THE PLAYERS Championship isn't match play, but it's just as difficult to pick a champion. It is for this reason that this is the best week of the year to paint outside the lines. Avoid traditional logic and strategy. A sound game plan blends guys with a strong track record at TPC Sawgrass and those playing well of late. Some may define this approach as "saving starts," but the field is so deep that you have no choice anyway.
This is a plum opportunity for gamers needing a big week. It's the richest tournament on the schedule and it offers a distribution of FedExCup points equal to the majors. One of the most critical dynamics is to remain committed. THE PLAYERS can talk you both in and out of every golfer.
Look for my choices for PGATOUR.COM’s fantasy game in Expert Picks. My one-and-done selection, analysis and season totals will appear in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
On a Roll
David Lynn ... En route to his playoff loss at the Wells Fargo Championship, he ranked T70 in greens hit but fourth in scrambling and third in strokes gained-putting. His clinic included a 60-for-63 conversion rate inside 10 feet. He also led the field in par-3 scoring and ranked T5 in par-4 scoring.
Kyle Stanley ... Arrives on the coattails of an impressive fortnight that includes a solo third in a shootout in New Orleans and a T6 on challenging putting surfaces in Charlotte. Ranks 35th in ball-striking but 184th in strokes gained-putting. Missed the cut in his debut here last year.
Jason Day ... All four of his top 25s this season are top 10s, and he's riding a consecutive cuts made streak of 13. Tied for sixth here in 2011.
D.A. Points ... Since winning the Shell Houston Open with his mom's putter, he's risen from 173rd in strokes gained-putting to T86. He added a solo second in New Orleans and tied for 16th last week at Quail Hollow.
Chris Kirk ... Active consecutive cuts made streak of nine includes five top 25s. He ranks ninth on TOUR in strokes gained-putting, second in scrambling, ninth in adjusted scoring and eighth in bogey avoidance.
Horses for Courses
Nick Watney ... Thanks to email and Twitter, he's easily the most notable snub from my Power Rankings, and rightfully so. He appeared in the feature in each of the last two weeks and posted a T15 and T10, respectively. Last week's experience at Quail Hollow opened with a co-leading, bogey-free 67 and closed with a birdie-free 76, which ultimately bumped him from my top 20. But with a T17 (2010) and T4 (2011) at TPC Sawgrass, he earns another endorsement, just not as strong.
Jason Dufner ... Although he's yet to post a top 10 on the PGA TOUR in 10 starts this season, he's exactly the kind of investment into which gamers chasing the lead buy. He's a tee-to-green specialist with a proven record of showing up in the biggest events. He's 3-for-4 at TPC Sawgrass with a T6 in 2011.
Carl Pettersson ... Two top 10s among five cuts made in his last six starts at TPC Sawgrass. This includes a T10 last year when he ranked T21 in greens hit and converted all 54 chances from five feet and in.
Ian Poulter ... The 2009 runner-up has missed just two cuts in nine appearances. He co-led after an opening 65 last year en route to a T25.
Zach Johnson ... Due primarily to inconsistent putting, he's fulfilled every fade thus far, unfortunately. However, with seven cuts made in eight appearances at TPC Sawgrass, a slate that includes a T2 last year and four other top 25s, this sets up as a great opportunity to rekindle the fire.
Martin Kaymer ... Hasn't turned in a top-25 finish in a stroke-play event on the PGA TOUR since last year's U.S. Open, but he's 4-for-4 at TPC Sawgrass with top 20s in his last two appearances.
Ben Curtis ... After four consecutive cuts made (following four straight missed cuts) at TPC Sawgrass, he shared runner-up honors last year. That occurred during his torrid spring stretch, so adjust accordingly as he's just 5-for-10 this season with only one top 25 in a full-field event (T21, Bay Hill).
David Toms ... Despite his cachet, he's probably flying under the radar in many formats since he hasn't posted a top 10 among six cuts made in eight starts this year, but he shared 13th place at the Masters, which cannot be overlooked. Top 10s in three of the last four editions of THE PLAYERS.
Bob Estes ... While last year's T15 at this event is a career-best in 21 appearances, it allows for a segue into a solid 2013. He's 8-for-10 with one top 10 (T7, Valero Texas Open) and another two top 25s. Overall, he's 61st in strokes gained-putting, fourth in scrambling and second in bogey avoidance.
Not So Fast
Bubba Watson ... A rare inclusion in this category. While you can't rule him out anywhere, his recent inconsistency is enough to land him here. He's also still chasing his first top 35 in what is now his sixth appearance at TPC Sawgrass. That said, his record speaks to the proven learning curve at the track.
Steve Stricker ... If there's a venue at which you're going to remain hands-off, it's TPC Sawgrass where he's missed the cut in half of his 16 appearances and has just one top 10 (T6, 1999).
Bill Haas ... Disappointed a legion of owners last week in Charlotte with an opening 79. He rebounded with a 70 but missed the cut. If you can discount one bad round (that included a quadruple bogey-9) -- and I can -- then remain on board. However, last year's T25 at TPC Sawgrass was his best finish in six appearances and he's struggled closing out tournaments this season. There are strong arguments to endorse him -- five top 10s in 2013, impressive splits throughout his bag, third on TOUR in bogey avoidance -- so the moral of this story is not to hedge against him.
Webb Simpson ... A relative fade. Just 1-for-4 at THE PLAYERS with a T69 in 2011. Settled for a share of 32nd place at Quail Hollow last week.
Lucas Glover ... You have to hand it to him. He's performed well with the knowledge that his last shot may have been his, well, last. His wife is due to deliver the couple's first child on May 16 and he vowed that he's leaving if the phone rings, but he shared fourth in New Orleans and tied for 27th in Charlotte, albeit posting increasingly higher scores throughout the tournament at Quail Hollow.
Rickie Fowler ... Quintessential high risk-high reward option. One of four co-runners-up last year, but he has zero top 30s in three starts since a T3 at Bay Hill this season.
Hunter Mahan ... Didn't deliver on last week's endorsement. Failed to survive the 54-hole cut in his second consecutive start. Last top 70 was a T21 at Bay Hill. Tee-to-cup splits are solid, but he's not avoiding big numbers. Currently 122nd on TOUR in scrambling and 114th in bogey avoidance.
Charles Howell III ... Logged his fifth top 10 of the season last week in Charlotte to end an 0-for-2 slide, but he's missed the cut in his last five trips to TPC Sawgrass where he has zero top 30s in 11 starts.
Louis Oosthuizen ... A roll of the dice in fantasy circles. Finished in fifth place at the Ballantine's Championship two weeks ago and T10 in Houston in late March, but alternated with missed cuts in Tampa and at the Masters. Hasn't survived the cut in both trips to TPC Sawgrass.
Robert Garrigus ... Shared the opening-round lead at Quail Hollow where he finished T27, but he regressed again with his putter after a strong performance at Harbour Town. Also 1-for-4 at TPC Sawgrass with a solo 73rd in 2011.
Boo Weekley ... Eleven consecutive cuts made upon arrival and a gem on a ball-striker's layout, but he gives away too many strokes to the field on the greens. In the right situation, he deserves a look, but you probably don't need to go this deep.
Ryan Palmer ... Only cut made in seven appearances at TPC Sawgrass was a T75 in 2007.
Scott Stallings ... He's missed seven of his last 10 cuts, five of which since the birth of his first child. No top 25s among his last three cuts made. However, he showed last year that he can turn it around without notice. After a forgettable first half due to a rib injury, he won in Mississippi and maintained strong form the rest of the season.
Charlie Wi ... Enduring a missed cut streak of four, the longest since his rookie season of 2005. He's also gone 14 consecutive rounds without breaking par.
Erik Compton ... Perhaps the return to the Sunshine State will provide a much-needed elixir for the native Floridian. Since withdrawing from the Shell Houston Open due to an illness, he's added three missed cuts in as many starts. First appearance at TPC Sawgrass.
Brian Stuard ... The first-timer at THE PLAYERS has missed his last four cuts and has signed for scores of 74 or higher after seven of his last nine rounds.
Seung-yul Noh ... Survived just one of his last eight cuts (T46, Valero Texas Open) as swing modifications continue to take hold.
Colt Knost ... Has just one top 60 among six cuts made in 13 starts this year (T43, WM Phoenix Open).
David Lingmerth ... He's missed the cut in his last five starts by an aggregate 17 strokes.
Tom Gillis ... After a pair of early withdrawals, he returned to action last week but missed the cut, his fourth straight.
David Mathis ... Shared 15th place last year in his only previous appearance at TPC Sawgrass, but he's missed his last eight cuts this season and hasn't recorded a top 40 since October.
Back in the Saddle
Dustin Johnson ... Back in action after withdrawing early from last week's Wells Fargo Championship with an irritated left wrist, but this is a great week to leave him alone anyway. He's 3-for-4 at THE PLAYERS but hasn't logged a top 30.
Vijay Singh ... While there is value in the absence of the cloud that hung over him for months, he's coming off a reported back injury. He lives locally and could probably diagram the practice facility at TPC Sawgrass by memory, but he's missed the cut in his last three appearances. Only one missed cut in eight starts this season, however.
Freddie Jacobson ... Withdrew early from both commitments since the Masters due to a hip injury. He arrives at TPC Sawgrass with an active run of seven straight top 25s. His best finish among five cuts made in nine appearances is a T10 in 2010. Calculated flier if you can protect him.
Peter Hanson ... A back injury forced him to walk off Harbour Town during his second round three weeks ago. That trailed a neck injury prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational four weeks prior. Sparkling record at TPC Sawgrass (two top 20s in as many starts), but beware the health concern.
Retief Goosen ... Rested a back injury in the wake of a T21 in New Orleans. Runner-up at TPC Sawgrass in 2006, the last time the tournament was contested in March. Consider him as a viable option at the end of deeper lineups this week.
Jeff Overton ... Opted out of last week's stop in Charlotte due to a sore back. He's 3-for-5 at THE PLAYERS with a pair of T26s.
Ben Crane ... Withdrew early from the Wells Fargo Championship with an unspecified injury. From 2008-2010, he finished no worse than T6 at THE PLAYERS. Shared fourth in Houston six weeks ago.
Mark Wilson ... Suffered a sprained ankle that bumped him from the field at Quail Hollow. He's missed his last three cuts at TPC Sawgrass and hasn't posted a top 40 in six appearances, but don't rule him out this week. In relatively limited action, he shows up with top 10s in his last two starts (Bay Hill, Harbour Town).
William McGirt ... Since missing the 54-hole cut at the RBC Heritage, he's withdrawn early from each of the last two events. He's been active on Twitter but hasn't publicized an explanation for his time off.
Davis Love III ... Returns after having neck surgery on Feb. 8. He's a two-time champ at TPC Sawgrass (1992, 2003) but he hasn't played competitively in over three months.
Blake Adams, Darren Clarke, George Coetzee, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jamie Donaldson, Harrison Frazar, J.B. Holmes, Troy Kelly, Paul Lawrie, Spencer Levin, John Mallinger, Kevin Na, Richard Sterne, Jhonattan Vegas ... All qualified but elected not to play. Adams, Frazar, Holmes, Kelly, Levin, Na and Vegas are recovering from known injuries or surgeries.