Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: $2.5M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Semifinal Entry] (PGA TOUR)
THE PLAYERS Championship is the first big event on the golfing calendar for 2022. While not technically a major, THE PLAYERS still possesses a major-caliber field and one of the biggest prize pools of the year. Unlike the four regular majors, the field here doesn’t contain much fluff. There are no amateur invites or over-the-hill past champions this week, only card-carrying PGA TOUR members and some select international players and qualifiers. It’s also got a course in TPC Sawgrass that brings lots of variance into play with its smaller greens and precariously placed water hazards. As a result, this event has produced some shock-type winners like Craig Perks (2002) and more recently Si Woo Kim (2017). The last two iterations have also seen 45-year-old+ veterans like Lee Westwood and Jim Furyk finish in the runner-up position.
Of the top players, Bryson DeChambeau (withdraw-injury) looks like the only name who will be missing. Number eight-ranked Justin Thomas will be looking to defend his 2021 title this week, while number five-ranked Scottie Scheffler will be hunting for his third win in four starts. Recent PLAYERS winners Rory McIlroy and Webb Simpson are also here, as are former champions Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler. While THE PLAYERS has an elite field and unique venue attached, the cut line remains like a regular PGA TOUR stop in that the top-65 and ties will get to play the weekend.
TPC Sawgrass (Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
Par 72, 7200-7300 yards depending on setup; Greens: TifEagle Bermuda overseeded with Poa Trivialis/velvet bentgrass)
TPC Sawgrass is a stadium course that was designed and created specifically for this event in 1981. It was designed by Pete Dye (his wife Alice is responsible for the island green on 17), who has also designed a lot of courses in the PGA TOUR rotation, including Hilton Head at the RBC Heritage and TPC Louisiana, host of the Zurich Classic. TPC Sawgrass features hard to hit, smaller than normal greens — quite a bit of water and quite a few doglegs, too, which will make accurate iron play essential this week. Accuracy will be at a premium this week and with poor weather in the forecast, also look for around the green performance to play a massive role.
In 2019, Rory McIlroy ranked 78th in Driving Accuracy but sixth in Driving Distance; his length and solid iron play did enough to overcome any misses off the tee. In 2021, Justin Thomas rode a solid driving week and superior play (+6.5 strokes on Approach to the win). The fairways here are generally easier to hit than an average PGA TOUR stop, but placement on certain sides is still key. Things do get harder as you approach the hole though, as Green in Regulation %’s and Scrambling %’s at Sawgrass both tend to trend lower than the PGA TOUR averages. Look for GIR%’s this year to be even lower than normal in 2022 with the poor forecast.
The course itself is set up as a traditional par 72 (four par 5s and four par 3s), but each hole presents a unique challenge to players. While the 17th island green can be tricky on Sunday, it’s the 18th hole that plays as one of the hardest on the course every year and requires a pinpoint drive over water from players just to hit the fairway. The rest of the course is made up of risk-reward par 5s and a couple treacherous, if less well known, par 3s. As for the par 4s, five of them come in at 450 yards or more and tend to stress long iron approaches, while only three will play at under 400 for the week.
The move to March in 2019 has seen scores stay quite low with the greens playing a little softer than in the past (as the Bermuda grass here is still somewhat dormant in March). The weather this year though could play a major role as cold temperatures, rain, and some weekend wind have a chance to push this event into more of a grind-it-out, higher scoring event.
2022 Weather Outlook: We could have a very gnarly week on our hands weather-wise. Forecasts are changing as we speak, but rain is set to play a role this year and is in the forecast with an 80%+ chance of precipitation for each of the first three days. It’s Florida, so wind is always prevalent and the weekend is going to bring heavy winds along too, with gusts approaching or exceeding 20 mph on Saturday. Cold weather on the weekend is also going to be a thing as highs in the 50-55F range are set for Saturday and Sunday. Expect Sawgrass to play cold and wet, with unexpected gusts, and for scoring to be higher than usual. Much like last week, the luck of the Florida weather draw could help players get off to fast starts. Make sure to do a final check Wednesday night before tee-off.
Last 5 winners
2021—Justin Thomas -14 (over Lee Westwood -13)
2020—COVID-19 (no event)
2019—Rory McIlroy -16 (over Jim Furyk -15)
2018—Webb Simpson -18 (over Charl Schwartzel and two others -14)
2017—Si Woo Kim -10 (over Ian Poulter and Louis Oosthuizen -7)
2016—Jason Day -15 (over Kevin Chappell -11)
- Nine of the last 11 winners of THE PLAYERS had already bagged a T4 or better finish on the PGA TOUR in the same calendar year of their victory.
- The last 14 winners of THE PLAYERS had already achieved a finish of 23rd or better at THE PLAYERS in a previous year.
- The last five winners of THE PLAYERS had all finished T22 or better in their previous start (aka, the one directly prior to their PLAYERS win).
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2021 Winner: Justin Thomas (14-under par)
2021 lead-in form (T15-MC-T13-3rd-T12)
· Since 2011, only one winner (Simpson 2018) has finished outside the top 10 for the week in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green.
· Players here have excelled in a variety of different ways, but good play around the green has been one of the biggest constants. Greens here are small, and GIR%’s are generally well below the PGA TOUR average for the event. The last five winners here have all gained +1.5 strokes or more around the greens for the week of their win and three of the past five winners have gained +3.0 strokes or more around the greens.
· Four of the last eight winners didn’t crack the top twenty in Off the Tee stats for the week of their win, but four of the last five winners have gained +4.0 strokes Approach or more for the week.
· From an approach perspective, Sawgrass requires a good blend of shorter (125-150 yards) and longer approaches (>200 yards). The dogleg setups and risk-reward par 5s mean good long iron players will have a big advantage here.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Scottie Scheffler +2000 and $9,200
- Xander Schauffele +2500 and $9,700
- Hideki Matsuyama +2500 and $9,600
- Dustin Johnson +4000 and $9,800
Talor Gooch +6500 and $7,200
- Gary Woodland +8000 and $7,400
- Si Woo Kim +8000 and $7,300
- Corey Conners +7000 and $7,300
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Sergio Garcia ($7,400; best finishes: win-2008, playoff loss-2015): Garcia has made the cut in each of his last 17 starts at TPC Sawgrass. He has a win (2008) and two runner-up finishes to his credit here, as well. Garcia’s T9 from last year also marked his fourth top-10 at THE PLAYERS in his last eight appearances. He’s the lead horse this week and has one of the largest sample sizes of success for any player/venue combo on the PGA TOUR.
2. Adam Scott ($8,100; best finishes: win-2004, T6-2017): Scott is another veteran with a great track record of producing for daily fantasy golf purposes at TPC Sawgrass. He’s now made the cut at THE PLAYERS in 13 straight runnings of this event. A winner back in 2004, Scott has a great Florida record (wins at Doral and PGA National) and top-12 finishes at this event in three of the last four seasons.
2. Justin Thomas ($10,400 best finishes: win-2021): Last year’s winner Justin Thomas had been trending with good course history for a few years before winning the event. The 28-year-old finished T3 at Sawgrass in 2016 and has never missed the cut at THE PLAYERS in six appearances now. He’s third in strokes gained total stats for this event over the past six years and could certainly push to be our first repeat PLAYERS champion ever given his synergy with this venue.
3. Si Woo Kim ($7,300; best finishes: win-2017): 2017 shock winner Si Woo Kim has shown a solid penchant for playing well on tricky Pete Dye designs. He finished T23 at this event on his first attempt in 2016 and won on his second in 2017. Kim has made the cut in each of his five appearances at THE PLAYERS and also has a win at the AMEX, which is played on TPC Stadium, another Dye design and TPC Sawgrass sister course.
5. Jason Day ($7,500; best finishes: win-2016): It might surprise some (given his poor record over the last couple of years) but 2016 PLAYERS champion Jason Day leads the field in strokes gained total at this event since 2016. He’s made the cut at Sawgrass five years running and has three top-10 finishes in his span. The recent passing of his mother will undoubtedly affect his lead-up but his history makes him a strong value under $8,000.
1. Scottie Scheffler ($9,200, win-T7-win): Now up to 5th in the OWGR, Scheffler has surged in early 2022 with two wins. He’s lighting it up on approach and on the greens where he’s gained over +2.5 strokes putting in each of his last three starts. Any continuation could see more hardware head his way.
2. Viktor Hovland ($10,100, T2-T4): Hovland posted his second straight top-5 last week, two weeks after finishing T4 at the Genesis. The Norwegian has gained over +4.0 strokes approach in his last two starts and looks primed for a run at the win this week.
3. Matt Fitzpatrick ($7,700, T9-T10): Fitzpatrick battled his way to a second straight top-10 finish, gaining +5.2 strokes putting for the week. He finished T9 at the PLAYERS last year and heads into this year with solid form.
4. Cameron Young ($7,200, T13-T16-T2): Young is easily the most surprising name on our list (again) this week as the American continues to show up on leaderboards early in 2022. He’s finished top-20 in four of his last five starts and will be making his PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP debut this week.
5. Billy Horschel ($8,100, T2-T16-T6): Horschel has been a regular on leaderboards early in 2022 as well. The American has gained over +4.5 strokes on Approach in his last two starts and finished top-10 in two of his last three starts.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: A Scheffler-Berger Combo could be delicious
With so many top names in the field, the pricing is obviously more compressed this week, leading to serious value across the board. No one sticks out more though than Scottie Scheffler ($9,200), who remains just the 12th most expensive player in the DraftKings salary structure despite reeling off two wins in three starts. Scheffler missed the cut in his only PLAYERS start (2021) but his form this year should trump any experience concerns this week. I’ve mentioned Daniel Berger ($8,800 - see below) who also looks vastly underpriced despite coming off a top-5 finish two weeks ago. The two make for a good value combo to start cash game lineups with and leave tons of room to maneuver in lower-tier values like Adam Scott ($8,100), Talor Gooch ($7,200), and Chris Kirk ($7,000).
Tournaments: Pay up for Rahm, pay down for Noren
With Jon Rahm ($11,100) having finished outside the top-10 in two straight starts—and so many top players available on the cheap this week—it’s likely we see his ownership numbers slide down a bit. The Spaniard gained has gained over +4.0 strokes on Approach in each of his last three starts and seems to be waiting for his putting confidence “to flip”. When it does, a big week will be ahead and he’s done nicely at Sawgrass, with T9 and T12 finishes in four career appearances. Swede Alex Noren ($7,000) has twice been in contention at Sawgrass going into the weekend and has two top-20 finishes at the venue in four career starts. He’s improved his Approach play in his last three events and has played neighboring PGA National extremely well. Other potential targets for big field GPPs include Keegan Bradley ($6,900 - see below), Jordan Spieth ($9,000), Marc Leishman ($7,500), C.T. Pan ($6,800) and Danny Lee ($6,000).
MY PICK: Daniel Berger ($8,800)
Golf is loaded at the top, and with so much talent it’s easy for a player like Berger to get overlooked. The American clocks in with four PGA TOUR wins and two since the COVID-19 restart occurred back in the middle of 2020. Those two wins represent more than Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth have managed on their own in that same time frame, all players who rank above him in salary this week. Berger has also turned himself into one of the most lethal iron players in the world since the beginning of 2020, losing strokes on Approach just four times in his last 40 starts on the PGA TOUR.
That kind of control and accuracy on Approach is exactly what is needed to survive Sawgrass and his track record at this event reads with two top-10 finishes (2021 and 2016), which is eerily similar to what last year’s winner Justin Thomas had produced at this venue before cashing in with the win. The recent meltdown at Honda may sting, but he showed dominant form there for three + 1⁄4 rounds, while also producing his best statistical week around the greens in over a year. Berger is undervalued at under $9K in price for DFS and a solid back in the outright department at +3500 on DraftKings Sportsbook.
MY SLEEPER: Keegan Bradley ($6,900)
For daily fantasy purposes, it seems hard to go wrong with a sub-$7K Keegan Bradley this week. Yes, he could always go “full-Keegan” and rip off a 77 by losing us -5.0 strokes putting in a round, but lately, he’s shown solid consistency in his weakest areas. His T11 last week was built mostly off gaining +5.5 strokes around the green and putting, and while that may seem like an anomaly, last week also marked the second week in a row that Bradley had gained over +1.0 strokes around the greens.
Sawgrass has also been a solid venue for the 2012 PGA Championship winner. Bradley ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Total stats for this event over the past five seasons and has gained over +2.0 strokes putting at this event in two of the past three years. Asking him to grab an outright win may be asking too much, but tougher conditions should benefit a solid tee to green player like himself, who comes in with good enough form to nab a top-20 or better (he’s +400 to top-20 on DraftKings Sportbook). Bradley at under-$7K this week checks off as a great value and player who could surprise for a big week, especially if the conditions get dicey.
Set your DraftKings fantasy golf lineups here: $2.5M Fantasy Golf Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Semifinal Entry] (PGA TOUR)
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