These guys just missed out above
Billy Horschel: Well, I mentioned above that players teeing it up here for the first time in competition don’t have a chance. That is the rule. There is an exception for every rule, right? Horschel is the exception. His ball-striking and putting have been unbelievable for a month now so I don’t see why it would let up. The Jacksonville Beach resident has probably knocked a few around here in a non-tournament setting so it’s not like he’s just seeing the course for the first time this week. He’s seventh in total putting and 24th in GIR. Oh, he leads the TOUR with 23 cuts made in a row.
Kevin Streelman: He was having himself a steady tournament here last year before a final round 78 dropped him to T51. In 2011 he was T19 and he’s finished T6 and T3 in his last two outings of 2013. He also won in March in Tampa on a ball-strikers course. He’s 15th in ball-striking, 13th in total driving and 25th in total putting and is in the middle of the best run of golf in his career. What am I missing?
Jimmy Walker: I can’t get enough of him and I’m not getting off this week and here’s why. In 10 rounds in the last three years here, Walker has played seven of them UNDER par. That’s the good news. The bad news is the three bad rounds have been the “final” round of the week. His 74 on Sunday last year saw him finish T35. His 77 in 2011 saw him MC after an opening round 69. His 75 in 2010 on Sunday took him to T26. And he’s having a career-type year this year. Sold, again.
Brandt Snedeker: After WD before WGC-Cadillac at Doral, Snedeker has only his Masters performance to show for his four starts. His T6 at Augusta was another near miss but his two MC leading into that event and his T59 the week after has me concerned. Also, since his T12 finish at TPC Sawgrass in 2007, he’s only posted one round under par in four events that all resulted in MC. His overall body of work for the last 18 months gives him the benefit of the doubt here.
Nick Watney: Forget it and move on should be Watney’s theory arriving at TPC Sawgrass this week. Forget SUNDAY, that is. He played excellent golf is tough conditions for 52 holes last weekend to create a two shot lead over Mickelson heading into Sunday. If he focuses, and he should, on that, he’ll be fine this week. His T17 in 2010 and his T4 in 2011 back that up. He’s now hit eight weekends in a row and his last three have been T10, T15 and T13. He’s 27th in total driving, 12th in ball-striking and 11th in GIR.
Webb Simpson: I’m always impressed when a guy ranks 150th in total driving yet is in the top 50 in GIR (44th). Imagine if Simpson found a fairway or two this week? He’s also 22nd in scrambling and 37th in total putting so he has the full package to contend this week after an off-week on his home course. He would be ranked higher but only has been under par in two rounds of 10 in his career.
Bill Haas: He left me hanging in Group A last week but thankfully I have a short memory. He’s three of six here including T25 last year after a posting a first round 68. That’s 11 shots lower than his opening round last week. Maybe my memory isn’t so short. Haas will hit plenty of GIR to make be a nuisance again this week. He has hit the top 25 in eight of 10 weekends this year.
Dustin Johnson: A wonderful wild card this week as Johnson is coming off a wrist injury that forced him to miss the festivities at Quail Hollow last week. His last three stroke play events have been T13 at Augusta, T4 at Houston and T12 at Doral. After MC with 73-80 in 2008, DJ has rebounded with three weekends in a row. He missed last year with a bad back. Johnson game travels and if he’s healthy, he could be a major factor. He’s down here because of the injury concern. He remarked via his Twitter account that it was nothing serious, just precautionary.
Charl Schwartzel: He’s made 13 cuts on the bounce but it never seems like he’s playing unless it’s a loaded field. This week, he fits right in. In six events on TOUR, he’s worst stroke play finish was T25 at Augusta. He hits it a mile and can absolutely putt it. This will be only his fourth time (1 of 3; T25) at THE PLAYERS (2011, 2010 and 2007) and he hasn’t played since the Masters so that gives me pause in a field this loaded.
Tim Clark: Here’s what I really like about Clark. He’s fired 76 in his last two tournaments and has finished T11 (Masters) and T24 (RBC Heritage). The 2010 champion will have no problem grinding it around Sawgrass if necessary. His driver and short game have proven to be the answer here before and his form entering the tournament should only reinforce that theory.
Bo Van Pelt: In his last 12 rounds around Sawgrass, BVP has been over par exactly twice. The strange part is he’s only made the weekend in two of those four years. Needless to say he’s comfortable around here and he’s coming off his best finish of 2013 with T6 last week at Quail Hollow. His well-rounded game has and should flourish here again.
Off the Beaten Path
Either “horse-for-course” or guys off the radar
D.A. Points: With a massive field lined up, don’t forget the man who has absolutely torn it up in recent weeks. Guys will pass on him for “sexier” names but you should be ready to pounce because hot golf is hot golf, period.
Kyle Stanley: After back-to-back weeks inside the top six it’s time to take a look to see if Stanley has rediscovered the form that made him so successful early doors of 2012. He’s moved back to the Washington-state area from where is he is originally from and he looks to be settling down on the course as well. I don’t like that he’s only been around here twice in one tournament but I do like hot golf and hot ball-strikers this week.
Ben Crane: Horse-for-course has three rounds over par in the last five years at Sawgrass and finished T4, T5 and T6 from 2010-2008.
Peter Hanson: He’s played this event twice, both in the last two years, and has seven rounds of par or better in finishes of T15 and T19. He hits it a mile but his strength is on the greens where he finds himself ranked 20th in total putting. He’s WD twice this season, once at Bay Hill and his last time out at Harbour Town.
Zach Johnson: It just goes to show you what kind of “off year” that Zach Johnson is experiencing if the only place I can fit him in this week is the “Horses-for-Courses” section. As well has he usually drives, chips and putts, it has been frustrating for gamers waiting for him to fire in 2013. The next few weeks will tell us where his game is at because this is where he made his move last year. He’s almost automatic at Sawgrass but his season up to this point suggests ANYTHING can happen this week. At THE PLAYERS he’s seven of eight with six results being T32 or better. This year, his best full-field, stroke play result was in JANUARY, T23, at the Humana.
Martin Kaymer: Well, here’s a bit of a stretch based on current form but I cannot deny his play at Sawgrass. Kaymer, as you know, NEVER makes this column, but after finishes of T15, T19, T34 and T55 he has to, in some form, this week. He’s been better every year since his first and would be worth a punt this week at 100-1 or better.
Henrik Stenson: The 2009 champ has never finished worse than T23 in the five times he’s made the cut here in seven tries. Wow. Included in that is also a T3 in 2006 and T10 in 2008. His T18 at Augusta should do nothing to scare you away this week. Neither will his total driving numbers (first) nor his GIR numbers (first).
David Toms: In his last four tournaments here the wily veteran has finished T10, second, MC and T9. His only top 25 this season in eight events was T13 at the Masters, another quite large event. His driver and putter will be his tools of choice this (and every) week.
Aaron Baddeley: He’s made six of nine cuts here and hit the top 10 with T6 in 2011 and T9 in 2009. There are plenty of other guys out there who cannot claim two top 10s in four years. If he can find any fairways or greens this week, watch out.
John Rollins: He’s hit the top 25 seven times in nine weekends in 2013 and he’s 19th in ball-striking on TOUR. He’s playing for the 11th time in a row at THE PLAYERS and has T25 (2012) and T13 (2010) finishes in two of his last three.
Pat Perez: He’s quietly made seven weekends in a row and four of those have been T32 or better. He played well on a tight course in Tampa as he finished T7 there and he finished T25 here last year. He has the experience and the game.
Take It Deep
Bud Cauley: Jacksonville native has played this track quite a few times. Hey, the name of the column is sub-titled “long shots”.
Brendon de Jonge: He played all four rounds at par or better in his third try here last year for T15. This is a large step-up in class.
Russell Henley: Another pup who just might have enough game to make a run late on a Sunday. He’s closed one deal already this year but it’s his inexperience which finds him on this list.
Thorbjorn Olesen: He showed up at Bay Hill for the first time and was T7. He showed up at the Masters for the first time and was T6. He also played the quite easy TPC Louisiana and did not make the cut.
Robert Allenby: Whoa! He was T27 last week and has had plenty of experiences with decent finishes here so be on the look out! MAXIMUM risk, even HIGHER reward!
Charles Howell III: He’s tried 11 times and his best finish is T32 in 2003. His next best finish was T53 in 2006. He’s missed the cut in seven of 11 starts. I have now guaranteed him a top 25 for this week.
Hunter Mahan: I cannot endorse him, sorry. T73, MDF, MC and MC in his last four don’t get me going. If he falls into last round of my live weekly draft, I MIGHT take a look. He’ll be back but there are too many players this week to take a chance at him early. I’m not overpaying this week.
David Mathis: He was T15 here last year in his first start. I‘ll chalk it up to beginner’s luck as he hasn’t made a cut in his last eight events in 2013. His best finish of the year is T41 at Sony. Yikes.
S.Y. Noh: Just say Noh this week. And probably next. And probably the week after that. Sean Foley’s stuff takes time to grow.
Padraig Harrington: Belly putter or no belly putter? I mean, how can you possibly hitch your wagon to a guy who’s not sure what kind of putter he’s using? Not me.
Bubba Watson: He said via his Twitter that he has not been feeling good about his golf swing for the “last few tournaments”. He said he must “keep grinding and quit playing scared.” He made two cuts in five tries and his best finish is T37. This ain’t the place to sharpen up the game.
Ryan Palmer: He’s missed six of seven cuts. His best finish is T75. He has two rounds under par.