The Chosen One at THE PLAYERS Championship
March 12, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
THE PLAYERS Championship preview
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — You claim you expected the Webb Simpson dominance last season.
And you totally saw Jason Day overcoming a poor record on TPC Sawgrass a few years earlier.
You even saw the likes of Si Woo Kim and Craig Perks coming from the clouds.
Yeah … right.
One of the many reasons THE PLAYERS Championship is such an amazing event is that it doesn’t necessarily give a particular type of player an advantage.
That makes it wildly unpredictable and great theatre.
You need to be on in every facet of the game. Bomb and gouge efforts do not always work at TPC Sawgrass.
But never fear. If you are looking for a great tip on the winner, we have it all worked out for you.
Forget our usually impeccable Power Rankings. The only way to find out who will get their hands on the sensational new PLAYERS Championship trophy is to eliminate those who history says cannot win.
This elite field of 144 players can be whittled down to just one using data from the 45 previous winners and a variety of categories that are essentially designed to give you a can’t miss prospect.
Okay, it might be a little subjective. And a fair bit random. And perhaps not perfect. But then again … it might just be pure genius.
1. Winning twice at TPC Sawgrass? Not likely any more. While five players have won twice at the iconic venue only Tiger Woods has done so inside the last 25 years. So recent champions are out.
Eliminated: Webb Simpson, Si Woo Kim, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott.
2. Just three players (Jack Nicklaus in the inaugural event in 1974, Hal Sutton in 1983 and Craig Perks in 2002) have won in their first start at THE PLAYERS, so rule out all first-timers.
Eliminated: Abraham Ancer, Lucas Bjerregaard, Bronson Burgoon, Cameron Champ, Joel Dahmen, Tyler Duncan, Sungjae Im, Adam Long, Denny McCarthy, Eddie Pepperell, J.T. Poston, Seamus Power, Andrew Putnam, Sam Ryder, Sam Saunders, Martin Trainer, Peter Uihlein, Matt Wallace, Aaron Wise, Wyndham Clark.
3. Scotsman Sandy Lyle (1987) is the only player from Great Britain and/or Ireland to win THE PLAYERS. Clearly a curse exists.
Eliminated: Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Russell Knox, Martin Laird, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Shane Lowry, Danny Willett, Matthew Fitzpatrick.
4. Just one of the last 15 champions (Si Woo Kim) at THE PLAYERS came into the event with a negative mark in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green on the season. This wipes out a healthy chunk.
Eliminated: Brian Harman, Ollie Schniederjans, Brian Gay, Jason Dufner, Grayson Murray, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Stewart Cink, Dominic Bozzelli, Anirban Lahiri, Alex Noren, Scott Langley, Brice Garnett, Kyle Stanley, Daniel Berger, Beau Hossler, Satoshi Kodaira, Ryan Armour, Rory Sabbatini, Harris English, Michael Kim, C.T. Pan, Nick Taylor, Scott Brown, Troy Merritt, Brandt Snedeker, Andrew Landry, Ryan Blaum, Richy Werenski, Adam Hadwin, Charley Hoffman, Alex Cejka, Brendan Steele, Patrick Reed, Billy Horschel, Jimmy Walker, Aaron Baddeley, Ted Potter Jr., Kevin Streelman.
5. THE PLAYERS hasn’t historically been kind to the old-timers. Just six of 45 winners were in their 40s. Unlikely to get a veteran reclaim past glories here.
Eliminated: Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Ryan Palmer, Scott Piercy, Vijay Singh, Vaughn Taylor, Bubba Watson.
6. Just two winners (Craig Perks and Tim Clark in 2010) have made THE PLAYERS their first TOUR win. So rule out all players who are still seeking their first TOUR wins.
Eliminated: Byeong An, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Bud Cauley, Corey Conners, Talor Gooch, Brandon Harkins, Tom Hoge, Sung Kang, Jason Kokrak, Kelly Kraft, Haotong Li, Luke List, Trey Mullinax, Thorbjorn Olesen, Patrick Rodgers, J.J. Spaun, Harold Varner III
7. Prior form at TPC Sawgrass counts. 21 of the last 27 champions had at least one top-15 finish at THE PLAYERS before they went on to win the event. This includes 12 of the last 14 winners.
Eliminated: Patrick Cantlay, Austin Cook, Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Branden Grace, Russell Henley, Charles Howell III, John Huh, Patton Kizzire, Keith Mitchell, Ryan Moore, Jon Rahm, Chez Reavie, Cameron Smith, Scott Stallings, Brian Stuard, Michael Thompson, Kevin Tway.
8. Four of the last six winners of THE PLAYERS had previously won a major. That trend looks to continue.
Eliminated: Emiliano Grillo, Chesson Hadley, J.B. Holmes, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Danny Lee, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas, Nick Watney, Gary Woodland.
9. Each of the last 16 PLAYERS winners entered that week’s tournament ranked among the top 75 golfers in the world. Not since 2002, when Craig Perks won THE PLAYERS as the world’s 256th-ranked golfer, has someone outside the top 75 won at TPC Sawgrass.
Eliminated: Charl Schwatzel
10. Of the last 25 PLAYERS champions, only three of them ranked outside the top 100 on TOUR in scoring average leading into the event.
Eliminated: Jordan Spieth
11. Amazingly, 13 of the last 15 winners had felt the sting of TPC Sawgrass prior to their win, posting a round of 76 or higher. It helps to have felt that pain. (Five of them had scores above 80!)
Eliminated: Justin Thomas
12. While our resident fantasy guru Rob Bolton’s Power Rankings are usually eerily accurate, his strike rate at THE PLAYERS is not as good. Since starting in 2010 only three of the nine winners were inside his top 10 leading into the tournament. Sorry Rob, we don’t trust you this week!
Eliminated: Lucas Glover
13. Just three winners have won the previous week before THE PLAYERS, so rule out last Sunday’s Arnold Palmer Invitational Presented by Mastercard champion.
Eliminated: Francesco Molinari
14. Seven of the last eight PLAYERS Champions had a season prior to winning where they won at least $4.5 million.
Eliminated: Keegan Bradley, Louis Oosthuizen
15. Just four times out of 32 since the introduction of the official world rankings has the man at No.1 won THE PLAYERS. Two of those times was by Tiger Woods. That’s just a 12.5percent strike rate.
Eliminated: Dustin Johnson
That leaves us with just one player left. The chosen one. The player who avoids all 15 of our carefully researched categories. As such we can anoint him now. The 2019 PLAYERS Champion just happens to be a guy who is the current PGA TOUR Player of the Year. A guy who won two majors last year. A guy who shot the course record at TPC Sawgrass last year…