FANTASY GOLF Don’t Hate the Players (Championship)
By James Dalthorp III
BEAST DOME NATION.
On paper, there are two major differences between the difficult setup at Bay Hill last week and this grueling “5th major” that starts on Thursday:
First, Bay Hill is a tournament where the winner could barely make the cut. At the Players, the leaders will separate themselves more. Why? This is a course where you can score well, but the punishment for mistakes is greater. There is just a lot more water that actually comes into play on most shots. Most of the water at Bay Hill is avoidable. At the Players, missing the green is essentially a 1 stroke penalty in many cases. That being said, the course is also much shorter relatively speaking. This means, a lot of guys will pick more aggressive lines from tee to green (and often have to).
Secondly, Bay Hill had much thicker rough. That certainly favored Bryson. It will be crucial to hit fairways – but the recoveries will be a far cry trying to hack out of thick rough like last week. Creative players can still succeed out of pine straw, fairway bunkers (there are many) and very low cut rough. This means the course cannot be overpowered – and a guy who is creative and able to curve the ball effectively will have no problem managing being just off the fairway.
However, the point is this: good players will make huge mistakes on Sunday. The leaderboard will not fluctuate much because guys are making a million birdies. Each hole is so unique from day to day that bogeys are inevitable. Therefore, consistency is rewarded here more than other event on the Florida swing. And that will be a combination of supreme ball striking and comfort on hitting these odd angled fairways and distance control with irons. Bay Hill was much more about avoiding the rough and taking advantage of the par fives. Par fours at the Players can be handled and allows guys like Jason Dufner, for example, to contend.
1. Jordan Spieth
I’m putting my money where my mouth is. The results over the last 4 weeks have been a prophecy in a sense to my first Beast the Odds podcast. Jordan is past due on rent – and at this pace, he’ll be paid off by August. Look, you can’t find more diverse events than the events Jordan has been playing. Scottsdale, Pebble Beach, Los Angeles, Orlando. The kid is playing phenomenal. T4, T3, T4, and a T15. Consider how different those tests truly are. This is not the Jordan of old. I have believed in his trajectory during those odd years he’s struggled and I believe at any moment he puts it all together now.
2. Jason Day
Trending in the right direction with some new consistency. I think Jason can win here easily – with a lot of his best assets to win here. Putts lights out – and he drives the ball in a way that suits this course perfectly. He hits irons off the tee often when necessary and threads the needle. That strategy pays off on a course where others might need to hit driver or longer hitters might be questioning their tee shots. He’ll be ready to go. Since he’s putting well on these East coast greens already, it’s a sure thing.
3. Richy Werenski
Coming off a great finish at Bay Hill, I like his chances. He has some experience hovering around the top 25 in this event despite limited starts. Bay Hill provides some tough par 3’s that make for a nice appetizer for Bay Hill’s. I think European players tend to find some comfort in the most challenging of courses on the East Coast sometimes. This course seems to be feast or famine for most, but players with good stats off the tee have a chance. Sergio has done well here and so has Rory – both past champs. Richy is a European Tour killer and he’ll have a great chance to show off his skills this week.
4. Lucas Glover
I’m trying to have a solid veteran in my top 5 each week. A veteran with raw ability always seem to make it into the final 9 hole discussion to win here. Jim Furyk comes to mind in recent years – and plenty of guys have historic finishes in the final few holes here. I see Lucas as a guy whose consistency over the last few years is due for a big performance. What’s the most likable aspect of Glover’s game is his driving accuracy.
5. Luke LIst
This is an event that separates players of Luke’s stature with the superstars of the game. Although Luke may be ranked # 162 in the world, he is capable of great things. HIs last win was last year on the KF tour just down the road on a similar course. He has managed to trend in the right direction at this event, SLOWLY. An off round in the 60’s and missed cuts in his first 2 starts (surprisingly recently) and then he made the cut and had two rounds in the 60’s to start in his last start here. Look, this guy has gone from putting one good round together here to being in contention before the cut. That’s a true sign of experience and gathering confidence on a difficult scope. He has graduated in his information gathering here. Give the guy a top 10. His best finishes have come in Florida on tough tracks like the Honda. With 3 stellar events in the last month or so, I won’t put much into the last 2 weeks. He’ll come alive here.
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