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The Players Championship preview

Jason Day (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Roar Guru
9th May, 2018
0

Last weekend, Australian Jason Day recorded his second win of the year, at the Quail Hollow Club. This week, the attention of the golfing world turns to Florida for the Players Championship.

Often touted as the fifth major, The Players will see the world’s top-50 players teeing off at TPC Sawgrass.

Because of the stacked field, there are many emerging storylines.

2016 champion Day appears to have recaptured the form which saw him rise to world number 1 in 2015-16. In this field, Day over the last 24 rounds is first in strokes gained-putting, second in strokes gained short game, and third in strokes gained total. The Australian put on a short-game clinic last week and has as good a chance as any to reclaim the title.

Tiger Woods will make his first appearance at TPC Sawgrass since 2015. The two-time champion has shown solid form in his limited starts this year, making seven of eight cuts, including top fives at Bay Hill and Copperhead. Tiger is paired with Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds, ensuring quite the spectacle.

Despite poor recent form, Adam Scott has an amazing record at TPC Sawgrass. Outside of his 2004 Players victory, Scott has finished in the top 40 the last seven times he’s featured, and is also second in this field for strokes gained total at the venue since 2012.

Adam Scott at the WGC matchplay (Photo: AP)

Aussie golfer Adam Scott. (Photo: AP)

TPC Sawgrass has been the host of the tournament since 1982. The Florida course’s famed 17th is one of the most spectacular stages in golf and has been the nucleus of many dramatic finishes.

Sawgrass was famously designed by Pete Dye to favour no skill set, but past winners show it favours prodigious ball strikers. Professionals such as Adam Scott, Francesco Molinari, Hideki Matsuyama, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson possess supreme talent from tee-to-green and all have an impressive record at this tournament.

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Past tournaments and winners demonstrate that a proficiency approaching and around the green is paramount to success. As a result, this week’s key statistics, and the top ten players are:

Strokes gained approach
1. Scott Piercy
2. Henrik Stenson
3. Sergio Garcia
4. Justin Thomas
5. Adam Hadwin
6. Jordan Spieth
7. Keegan Bradley
8. Phil Mickelson
9. Bryson DeChambeau
10. Paul Casey

Strokes gained around the green
1. Adam Hadwin
2. Kevin Na
3. Jamie Lovemark
4. Patrick Reed
5. Martin Laird
6. Marc Leishman
7. Webb Simpson
8. Dominic Bozzelli
9. Ollie Schniederjans
10. Hideki Matsuyama

Strokes gained Par 4
1. Justin Thomas
2. Jason Day
3. Patrick Reed
4. Jon Rahm
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Marc Leishman
7. Bryson DeChambeau
8. Hideki Matsuyama
9. Jordan Spieth
10. Tiger Woods

Cumulated stats
1. Adam Hadwin
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Patrick Reed
4. Tiger Woods
5. Justin Thomas
6. Phil Mickelson
7. Marc Leishman
8. Luke List
9. Hideki Matsuyama
10. Ryan Moore

Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot on the second hole during a practice round prior to the start of the 2018 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 4, 2018 in Augusta, Georgia.

Tiger Woods (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

As per usual, I’ll make predictions from sections of the world rankings and pick an Australian to look out for.

1-20
Justin Thomas has been the best player on tour this year and with a decent performance this week he can rise to world number 1. Thomas has made the cut in his three appearances at TPC Sawgrass, including a third in 2016.

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Ranking first in strokes gained par 4, Thomas is one of the best suited to this layout and he will be in contention come Sunday.

20-100
With three top-five finishes in his last four starts, Bryson DeChambeau is in rare form. The American has been dominating from tee-to-green over the last two months, and while this is his first appearance at the Players, he is expected to make a lot of birdies.

100+
Ranking first in strokes gained approach, Scott Piercy’s iron play has been phenomenal this year. Although his short game has been inconsistent, a simple regression back to the field average would see the American vault into contention.

Australian
Jason Day is an obvious choice, but Marc Leishman is the more intriguing.

Ranking seventh in the cumulated statistics, the Victorian sets up well here, having made five of his last six cuts at the Players, including an eighth in 2013.

The World No.16 has been in the best form of his life over the last 12 months and a win this week would top it off.