The 2020 PLAYERS Championship got started, but never finished. Play was suspended after the first round as COVID-19 shut down sports around the globe. Safety had to come first, but you can bet that the PGA players were a little bit disappointed with the timing. The PLAYERS Championship is the signature event by the players, for the players at TPC Sawgrass.
Oh, yeah, and the prize purse is $15 million deep with $2.7 million for the winner.
That is a big pay day and those that make the cut and survive the challenges of TPC Sawgrass have a nice check waiting for them on Sunday. We’ve got a ton of course form data and a predictably excellent field, so we have a lot to discuss for this year’s version of the unofficial fifth major.
To do that, we’ll survey the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook, where you can sign up and get a deposit bonus worth up to $1,000. Now is a good time to sign up at DK, not just because of the PLAYERS Championship or the Masters, but because we have a lot of conference tournaments and a lot of March Madness coming up.
This is a hard event to win. Tiger Woods is the only active two-time winner, though he is obviously not in the field this week following his car accident. The players that have won this event are by and large really good players. Rory McIlroy is the defending champion and the co-third favorite at +1600 with Jon Rahm. Dustin Johnson is the +1200 favorite and Bryson DeChambeau is the second favorite at +1400. DJ has not played well here in his career.
Before we dig deeper into the odds, we need to talk about this course. This is not a particularly long course. It is a par 72 at about 7,190 yards. Accuracy is oftentimes more important than distance at TPC Sawgrass. That doesn’t mean that a big hitter cannot win, but simply means that length off of the tee isn’t the be-all, end-all at this event.
There are a lot of hazards that run along the fairways and either protect the greens or serve as punishment for those that are offline with the irons. It is not an easy course at all and it is one that takes a little bit of a different skill set from what we typically see.
That will bring some different players into the mix. This is a Pete Dye design where the wind can pick up and the putting surfaces can be feisty. It takes a well-rounded game to win here.
Past Successes – Course Form
Past winners in the field this week are McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, and Si Woo Kim. Martin Kaymer is not in the field this week. There aren’t a lot of guys that consistently shine at Sawgrass. Day and Kuchar have a handful of top-10 finishes. Simpson has three straight top-20 finishes with a couple of 16th-place results bookending his 2018 win.
Hideki Matsuyama has played really well here, which is interesting because his game can be pretty high-variance, especially with the putter. Matsuyama has finished in the top 25 in five of his six starts here.
Ian Poulter actually has two seconds and a few other solid finishes. Justin Rose has a top-25 finish in four of his last six starts here. He withdrew from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, though, so he’s a hard bet to make.
Players to Consider for This Week
Of course, it is still hard to look past Xander Schauffele at +2000. That is a pretty good price on a guy like Schauffele. He often plays his best in fields such as this. He was runner-up back in 2018. He’s been in outstanding form of late.
Because this course is heavy on driving accuracy, there are a few guys to take a long, hard look at for the PLAYERS Championship. One is Sungjae Im, who missed the cut back in 2019, but he’s a much better player now than he was back then. Im is in the top 10 in SG: Off-the-Tee and 11th in driving accuracy. Im is actually going off at +5500 this week with the strength of the field and some hiccups in his recent form.
Tommy Fleetwood at +4500 is another good look this week. Fleetwood was seventh and fifth in 2019 and 2018 here. This is a course that fits his game really well. He’s also a guy that seems to be playing well regularly at this time of year.
One long shot look at +12500 is Kevin Kisner. Kisner putts really well and is a guy that usually hits a lot of fairways. His recent form isn’t great, but he was second back in 2015 and 22nd back in 2019.
Another long shot is Brendon Todd at +16000. Todd hits a ton of fairways and is a pretty crafty player with the irons and wedges. He hasn’t played here since 2016, but he’s been in pretty good form over the last 10 months.
Matchups & Props
Because we’re getting this preview out early, DraftKings has yet to post matchups or props, but we can throw out a few things to consider based on a look at the outright prices. Collin Morikawa at +300 for a top-10 finish is a good look. This is a course where iron play is very important and Morikawa, who isn’t the longest off the tee, should thrive with his fairways and GIRs style. Morikawa is even +125 for a top-20 finish.
Harris English has missed the cut here six straight times. He played better last week at the Arnold Palmer, but his form has not been very good for a while now. He could be a good consideration to miss the cut.
I’d look to fade Jordan Spieth this week. I failed miserably with my suggestion of Corey Conners to miss the cut last week as he finished third, but Spieth has not had much success here, despite his current form. He’s gotten pretty fortunate of late by making a bunch of long putts and has gotten a lot of fortuitous bounces. That luck should run out.
Keep an eye out for this one on Golf Channel and NBC this week.