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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: THE PLAYERS

So I'm making my "pick day" official. This 'Twofer Tuesday' gives you my picks for THE PLAYERS.


TPC Sawgrass is legendary. Pete and Alice Dye's masterwork has distinguished itself as a 'fair' test, meaning that it doesn't require a certain style of golf in order for a player to be successful. Long hitters and short hitters alike have won here over the years, and the winner is often a surprise because no one is eliminated from contention -- at least, not for the same reasons they might fall away during a typical Tour event.

The defending champ, Webb Simpson, capped off an amazing comeback from the USGA's now-notorious 'anchoring ban' that eliminated the popular belly putting technique. Webb isn't the only one to find a new way to putt successfully, but he's the first to win a major-level tournament after beating the ban.

But this year, a new wrinkle -- actually two -- has been added to the mix. The return to a March date means that we have no idea how Sawgrass will play for the current crop of pros. While roughly two dozen players in this week's field have played a March PLAYERS before, that was over a decade ago. The newer stars have never seen Sawgrass under these conditions -- windy and overseeded.

Add in the myriad changes in equipment since THE PLAYERS was last played in March and you've got the makings of a wide-open tournament, the likes of which we've never seen before. This also means that past performance is NO indication of what we might see this week.

So who have I chosen as my winner and my Top10 picks?
  • My Top10 is Ian Poulter. Part of me wants to go with Tommy Fleetwood but he's been a bit erratic lately, while Poults has been playing well all over the world. In fact, he's number 2 in the Race to Dubai. And since most players say Sawgrass is tougher in March, I tend to think the Match Play Ninja will find this setup to his liking.
  • And I pick Francesco Molinari as my winner -- and not because he won the API this past week. Francesco hasn't played much this season but, with only three starts in 2019, he has improved in each event -- and I realized early in Sunday's round that his game seems to have already come around. Yeah, I know that no one has ever won THE PLAYERS after winning the week before... but there can always be a first time.
So there you have it. I'm an American and I've picked two solid European Ryder Cuppers to play well this week. I think I'm in safe territory.

GC begins their coverage on Thursday at 1pm ET, but PGA TOUR LIVE will be streaming at 7:30am ET that morning. There's also a bit of streaming at 5pm ET this afternoon and at noon ET on Wednesday. Everybody's fascinated to see how the new schedule will affect the players after a decade or so playing in May. Should be interesting!

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