Power Rankings: THE PLAYERSSAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 07: Jim Furyk hits his drive on the 12th hole during the final round of the Valero Texas Open held at the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio on April 7, 2013 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)May 06, 2013
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
Labeling TPC Sawgrass as Pete Dye's most innovative or most devilish or you-fill-in-the-superlative is a relative discussion for your local 19th hole, but there is no question that the legendary architect mastered the art of nuance all over the host course for THE PLAYERS.
The PGA TOUR's flagship event celebrates its 40th playing this week. It always boasts the deepest field of any non-major. This has a great deal to do with the fact that there's never been a repeat champion since the tournament began in 1974 at Atlanta Country Club. Since TPC Sawgrass first hosted in 1982, only four of the 31 winners have posted as many as two titles at the tournament, and none since Davis Love III in 2003. Of that quartet, only Steve Elkington (1991, 1997) didn't wait over a decade to secure victory No. 2.
While most envision the peninsula green at the famous par-3 17th hole as Dye's signature -- and make no mistake, it is, indeed -- par-72 TPC Sawgrass plays more like a carnival game where the house always wins. However, the law of averages eventually swings toward those with experience. Seven of the last eight champions required a minimum of seven appearances prior to their victories. This includes Matt Kuchar, who defends this week. He won in his eighth trip.
After two years of averaging par or better, TPC Sawgrass scored 72.466 in 2012, fifth-highest among 20 par 72s in non-majors. It's properly described as a ball-striker's track. Since the tournament was shifted to May to coincide with the advent of the FedExCup in 2007, it's averaged among the six longest in proximity to the hole from the rough. Last year's clip of 51'1" was second among all measured courses.
Scoring on the par 3s and 4s is firm but fair, so the mindset upon arrival should be to take advantage of the par 5s, which are gettable. Its fairways-hit percentage of 60.89 a year ago was the lowest since 2007, but it still managed to record its second-highest greens-in-regulation split (64.04 percent) of the last six years.
The notable par 5-3-4 closing stretch averaged 11.937 in 2012 (-0.063 strokes to par). That's primarily due to the 16th hole where everyone in the field of 145 must be thinking birdie (or better) to build a cushion for the demanding finish on the 7,215-yard layout.
Although a weekend deluge closed the course to spectators on Monday, those attending should enjoy warm, dry weather for the majority of the week. A cynic's chance of rain enters the forecast on Friday, but the greater relative threat is not expected to arrive until Sunday. Winds may freshen ever so slightly throughout the week.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among winners of THE PLAYERS Championship in the FedExCup era, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
Power Rankings: THE PLAYERS Championship Rank Player Comment Jim FURYK The local resident has missed just two of his last 16 cuts at TPC Sawgrass and posted eight top 25s. Ranks fifth on TOUR in fairways hit and first in proximity to the hole. Thirteen consecutive cuts made; two top 10s in his last five starts. Adam SCOTT First start anywhere since his Masters victory. Won THE PLAYERS in 2004 and has added three top 15s since. If he had logged enough rounds to qualify for official rankings, he'd sit second in adjusted scoring and fourth in scrambling. Tiger WOODS Only one top 10 (solo eighth, 2009) since his title here in 2001, but he's already a three-time winner on TOUR this season. Leads the circuit in strokes gained-putting, adjusted scoring, par breakers, par-3 scoring (T1) and par-5 scoring. Lee WESTWOOD Gradually climbing the ladder, with a T10 (Houston), T8 (Masters) and T4 (Wells Fargo) in last three starts. Sits T10 in total driving, 13th in adjusted scoring and an impressive eighth in scrambling. Three top-sixes in 10 tries at TPC Sawgrass. Luke DONALD With three top-six finishes among seven cuts made in his last eight appearances, he owns one of the better records at TPC Sawgrass without a victory. The short-game artist took two weeks off since sharing third at the RBC Heritage. Sergio GARCIA The 2008 champ grinded through a sore back to share 16th place at Quail Hollow, padding his total of 16 top 25s in his last 17 starts worldwide. Ranks 10th in strokes gained-putting, third in adjusted scoring and T7 in par-4 scoring. Phil MICKELSON He's survived each of the last 11 cuts at TPC Sawgrass, a stretch that includes a title in 2007 and six top 25s. Held leads after 36 and 54 holes at Quail Hollow last week, but settled for solo third. Led the field in strokes gained-putting. Justin ROSE One top-35 finish in nine appearances at TPC Sawgrass (T22, 2009), but he's posted top 25s in his last 15 starts worldwide. Currently second on TOUR in total driving, sixth in GIR, T7 in proximity, fifth in scrambling and T4 in bogey avoidance. Graeme MCDOWELL Rested since his playoff victory at Harbour Town where he ranked inside the top seven in fairways hit, GIR and strokes gained-putting. Currently T4 in bogey avoidance. No top 25s among four cuts made in five starts at TPC Sawgrass. Kevin STREELMAN Classic example of a guy in his prime thriving in a career season. Since winning in Tampa, he's added a T3 (RBC Heritage) and a T6 (Wells Fargo). Fifth start at TPC Sawgrass; best finish a T19 in 2011. Favorable splits across the board. Brandt SNEDEKER Missed his last four cuts here, but he leads the TOUR in proximity to the hole from the rough (30-feet, 5 inches). Moreover, his lead (4-feet, 11 inches) over second place equals margin between second and T33. Also ranks first in bogey avoidance. Henrik STENSON All of his five cuts made in seven trips to TPC Sawgrass have gone for a top 25. Won by four strokes in 2009. Currently leads the PGA TOUR in total driving and greens in regulation; also 33rd in adjusted scoring and 13th in bogey avoidance. Matt KUCHAR The defending champion logged three top 20s at TPC Sawgrass prior to his two-stroke triumph. Ranks 34th in strokes gained-putting, 16th in adjusted scoring and seventh in both scrambling and bogey avoidance. Also fourth in par-5 scoring. Bo VAN PELT Fresh off his first top 10 of the season (T6, Wells Fargo) where he ranked 13th in total driving, T14 in greens hit and 12th in strokes gained-putting. All three cuts made in eight appearances at TPC Sawgrass are top 10s, including T7 last year. Tim CLARK En route to victory at TPC Sawgrass in 2010, led the field in strokes gained-putting, par-4 scoring and bogey avoidance. Recently placed T11 at the Masters and T24 at the RBC Heritage. Second on TOUR in fairways hit; 21st in bogey avoidance. Rory MCILROY Tied for 10th at Quail Hollow for his third straight top 25. Led last week's field in total driving and greens hit, but ranked T69 in strokes gained-putting. Amid the learning curve at TPC Sawgrass where he's 0-for-3 with no sub-par rounds. Charl SCHWARTZEL Cooled since a torrid winter, but he has 12 consecutive top 25s in stroke-play events. Hasn't played TPC Sawgrass since a career-best T26 in 2011. Ranks 13th in strokes gained-putting, fourth in adjusted scoring and T23 in bogey avoidance. Billy HORSCHEL The only first-timer at TPC Sawgrass in this feature, but he lives locally and ranks among the most in-form golfers in the world right now. Strung together three top 10s as a prelude to his breakthrough victory in New Orleans. K.J. CHOI His win here in 2011 served as the cornerstone for a mammoth season. After an off-year in 2012, he's already tied last year's output of two top 10s this season. Ranks 31st in strokes gained-putting and T28 in adjusted scoring. Ryan MOORE Making his seventh appearance. Hasn't cracked a top 25 at TPC Sawgrass but hasn't missed a cut either. Regained form at Quail Hollow where he tied for sixth after sharing the 18-hole lead. Ranked T21 in ball-striking at Quail Hollow.