our favorite players this week at The Players. He has had a lot of success at TPC Sawgrass in the past with four Top 10s in 9 appearances including a 34th last year, 5th in 2013, and 15th in 2012. He also won this event in 2009. Statistically, he is one of the most dominate players on tour ranking 7th in driving accuracy, 3rd in greens in regulation, 1st in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 1st in Strokes Gained Putting, and obviously 1st in Total Strokes Gained. He is the only one who ranks in the Top 10 of the two key stats we are looking at this week (GIR and Putting). Last weekend he was only 1-2 at the WGC Match Play beating Brendon Todd and losing to John Senden and Bill Haas. He gutted his way through the Masters with a T19 even though he was visibly not healthy. Before that he had three straight Top 5 finishes. Our best advice is to proceed with caution and stay tuned to see if we hear anything more about his health. If everything is fine, we look for Henrik to have a big week. We would avoid Adam Scott this week as he is playing really poorly right now, no doubt a result of the switch in putter issue that has obviously gotten in his head. Sergio Garcia is another option as he has a great tournament history here with two straight Top 10s and a win in 2008. He just has a hard time closing the deal down the stretch. We also really like Jim Furyk as his current form is great (win at RBC Heritage and 4th last week at WGC Cadillac). He has also has had success at The Players with four career Top 10s and a runner-up last year.

Our picks in order: Mcllroy, Stenson, Furyk, Garcia, and Watson

Possible Sleeper: Harris English



The favorites:

D Johnson
Jordan Spieth looked to be on cruise control in the WGC Match Play last week until the 17th hole in his third match when Lee Westwood birdied the par 3 and that was enough to send Spieth to Florida early. In his first two matches, Spieth rolled over Mikko Ilonen and Matt Every. Match Play is so very different than stroke play, that we need to ignore the result completely for Spieth. Check this out- in his three matches he played, Spieth went -6, -7, and -2 for a total of 15 under par through his three rounds. At the same time, Westwood went +1, -3, and -4 for a total of 6 under par. So if it were through three rounds of golf in a stroke play event Spieth would be up on Westwood by 9 strokes. We realize it is not an exact comparison because there are other variables, but impactful nonetheless in illustrating the difference between match play and stroke play, and The Players is stroke play so we love Spieth. We are actually going to go as far as asking you to ignore last week’s results completely from your mind for every golfer. In the 11 events that Spieth had played leading into the match play, he has made 10 cuts, including an incredible seven Top 10s. He has a T4 at Northern Trust, runner-ups at the Shell Houston Open and Valero, and won the Valspar and The Masters. He is dominating the Strokes Gained statistical category on the PGA Tour as he ranks 5th in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 8th in Strokes Gained Putting, and 2nd in Total Strokes Gained. In his only appearance at The Players, Spieth placed 4th last year. We realize Spieth will be the highest owned player this week but do not think you should get to fancy this week as we like him a lot. If you want to go the less owned route take a look at Lee Westwood. He has of the best tournament histories of anybody, including five Top 10s in 12 career appearances and three in the past four years. He took 6th last year and 8th in 2013. Since coming over from the European Tour where he played extremely well, Westwood has kept the momentum going for the most part. A T25 at the Honda Classic, T12 at WGC Cadillac, T17 at Valspar, missed cut at Shell, and T46 at The Masters comprise his last five stroke play tournaments. Last week at the WGC Match Play Westwood disposed of Matt Every, Mikko Ilonen, and world #2 Jordan Spieth to advanced out of his pool. He then lost to Danny Willett in the round of 16 3 and 2. Westwood ranks 95th in greens in regulation, 23rd in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 27th in Strokes Gained Putting, and 13th in Total Strokes Gained. Jimmy Walker is another good option this week and has been playing well this season. He has two wins(Valero and Sony) and is trending positively with his finishes at The Players: 35th in 2012, 15th in 2013, and 6th in 2014. He might be overlooked this week by many, so might be a good option in the Yahoo Contest. Dustin Johnson has been playing incredible lately and we like him a lot most weeks, but this is not a bombers course, so he is not our favorite this week.

Our picks in order: Spieth, Walker, Westwood, Rose, Day, Johnson, Kuchar

Possible Sleeper Pick: Paul Casey


The favorites:

We are looking at a few players that might not be considered the favorites in this group, that we believe will perform up to, if not exceed the results of the favorites. Daniel Summerhays- Since missing a couple of cuts in late January, Summerhays has been putting together a really nice season. He has made 7 consecutive cuts including a T60 in his last event at the RBC Heritage, T4 at Valero, T55 at the Arnold Palmer, T10 at Valspar, and T17 at The Honda Classic. He ranks very well in putting this season at 11th in Strokes Gained Putting, which will be valuable this week. He also ranks 83rd in greens in regulation, 97th in driving accuracy, 78th in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, and 27th in Total Strokes Gained. In his two appearance at The Players he has had a couple of impressive performances with a 23rd last year and a 26th in 2013. Brendon De Jonge– A regular in this column, De Jonge will continue to be featured as long as he continues to perform the way he has. In his last performance he had a T22 at Zurich and before that he had a T18 at RBC Heritage, T5 at the Shell Houston Open, missed cut at Valero, T33 at Valspar, and T10 at Puerto Rico. Last year at The Players, he placed 70th and the two years previous to that he had 15th place finishes. Statistically we like what we see out of De Jonge as he ranks 25th in driving accuracy, 34th in greens in regulation, 42nd in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 80th in Strokes Gained Putting, and 37th in Total Strokes Gained. We have been super high on Kevin Na, while others in the industry have ignored him. His results have rewarded us and our readers greatly with finishes of T12 at The Masters, T20 at Valero, T6 at Arnold Palmer, T10 at Valspar, and T9 at WGC Cadillac. As we mentioned earlier, we are going to ignore the match play event last week as the results are completely irrelevant for the upcoming stroke play events. Na has two Top 10s in eight career events here, including a 7th in 2012 and 3rd in 2009. Last year he finished in 38th place. Na ranks 30th in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 93rd in Strokes Gained Putting, and 30th in Total Strokes Gained. He always seems to fly under the radar, which we like a lot especially in DFS as it allows us to separate from the field. We believe he has a good opportunity to put up a Top 20, if not better this week again. Shawn Stefani has been playing very well lately and has made 12 cuts in 14 events played, with seven Top 25s and two Top 10s. His last four tournaments have produced a T25 at the Shell Houston OpenT26 at Valero, T21 at Arnold Palmer, and T17 at Valspar. His only appearance at The Players was last year and he missed the cut. Statistically he ranks 27th in greens in regulation, 54th in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green, 58th in Strokes Gained Putting, and 38th in Total Strokes Gained. Patrick Reed is the most accomplished player in this group and will be owned by a lot of Yahoo players this week, so it might be best to go another direction. This is the group where we believe you can stand apart from the crowd with your picks as there are a lot of good players that we like to jump up this week and suprise.

Our picks in order: Na, De Jonge, Summerhays, Reed, Steele, Stefani

Possible Sleeper Picks: Justin Thomas and Russel Knox


Best of luck to all of you in the Yahoo contest and let us know how you are doing.


-Fantasy Golf Insider

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff April 19, 2015 15:12

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