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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

My "5 to Watch" at THE PLAYERS

Once again it's time for me to show my ignorance and try to pick five players most likely to win a big event. This time, it's THE PLAYERS.

Rickie Fowler and Jason Day at the 2016 PLAYERS

You all know the basics of this event, as THE PLAYERS has been played at TPC Sawgrass for decades now. The Pete Dye layout holds the unique distinction of being totally neutral as a playing field -- it doesn't favor long hitters over short, or old players over young.

The one prejudice it holds is that it hates defending champions. In all its years at Sawgrass, THE PLAYERS has never seen a repeat champion.

Therefore, I won't be picking Jason Day this week.

However, the overall fairness of the course doesn't give me much more help than that. Anybody could conceivably win this week, as long as they're on their game. And the changes made to the course for this year's playing should magnify that wide-open mentality.

One special mention: Although he typically plays well at Sawgrass, I'm not including Sergio in my list. This is simply because he hasn't played since winning the Masters and I expect a bit of "major hangover" this week. And he's earned it!

But that doesn't make much of a dent in the potential winners either. Five seems a very small number at this event.
  • After showing very little rust at the Wells Fargo last week, I continue to include Dustin Johnson in these lists. As long as he can keep reasonable control of his irons -- he doesn't really need woods -- I think he can get his first win at Sawgrass.
  • Aside from the missed cut at Zurich, Rickie Fowler has been playing very well this year. And we all remember his dramatic win here in 2015. He's done it before...
  • First-timers don't often win at Sawgrass, but Jon Rahm could certainly be the exception. He already has one win this season and, coupled with his usually straight long game and his touch around the greens, this could easily be his second win of 2017.
  • Justin Rose. I just have a feeling about him.
  • And for my flier, I'm taking Wesley Bryan. Wes hasn't played particularly well since winning the Heritage, and he missed the cut last week. But I'm expecting some magic when I pick a flier, and who better to perform magic than a trick shot artist?
And my pick to win is... SURPRISE! I'm taking Justin Rose this week. I can't tell you why. DJ has every reason to win on his side, but I can't shake the idea that Rose is primed to win.

I guess we'll find out soon enough.

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