Photo Credit: nationalclubgolfer.com
The Players Championship is here and is back to being played in March for the first time since 2006. For those that don’t follow golf closely, the Players is regarded as the biggest tournament outside of the four majors and is often times referred to as “the 5th major”. It is played at beautiful TPC Sawgrass which features one of the coolest holes in golf at the island green hole #17.
This year the course is expected to play and look a little different than in recent years due to the different conditions and course preparation that comes with it being earlier on the calendar. However, the tournament should be a great one nonetheless.
It looks like Tiger Woods is healthy and ready to play this week despite sitting out the Arnold Palmer last week due to a neck injury, however, I’m not confident enough in his health to expect him to win. We also still do not know if Phil Mickelson or Jason Day will play this week, but even if neither of them play, the field is still stacked with tons of big names. Here are a few of my predictions.
Billy Horschel: World ranked #40 Billy Horschel had a tough finish this past weekend at the Arnold Palmer shooting a 77 on Sunday, but heading into the weekend he was -5 and in a good position to contend. He also finished top 16 at the Honda a couple weeks ago and has four other top 25 finishes and no missed cuts this season. He also has seen success at the Players before including being in one of the final groups on Sunday in 2015. I expect to see him have a good week this week.
Lucas Glover: World ranked #81 Lucas Glover has been playing great golf lately and has finished top 10 in his last three starts. He made clutch putts on Sunday two weeks ago at the Honda and looks really confident in his game right now. He is a name to look out for to make some noise this week at TPC Sawgrass.
Henrik Stenson: Henrik Stenson has fallen all the way down to #37 in the world rankings after being a consistent top 15 player in the last decade. In his last five starts, he has three missed cuts and a T54 finish. Although Stenson has played well here before (including a win in 2009) and had a solid week last week finishing T17, it is hard for me to believe in Stenson this week with how poorly he has played this year.
Jordan Spieth: I hate to bet against one of my favorite players in Jordan Spieth, but he has dropped all the way down to 25th in the world and cannot seem to figure out his game right now. Spieth is ranked 114th in strokes gained putting this season which is a shock to the golf world after the display of putting he put on back in 2015. In five starts in 2019, he has yet to finish in the top 35. Things seemed to be looking up a few weeks ago at the Genesis Open when he went into the weekend with a good chance to win until he fired a pedestrian 81 on Sunday. While I hope he returns to his old form soon, I am not betting on Spieth this week.
Third Place – Dustin Johnson: World #1 Dustin Johnson is currently the favorite to win this week and seems to be one of the safest bets in golf week in and week out. He already has two wins in 2019 (Saudi and WGC Mexico) and has two other top 10 finishes and no missed cuts in six starts this year. Though I’m not picking DJ to win, I don’t think it would shock anyone if he got his biggest win since the 2016 U.S. Open this week at TPC.
Second Place – Justin Thomas: World ranked #4 Justin Thomas has yet to win in 2019 but he has three top three finishes and no missed cuts in his six starts. In addition, he has seen success playing in Florida in the past including a win at the Honda in 2018. He also has the mentality that is needed to win at TPC Sawgrass. There aren’t many players in the world that I’d believe in more than JT to hit clutch shots like the ones needed down the stretch here at the Players. I expect to see him contend this week.
Winner – Rory McIlroy: World #6 Rory McIlroy has finished in the top six in all five of his starts this season. Though he has yet to win, it feels like more of a “when” than an “if” he will win this season. His stats so far this year are insane. He ranks #1 on the PGA Tour in SG Off the Tee, SG Tee to Green, and SG Total. He also is #4 in driving distance and #9 in scoring average. He will be able to dominate the Par 5’s this week, and as long as he can have halfway decent putting he will almost surely have a chance to win.
Other Players I Like This Week: Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, and Tommy Fleetwood
Other Players I Dislike This Week: Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Alex Noren, and Shane Lowry
Winning Score: -12