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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My 5 to Watch at THE PLAYERS

Yes, it's already time for another of my eagerly-awaited "5 to Watch" posts. (You were eagerly awaiting it, weren't you? It's too late if you weren't...)

Let's face it. Picking favorites for THE PLAYERS can be hit or miss. Some players -- like Bubba Watson -- seem unable to crack the Top25 no matter how well they're playing coming in. Other players -- like Martin Kaymer last year -- seem to be struggling but maneuver their way around TPC Sawgrass without any real problems.

We'll blame this strange circumstance on Pete Dye and just move on.

There are several of the youngsters, like Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, who I'm not picking simply because they are still too reckless for a course like this. And there are several of the big hitters, like Dustin Johnson, who are probably in the same boat. Rory doesn't seem to like this course very much, and that doesn't bode well for anyone hoping to win there. And I'm leaving Paul Casey out simply because I'm not sure he's over that stomach bug that took him out last week. (If I was sure he had recovered, he would be a pick. For that matter, Henrik Stenson would too.)

So just who does seem likely to do well this time?
  • Jordan Spieth would seem to be a good choice, if for no other reason that he seems to be in the right frame of mind for it. Last year he messed up at the Masters, this year he rectified the problem. Last year he messed up at THE PLAYERS...
  • Jim Furyk seems to be on form as well, and shorter hitters like him aren't penalized by their lack of length here. While he says he doesn't particularly like the course, this is a home game for him (he can sleep in his own bed) and he says he plays TPC Sawgrass enough to understand what the course demands. So maybe this is the year he gets it done.
My remaining three choices are all fliers in a sense because I don't have any real idea of what TPC Sawgrass might do to them, but I like some things I've seen in their games lately.
  • I like Erik Compton this week, given his consistently good play over the last year. This is the kind of course where I think he can really excel.
  • Ben Martin has stepped his game up lately and I believe his levelheaded approach fits this Pete Dye course perfectly.
  • And in an ironic twist, I'm taking Tiger Woods as a flier pick. After listening to him answering media questions on Tuesday, I think Tiger has realistic expectations of himself this week... and I believe that may free him up to scramble around and go pretty low.
TPC Sawgrass is a thinking man's course that demands the ability to move the ball both ways and choose the right moment to be aggressive. We'll see soon enough if I've read my picks correctly.

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