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Thursday, May 10, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at THE PLAYERS

Time to pick my "5 to Watch" for this week's major, THE PLAYERS. And yes, I call it a major. The World Golf Hall of Fame ranks it with the majors, so that's good enough for me. Besides, just because you do or don't call something by a particular name doesn't change what it is, so the use -- or lack thereoft -- of the label "major" doesn't change anything.

Enough of my mini-rant. Let's pick some winners!

Defending champion Si Woo Kim

Because TPC Sawgrass doesn't favor any particular style of play, we often get surprising winners. Did any of you have Si Woo Kim on your fantasy radar last year? I didn't think so. And that makes picking winners at THE PLAYERS a tricky situation. Quite literally, anybody in the field could hoist that crystal trophy at week's end.

Even picking a winner based on recent form is a bit of a crapshoot. Again, all I have to do is point to Si Woo Kim last year -- he wasn't in good form at all. Nevertheless, it's probably my best chance of picking a winner... so here I go.
  • I have to say, I really like Ian Poulter's chances. Poults posted a second here last year, and has continued to show good form ever since. And with a win at the Houston Open, I think he's playing well enough to get it done this week.
  • Likewise, Henrik Stenson has been showing really good form despite not winning recently. And we should remember that he is a former champion at this event. Sawgrass is built for that towering 3-wood of his, and I see no reason he couldn't break his win drought this week. Drought-breaking has been something of a habit on Tour this year. ;-)
  • One player who shows up on a number of fantasy lists is Tommy Fleetwood, and I agree with the pick. Tommy has consistently played well in big events, and I see no reason that he couldn't snag a PLAYERS title for his first PGA Tour win.
  • Yes, my list has a decided European bias; that's because so many of them are playing well. But let me throw Rickie Fowler into the mix. His win at Sawgrass was one of the great performances at any event in recent memory and, despite a few stumbles lately, his play at the Masters showed his game is still in great shape. Returning to the site of perhaps his greatest victory thus far -- and playing with Tiger and Phil the first two days -- could be just what he needs to add a second PLAYERS to his resume (I believe you Euros out there call it a CV).
  • As for my flier, I'm taking Tiger Woods. I understand why the Big Cat isn't on anybody's radar but -- and I admit, I'm surprised to hear myself say this -- I think he's being underestimated this week. He's the only two-time winner in the field; he can play around his driver on most holes; those irons he put in play last week certainly seem to be working; and let's be clear here, do any of us really believe Tiger's putter is going to stay cold? I don't.
And my pick is... look, I really, really, REALLY like Poulter's chances this week. I like what I hear in his pressers, and I like what I see on the course, and I think you can't overestimate how much the Ryder Cup is driving him. I REALLY ought to pick him...

But I'm taking Tiger. I can't shake the feeling that he's going to catch lightning in a bottle this week. Hey, he's had three Top5s this year so far, all of them realistic chances to win.
  • He had a T2 at the Honda Classic, on a course he hadn't played in decades. Where was that event? Florida.
  • He had another T2 at the Valspar Championship, a really tight course. Where was that event? Florida.
  • He had a T5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, which really challenged his game. Where was that event? FLORIDA!
And now he's teeing it up at Sawgrass, in Florida. His putting has been wonderful on courses in Florida. And he's playing the first two days with Phil, who already has a win this season.

Oh yeah. I'm picking Tiger this week. Stranger things have happened. Like Si Woo Kim.

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