After a week’s hiatus fantasy golf is back to its regular schedule programing. This week marks the largest event outside of the four major championships and for all intents and purposes really is like a “5th major”. The Players Championship features one of the deepest fields of the year and also one of the richest prize purses as well. For fantasy golfers there is a ton of contests to choose from this week as DraftKings has rolled out both a 300k guaranteed, $100.00 buy-in tournament and a smaller 150k guarantee with a $20.00 buy-in. There’s also qualifiers for both the Live Final World Golf Championships and for the second edition of the PGA Millionaire Maker set to occur June 18th with the US Open.
The Players itself takes place at TPC Sawgrass, a par 72, 7200 yard course that features a lot of sand and water, and that typically emphasizes precision and ball striking over pure power. There are a lot of tight greens and some intimidating approach shots (none more so than the 17th island green) and a strong iron game is needed this week. For my selections I’ve accommodated these trends by placing a strong emphasis on approach proximity, greens in regulation and scrambling statistics. Players who have been precise from between 100-150 yards with their irons have typically done very well here in the past and I doubt that will change much this week.
Additionally, although it might be tempting to chase some hot new players this week, experience is also a large part of having success at this tournament. Many of the past champions had played this event numerous times before finding success at this course. And while certain players have had more success at TPC Sawgrass than others, it should also be noted that a wide variety of players have actually won this event. No one style seems favored over another and those who simply manage their game the best and hit the most quality golf shots will generally outscore those who do not.
DraftKings Picks: The Players Championship
Top Shelf (10k and above)
Jordan Spieth (12800): Although I might normally advocate fading the top priced talent, this week features a very deep field and that means you can create very solid teams with almost any player. Even though it was Rory McIlroy who won the match play last week (and looked great doing so) this course deemphasizes power off the tee and instead favours players with great short games and accurate wedges: enter Jordan Spieth. I think Spieth sets up great this week to nab his second major tournament in the past two months and feel like he’s a must play for cash games. He finished 4th here last year even after a disastrous final round 76, he’s my top choice.
Henrik Stenson (10400): If you are aiming to avoid the top two players in your gpp lineups this week my first choice as an alternate would undoubtedly be Henrik Stenson. Stenson is a past winner at this event and generally has played this course extremely well. He’s a deadly accurate iron player when on and is near the top of the tour in greens in regulation this year. He’s also vastly improved his putting and that may be the difference this week. He’s been sick recently but looked fine at last week’s match play, he’s my top option outside the top two players.
Second Tier (8000 to 9999)
Sergio Garcia (9800): Even though Garcia hasn’t posted a top result for a while his course history this week makes him almost impossible to ignore as a fantasy option. Garcia has played this event ten times in the past years and never missed the cut. He also finished 3rd back in 2013 and won the event in 2008. Say what you want about Garcia’s record in big tournaments, but he has absolutely figured out how to play this golf course and is one of the best iron players on tour. I like Garcia as a very reliable cash game option this week and to possibly even challenge for the title once again.
Jimmy Walker (8800): Walker is this week’s top bargain amoung the higher priced players as he comes in priced significantly lower than he likely should be considering his past accomplishments. Walker has now won 5 times on tour in the past two years and also has shown some great progression at this event. He finished 6th here last year on the heels of a great last round 65 and for all intents and purposes looks like he may have figured out how to have success on this course. He also ranks highly in approach proximity from 100-150 yards and should be able to capitalize on that strength this week. I think Walker offers massive upside at his price and makes for an extremely reliable option in both cash games and gpps.
Rickie Fowler (8500): Fowler is definitely a “not for the nervous” type of pick, but is one I think could pay off very well this week. Fowler has not played very consistent golf this year but he has shown some good signs of late and recently tweeted out that he was hitting the ball extremely well and just needed some putts to drop. I think it’s likely most people will be avoiding Fowler this week given his recent missed cut at the Zurich. Fowler played very well last week at the match play and also has a second place at the Players form 2012. I really like him as an under the radar gpp play and think he could surprise and contend.
Zach Johnson (8200): As I mentioned previously, experience playing this course is a huge asset this week and with Zach Johnson I feel like you are getting a lot of experience at a nicely discounted price. Johnson has made the cut at the Players 9 of the past 10 years and also has a second place finish to his credit. He’s actually played quite solid of late and his iron and approach game looked “locked in” last week in San Francisco. Some people may still feel “burned” by his missed cut at the RBC Heritage but he’s much cheaper than many other players of his caliber on DraftKings this week and offers similar upside. I think he’s someone else who could easily surprise and land you a top ten or better.
Third Tier (6000 to 7999)
Brendon Todd (7300): Todd is the exact sort of player I am targeting for this week once we venture into the lower tiers of pricing. Todd may not offer the same sorts of experience that other players with higher salary’s do but he does have a great game that sets up perfectly for this course. Todd relies on accuracy and great iron play over pure power and is also an outstanding scrambler around the greens. He’s never played in the Players before but I would not let that stop you from using him this week. At his price he could easily nab you a top 10 or top 20 finish which would be great considering his discounted price.
Ian Poulter (7200): Poulter is a rare find this week as he not only offers you great course history at this event but has also been posting some extremely good results so far this year. Poulter nearly won in Florida earlier in the year at the Honda Classic and followed that up with a very solid Masters performance which saw him land in 6th. Like many players who have had success at TPC Sawgrass, Poulter relies on accuracy and good course management over length and that will suit him well here this week. His price is extremely cheap for the upside he brings and I think he may end up being the value play of the entire week.
Morgan Hoffmann (6900): Hoffmann is another good young player I am targeting this week as I think he offers tremendous upside at his discounted price. Hoffmann has now made 5 of his last 6 cuts on tour and has also posted finishes of 4th and 9th place within that span. He played here for the first time last year and ended up finishing 17th which is a great accomplishment in itself. Hoffmann has really showed well in big events in his young career thus far and I think there’s a good chance for him to continue that trend this week. He played extremely well recently at the similarly styled Hilton Head course and his recent play suggests he has a great chance to once again challenge for a top 20 finish.
Alex Cejka (6200): Cejka represents the exact type of play that might be vital to winning to gpps this week. Given the depth of this field Cejka is likely to go overlooked by many but offers some great upside at his very discounted price. In 2009 Cejka was actually leading this event after 54 holes and even though he blew up on the back nine that year he still finished 9th. Cejka recently won his first event on tour and is coming in playing very solid golf. He’ a veteran who’s always played very solid at big events in the past and I think it’s quite possible he puts himself in contention here this week. He makes for a great gpp punt option as he offers upside some other players simply do not.
Bottom Feeders (under 6000)
Matt Every (5900): Even though he can be inconsistent at times, you have to really like the price on Matt Every this week. Every is a solid player who generally relies on precision iron play and great putting, and used both recently to win his second Arnold Palmer Invitational title in March. Every sets up very well for this course and has some shown more consistent play this year after his win (he was 18th recently at Hilton Head). I think Every makes for a great gpp play this week as he is usually either boom or bust, but when he booms he tends to compete for the victory and rack up fantasy points. The course suits him and we may see “good” Matt emerge this week, I’d use him in a few gpp lineups if possible.