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DraftKings preview: THE PLAYERS Championship

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ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 06: Paul Casey of England plays his shot from the ninth tee during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 06, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 06: Paul Casey of England plays his shot from the ninth tee during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by MasterCard at the Bay Hill Club and Lodge on March 06, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

    Written by Reid Fowler @DraftKings

    Daily Fantasy preview for THE PLAYERS Championship

    The third tournament on the Florida Swing is THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The tournament will play as a par 72, measuring 7,189 yards and will be putt on TifEagle bermuda overseeded with Poa Trivialis/velvet bentgrass. The tournament was canceled after the first round last season due to COVID-19, and the TOUR subsequently shut down for three months. Before the tournament cancellation, Hideki Matsuyama (+4000, $8,700) shot 9-under in the first round, tying the course record.

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    Forty-eight of the top 50 ranked golfers will be in attendance, all looking to win this illustrious tournament. The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a Pete Dye design and probably his most notable. The course isn’t challenging, it’s not even Dye’s most formidable track. Still, Sawgrass plays challenging when the wind picks up, especially if the golfers’ irons aren’t precise. TPC Sawgrass is a vintage Florida course with many bunkers and water hazards to navigate, bringing big numbers into play. In 2019, the tournament recorded the ninth-most bogeys and fourth-most double-bogeys. Dye also made sure golfers don’t get “used” to the course by not having back-to-back holes featuring similarities of any kind. They’ll dogleg in opposite directions, either into or against the wind, and vary substantially in distance. Par 5s follow par 3s, which then go onto a par 4. Some of these par 4s are behemoths, with four measuring over 460 yards. There are also three under 400 yards, so golfers will need to adapt at every turn. Like last week, scoring on the par 5s is a must with the difficulty and uniqueness of the par 4s. TPC Sawgrass recorded the second-most eagles on TOUR in 2019 and the third-most in 2018. The greens will be small and fast, which means overall proximity and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green will be a priority.

    The tournament moved back to its March date last season for the first time since 2006. The course usually plays fast and firm when in May. One prominent difference golfers have mentioned is the use of more drivers off the tee. Winds are more troublesome in March than in May, and temperatures are a little cooler, so golf shots aren’t going to roll out as much. Speaking of the winds, if it’s gusting, this course will be challenging. If not, it should play relatively easy as a shorter, par 72. Similar to other Florida courses like Bay Hill last week, golfers with a lot of course history at TPC Sawgrass prevail. The last three winners have played this course a combined 21 starts with Rory McIlroy (+1600, $10,600) winning in his 10th and Jason Day’s (+5000, $8,000) first win coming in his sixth.

    Pricing is generous this week, and lineups could skew more balanced. Contrarian lineups should consider pairing expensive golfers with players priced in the bottom half of salaries. In 2018, the top seven golfers in DraftKings scoring were below $7,300 with two below $7,000. In 2019, three of the top six golfers in DraftKings scoring were in the $6,000 range, with Jhonattan Vegas (+30000, $6,300) finishing in third place while priced at $6,100


    Rory McIlroy (+1600 to Win,

    No one has been better on Pete Dye courses over the previous 50 rounds, tee-to-green, than McIlroy. We should see more drivers used this week over past years with its March date, and for the first three rounds last week, Rory was extraordinary, gaining 2.73 strokes off-the-tee. Rory also ranked ninth at Bay Hill with his irons and has been elite here, ranking second to only Adam Scott (+8000, $8,100) in Strokes Gained: Total since 2016. The move to March will give players like Rory a slight edge with how well he hits it off-the-tee.

    Patrick Cantlay (+2200 to Win,

    A recent pre-tournament WD back at the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship may temper his projected roster percentage, but if (and when) it doesn’t, he should still be a worthwhile pick for your lineups. Cantlay ranks second to only Dustin Johnson (+1200, $11,200) in Strokes Gained: Total over the previous 36 rounds on Pete Dye courses and is averaging 3.7 strokes gained with his irons. He missed the cut in 2019 but finished with back-to-back top 25s in his two previous starts. This year will be Cantlay’s fourth start at TPC Sawgrass, which could also be his fourth career win if he keeps striking the ball like he has been so far this year.

    Paul Casey (+4000 to Win,

    Casey’s Sunday last week was forgettable, but it shouldn’t overshadow an otherwise successful week, ranking sixth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green at Bay Hill. The Englishman is on a fantastic run with a win, a top 5 and no worse than a 12th-place in his past four worldwide starts. His record here is less than ideal over his 13 previous starts, with six missed cuts and two withdraws. Still, the years he’s made the cut are impressive with no worse than a T23. Two of his three wins on the PGA TOUR have come in Florida, and he ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green over his previous 36 rounds on Dye courses.

    Abraham Ancer (+8000 to Win,

    Ancer missed the cut at The Genesis Invitational but gained seven strokes tee-to-green at the WGC event at The Concession Golf Club a couple of weeks ago. A good Masters Tournament showing last November and an excellent track record on Pete Dye courses should put Ancer right in the mix like he was back in 2019, when he finished 12th. Another golfer in this range, Russell Henley (+12500, $7,400), should garner some attention at $100 cheaper. Henley is one of the best ball-strikers on TOUR and is making his eighth start at TPC Sawgrass. Like Casey, his finishes are a mixed-bag of missed cuts and good golf, finishing no worse than a T35 in the three tournaments he’s made the cut.

    Ryan Moore (+27500 to Win,

    Moore had been inconsistent this year with three missed cuts before his 26th-place finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last month. His experience at this course rivals few with 13-straight starts, finishing with a 20th-place finish in 2019. Moore has been great tee-to-green at Dye course, ranking seventh over the previous 24 rounds on his courses.

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