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Sunday, May 3, 2015

THE PLAYERS - Preview

THE PLAYERS Championship is the next stop on the PGA TOUR schedule, and Martin Kaymer returns to defend his title at TPC Sawgrass. TPC Sawgrass is one of those courses where veteran gamers know exactly what faces the competitors from the first hole through he 18th. We'll do our best to identify the top players and best values for the week during our coverage this week.

TPC Sawgrass is a par-72 layout featuring the expected four par 5s, four par 3s and 10 par 4s. It stretches out to 7,215 yards, so definitely not all that long by modern standards. Three of the four par 5s offer the opportunity for reaching the green in two with well-positioned drives, with the par-5 ninth only reachable by the longest hitters in the field. The par-3 17th is known by all fans, but the other three par 3s offer challenges of their own. The third hole is probably the easiest of the remaining three, with the long par-3 eighth the longest.

As is the case with most truly great courses, there isn't just one "type" of player that emerges with the trophy. A player can get away with not being a bomber if he is accurate and putts well. A player can get away with not being an elite putter if his ball-striking is on point. Perhaps the best illustration is the list of winners and runners-up since 2005.

  • 2005 - Winner: Fred Funk (9-under 279) over Luke Donald, Tom Lehman and Scott Verplank (280)
  • 2006 - Winner: Stephen Ames (274) over Retief Goosen (280)
  • 2007 - Winner: Phil Mickelson (277) over Sergio Garcia (279)
  • 2008 - Winner: Sergio Garcia (283) over Paul Goydos in a playoff
  • 2009 - Winner: Henrik Stenson (276) over Ian Poulter (280)
  • 2010 - Winner: Tim Clark (272) over Robert Allenby (273)
  • 2011 - Winner: K.J. Choi (275) over David Toms in a playoff
  • 2012 - Winner: Matt Kuchar (275) over Rickie Fowler, Ben Curtis, Martin Laird and Zach Johnson (277)
  • 2013 - Winner: Tiger Woods (275) over David Lingmerth, Jeff Maggert and Kevin Streelman (277)
  • 2014 - Winner: Martin Kaymer (275) over Jim Furyk (276)

This list certainly features a who's who of the greatest players in the game. It also features a number of highly successful international players. Further driving home the point of one not needing to be a bomber, there aren't any one-dimensional players on this list where the dimension is length off the tee. These are either extremely classy players, or players who are known for being very accurate and / or excellent ball-strikers.

I plan on taking a look at, SG:TTG, scrambling, proximity, par 3 scoring average and par 4 scoring average, while combining that with a hard look at current form and course history.

One additional note is that this is the first time the WGC-Match Play has led into this event. It's hard to ignore the fact that the final four in the Match Play are likely going to be tired. Perhaps the right mix of a current form coming out of the Match Play is a guy that went 2-1, but didn't advance to the sweet 16 (Horschel, Reed, Spieth anyone?) or a guy that went 3-0 and lost in the round of 16. Just saying. 

We'll get to work on our research and return with a power ranking either Monday or Tuesday night. Until then, happy research!

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