Fantasy preview: THE PLAYERS Championship

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May 08, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist

Before you make the assumption that investing in all of the world's elite this week is a safe call, consider that just six golfers in the field have posted multiple top 10s in the five years since the major renovations at TPC Sawgrass prior to the 2007 edition.

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Power Rankings
Rob Bolton breaks down THE PLAYERS field in this week's Power Rankings and provides five players who could surprise.

Ben Crane has the most with three (2008-10). The following have two apiece: Aaron Baddeley (2009, 2011), Tim Clark (2009, 2010), Sergio Garcia (2007, 2008), Henrik Stenson (2008, 2009) and David Toms (2009, 2011). While not too shabby, that's not exactly a Murderer's Row of fantasy value.

Stick with what fits and guys that have played well of late. Given the element of randomness over the years at this event, chances are you'll have a leg up later if you holster the elite now.

Last week in PGA TOUR Matchups on Facebook, I went 3-1-1, raising my overall record to 36-27-2 for 78 points. Chris Stolle also recorded a 3-1-1 ledger to become the first gamer to 100 points. He leads Frank (2-2-1 at Quail Hollow), 100-98.

My picks for THE PLAYERS:Phil Mickelson over Tiger WoodsRory McIlroy over Rickie FowlerSergio Garcia over K.J. Choi • Hunter Mahan over Ben Crane • Vijay Singh over Davis Love III

Power Rankings Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)

Group A ... Luke Donald (3); Zach Johnson (6); Steve Stricker (8); Sergio Garcia (10); Matt Kuchar (11); Nick Watney (12); Webb Simpson (13); Phil Mickelson (17)

Group B ... Lee Westwood (1); Rory McIlroy (2); Hunter Mahan (4); Jason Day (5); Ernie Els (7); Justin Rose (16); Ryan Moore (18); Rickie Fowler (19); Brian Davis (20)

Group C ... Jason Dufner (9); Francesco Molinari (14); Ben Curtis (15)

Sleepers Distribution for Yahoo! (rank)

Group A ... none

Group B ... none

Group C ... Bud Cauley; James Driscoll; Harris English; Matt Every; Alvaro Quiros

On a Roll (Yahoo! Group)

Louis Oosthuizen (C) ... Before I even knew that my Power Rankings had published, I was hammered on Twitter for omitting the South African. It's a fair argument given his form since October. Particularly impressive is his solo third in Houston, a playoff loss at the Masters and a win in Malaysia the following week. However, this is just his second appearance at TPC Sawgrass. No question he's this week's snub from the Power Rankings but I'm tempering my enthusiasm given the matchup.

John Rollins (B) ... Not so much piecing together consecutive successes inasmuch as capitalizing on the opportunities he's created. In his last five starts, he's traded two missed cuts with three top 20s, including a T7 in his last event in New Orleans. Sits first on TOUR in total driving and 30th in greens in regulation. Finished T13 at TPC Sawgrass in 2010.

Robert Garrigus (A) ... A sneaky fit despite his forgettable record here. He's eighth on TOUR in greens hit and 26th in adjusted scoring. Also rolls in with top 15s in his last two starts.

Ian Poulter (B) ... TPC Sawgrass is the site of one of his three best finishes in a stroke-play event on the PGA TOUR; he finished alone in second place in 2009. More recently, he's posted top 15s in three of his last four starts worldwide.

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Rob's Yahoo! lineup
Group A: Luke Donald; Zach Johnson
Group B: Jason Day; Hunter Mahan; Rory McIlroy; Lee Westwood
Group C: Ben Crane; Jason Dufner
YAHOO! STATS: 2,458 points; 28,014th place
SPRING: 533 points (19,928th)
ONE-AND-DONE: Luke Donald
2012 EARNINGS: $1,961,720.00
DUFFER: D.J. Trahan
2012 EARNINGS: $267,779.50

George McNeill (A) ... Coming off consecutive top 25s the last two weeks. Ranks seventh on TOUR in scrambling. Making his fourth appearance at TPC Sawgrass (1-for-3; T58 in 2010).

Scott Piercy (C) ... Top 25s in four of his last six starts, including top 20s in his last two. Ranks 56th on TOUR in greens hit. Shared 22nd place at TPC Sawgrass in his first look in 2009.

Horses for Courses (Yahoo! Group)

Jim Furyk (A) ... He and Vijay Singh are notable local residents that have never won this tournament. Furyk's most recent of three top 10s here occurred in 2009 (T5). He's enjoying a nice bounce-back season with five top 25s in nine starts. Ranks 52nd on TOUR in greens hit and 14th in scrambling.

Ben Crane (C) ... Connected top-six finishes here from 2008-2010. Top 25s in two of his last three starts this year, including a T21 at Quail Hollow. Ranks 57th on TOUR in both fairways hit and greens in regulation; also 12th in the all-around. An outstanding choice in Yahoo!

Graeme McDowell (C) ... Held the 54-hole lead here last year, and was the only golfer to open with three rounds in the 60s before fading with a 79 to finish T33. Currently leads the PGA TOUR in fairways hit, but it's more relevant that he's a lofty 24th in greens in regulation and 21st in the all-around.

David Toms (B) ... En route to last year's playoff loss, he co-led the field in fairways hit and ranked T4 in greens in regulation. Last week at Quail Hollow, he missed 24 GIR but suffered only seven bogeys. Currently 10th on TOUR in scrambling and 52nd in GIR. If you're saving starts on others in Yahoo!'s Group B, Toms is a suitable substitute.

Aaron Baddeley (C) ... His ball-striking split (157th) is at a three-year low, and I was tempted to dump him into "Danger" below given his play of late -- 2-for-4 with no top 35s -- but his top 10s here in 2009 and 2011 are too strong to dismiss.

J.B. Holmes (A) ... Top 20s in four of his last five appearances, including a career-best T6 last year. Three top 15s this season. Virtually impossible to endorse in Yahoo!, however.

Sean O'Hair (A) ... It wouldn't be a PLAYERS preview if we didn't again take a moment of silence for his 71st-hole meltdown in 2007. He's posted three top 25s in six appearances, led by that 11th-place finish five years ago. Coming off a T15 at Quail Hollow, and has missed just one cut all year.

Chris Stroud (B) ... In two appearances at TPC Sawgrass, he's finished T10 (2010) and T12 (2011). Top 25s in seven of his 12 starts this year, including five in his last seven.

Leaking Oil (Yahoo! Group)

Bill Haas (B) ... Since winning the Northern Trust Open, he's gone 3-for-5 in stroke-play events with no top 25s. Missed the cut in his last two. Also 2-for-5 at TPC Sawgrass with zero top 35s.

Retief Goosen (B) ... He's 0-for-2 since getting treatment on his back. Also 179th on TOUR in greens in regulation. TPC Sawgrass is not the spot where he's going to find any confidence if he needs it.

Henrik Stenson (C) ... Before missing his last two cuts at TPC Sawgrass, he rattled off four consecutive top 25s capped by a victory in 2009. Strung together five top 25s worldwide this season before a T40 at the Masters. Alas, he's missed his last two cuts.

Paul Casey (C) ... After four consecutive missed cuts worldwide, he posted a T25 in South Korea two weeks ago. Only cut made in his last six starts at TPC Sawgrass was a T14 in 2009 when he was sixth in the Official World Golf Ranking. No one in the top 97 of the current OWGR has earned fewer points this year.

Robert Allenby (B) ... Since losing in that epic playoff at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, he's 4-for-6 with no top-35 finishes. In his last three starts, he's gone MDF-MC-MC.

Scott Stallings (B) ... Since returning from torn cartilage in his ribs, the first-timer at TPC Sawgrass is 2-for-6 with no top 25s. Missed his last three cuts.

Matt Bettencourt (C) ... No stranger to this section, unfortunately. Since a T6 at Harbour Town, he's sandwiched a withdrawal in New Orleans (eye injury) with a pair of missed cuts. Hasn't made a cut at TPC Sawgrass in any of his three previous trips.

Tom Pernice Jr. (C) ... Fully exempt on the PGA TOUR, the 52-year-old has opted for a full schedule on the circuit versus the Champions Tour. However, he's missed his last seven cuts and hasn't posted a top 40 among his three cuts made.

Danger (Yahoo! Group)

K.J. Choi (A) ... It bears repeating that he has his spots where he's contended annually, but with no top 30s in his last six stroke-play events, the defending champion has given us very little reason to invest.

Tiger Woods (B) ... The events of the last two and a half years have taught us that we need to lean more on current form than course history. That line is blurred since his experience just about everywhere he competes is superb. Ignoring his withdrawals at TPC Sawgrass the last two years -- because the relevance of both died long ago -- he's finished T37 (2007) and eighth (2009) since the major renovations in advance of the 2007 edition. More recently, his missed cut at Quail Hollow further revealed inconsistency that has plagued him over the last 30 months. The verdict for his inclusion here hinges on the vagaries for which TPC Sawgrass is infamous. If you're in a duffer league and forced to burn Woods, this is the week.

Adam Scott (A) ... He's finished inside the top 20 in his last eight stroke-play events worldwide, but this is just his sixth start of 2012. His only top 25 at TPC Sawgrass in his last six trips was a T6 in 2007.

Brandt Snedeker (B) ... Currently riding an active streak of 15 consecutive cuts made that includes 10 top 25s, he shouldn't be ruled out anywhere. However, his wayward iron game is exposed at TPC Sawgrass. After a T12 in 2007, he's failed to break par in his last six rounds and missed his last three cuts.

Keegan Bradley (A) ... Since finishing T27 at the Masters, his first result outside the top 25 at the time, he's missed two consecutive cuts due primarily to an inability to avoid the big number. He finished last of the 72 that completed four rounds in his debut at THE PLAYERS last year.

Tim Clark (B) ... Two years have passed since he broke through at THE PLAYERS; it remains his lone PGA TOUR victory. More importantly, and unfortunately, he's yet to regain form since returning to competition following surgery on his right elbow last August. His only cut made in six starts this year was a T37 at Harbour Town.

Ryan Palmer (B) ... Tempting given he's coming off his first top 20 of the year, a T4 in New Orleans, but he's a mere 1-for-6 at TPC Sawgrass with a T75 in 2007.

Medic! (Yahoo! Group)

Gary Woodland (B) ... Returns following an injury to his left wrist that bumped him from the Masters after 54 holes. Missed the cut in his debut at TPC Sawgrass last year. Hasn't posted a top 25 in his last eight starts this season.

Bo Van Pelt (B) ... Walked off Quail Hollow after 27 holes last week due to an injury in his left wrist. Later the same day, wrote on Twitter: "Hopefully a few days rest will allow me to go next week." Fortunately for us, the depth of the field precludes taking a flier here.

Davis Love III (C) ... The two-time PLAYERS champ (1992, 2003) has been sidelined with a cracked rib since withdrawing at Bay Hill after three rounds seven weeks ago. Given his history at TPC Sawgrass and the value of his experience, don't fade him.

Harrison Frazar (B) ... Rested the last two weeks due to discomfort in his hip. It's unknown if it's the same hip on which he had surgery in the summer of 2010, but his track record at TPC Sawgrass doesn't warrant the risk anyway. He's 5-for-10 with zero top 30s.

D.J. Trahan (C) ... Withdrew from last week's Wells Fargo Championship after three holes due to a back injury. He hadn't survived a cut in his previous three starts. Also 1-for-6 at TPC Sawgrass with a T51 in 2008.

Notable WDs (Yahoo! Group)

Bubba Watson (B) ... Taking time off for his family.

Dustin Johnson (B) ... Continues to rest his back.

Anthony Kim (B) ... He's withdrawn during his last three starts due to discomfort in his right elbow and right wrist.

Paul Goydos (B) ... Out until summer as his left wrist heals from surgery on March 13.

Fred Couples (C) ... Withdrew due to an illness on Monday. Didn't play last week's Champions Tour event due to the flu.

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