PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA | Not to burst a bubble before the Players Championship begins on Thursday but according to The Wall Street Journal – which enlisted the help of Stats LLC – TPC Sawgrass’ supremely famous par-3 17th hole on the Stadium Course is only the 95th-most difficult par-3 on Tour in the past four years.
In fact, almost 1 in 5 players makes birdie there each day, though the penalty for being just a little outside when firing at the island green is severe.
Regardless of how the 17th hole plays, it’s a big part of the fun of the Players, which has perhaps the most theatrical three-hole finish on Tour (and it fortunately does not have an overused nickname).
If there’s a secret to success at the Players, it’s avoiding the big number. It’s easier said than done, of course, but consistent ballstrikers tend to reign supreme at the Pete Dye-designed test.
That leads us to our five picks this week:
5. Hideki Matsuyama: In his past four starts, he has finished no lower than T18. He’s very good tee to green and if he sees some putts falling, Matsuyama could get the breakthrough win he’s been chasing.
4. Branden Grace: He won the RBC Heritage on a Pete Dye design at Harbour Town last month and he had a top-10 in his most recent start at the Valero Texas Open.
3. Sergio García: What would the Players be without García in contention? He’s made a habit of playing well, winning in 2008, finishing third in 2014 and losing in a playoff last year.
2. Adam Scott: Speaking of good ballstrikers, Scott is at or near the top of the list. He had a great run earlier this year and he had a solid week at Quail Hollow, setting him up to contend at the Stadium Course.
1. Justin Rose: Had Rose managed to have an average putting day last Sunday, he could have won the Wells Fargo Championship with a few shots to spare. Instead, he wasted a beautiful ballstriking round and went in search of another putter to take advantage of ranking third on Tour in strokes gained tee to green this year.