2017 THE PLAYERS Championship Picks, Including the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #isitThursdayyet

The PGA Tour has 4 and only 4 majors, period.  The Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship always have been and forever will be the ultimate and defining factors as to the level of greatness of any player’s career.  Any further additions to the number of majors played each year on Tour would dilute the prestige of winning a major and would wrongfully modify history.

At the end of a player’s career, it’s a “how many majors did he win” question first, then how many total tournaments won gets asked second.  Case in point- Tom Lehman may have only won five career times on the PGA Tour, but he won a major (the 1996 British Open), and that’s what he’s remembered most for (a close second would probably be for his multiple U.S. Open close calls).

So, what does all of this have to do with this week’s PLAYERS Championship?  Well, the PLAYERS is a tournament of such meaning that at the end of a player’s career, PLAYERS victories get listed immediately following the number of majors won- sort of a 1 and 1a so to speak.  For example, Davis Love III won just one major in his career, but he won 2 PLAYERS Championships, so when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame someday it’ll be a 1 major AND 2 PLAYERS resume for DLIII.

On another level, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and some others have yet to win the big one (a major), but both have proven their games on nearly the highest level as each has a PLAYERS victory.  So, point proven- the PLAYERS is a big deal.  I mean the name of the tourney is in all caps for goodness sakes (the now retired Tim Finchem used to REALLY love CAPS LOCK).

The PLAYERS Championship course, TPC Sawgrass, is heavily advertised by the PGA Tour as “Golf’s greatest stadium,” which is a nice way of saying, “It’s not nearly the best course on Tour, but it’s memorable and always captivating.”  Course designer Pete Dye isn’t the fairest architect in the game, but one thing’s for sure; he knows how to build for excitement.

We all remember Adam Scott’s PLAYERS victory, where while clinging onto a two stroke lead heading into 18 he flipped over a 6-iron into the water, but then got up and down holing the dramatic 6-foot bogey putt for victory then fist pumped with sweaty armpits (was that really 12 years ago already?!).  Oh yeah, then there’s the phantom man Craig Perks, who down the stretch chipped in on 16, holed a 50 foot bomb on 17 and then miraculously chipped in again on 18 (for par) to win the ’02 PLAYERS.  Also, wound ball Strata-man Hal Sutton and his famous, “be the right club today- YES!” yell as he defeated Tiger in 2000, which Tiger followed up with his “Better Than Most” putt on his way to victory in 2001 (and also his cheating phantom drop from 2013).  With victory, there’s also heartbreak, as David Toms, Len Mattiace, Paul Goydos, Sean O’Hair and so many others have painfully bled down the stretch straight from the neck during this pressure packed tournament.  No doubt about it, the PLAYERS just plain oozes drama.

You can say what you want about the quirkiness of Pete Dye’s course designs (I’m in the “not a fan” group overall), but his TPC Sawgrass marquee gem sets up for possibly the most dramatic finish on Tour.  There’s first the reachable-in-2 yet devilishly tricky par 5 16th hole, then the infamous island green par 3 17th and of course the murderous and maniacal par 4 18th. Anything from -4 to +5 or more is entirely possible during the closing stretch.   Oh yeah, and the Tour recently poured a boatload of cash into renovations on reshaping greens, moving some tee boxes and totally revamping the 12th hole into a driveable par 4.  Ah yes, it’s PLAYERS week folks.  Time to watch Johnny Miller nervously sweat all over the telecast while he and Pete Dye try and intimidate the field.  I mean, time to enjoy the show.

My picks last week at the Wells Fargo Championship were just blah, as my Lockzilla Adam Scott never got it going and finished t-36th, but my BOLD play of the week on Kevin Tway did come through with a t-5th finish.

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLA (Last week: Scott t-36th)

Martin Kaymer
Martin Kaymer
– When Martin Kaymer loves a course, he LOVES the course.  Case in point, he’s a perfect 8 for 8 here, including a win in 2014 and hasn’t missed a cut in over a year.  Doing well to turn his “off days” into 73s instead of the 77s from year’s past.  Look for Kaymer to contend again this week.

SEMI-FLIER (Last week: Kisner MC)

Kevin Kisner
Kevin Kisner
– Don’t let last week’s MC at the Wells Fargo Championship scare you off, as yes, it was disappointing, but the Kis remains in top form and is a prime play this week.  Two runner-up finishes and two other top 15s since early March, along with the fact that he nearly won here in 2015 (co runner-up with Sergio to Rickie Fowler) make him poised to lift another trophy soon.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last week: Laird t-42nd)

Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm
– El cielo es el limite for this Spanish youngster, but targeting him in his PLAYERS debut is not something I’m going to do.  His ball-striking was a little scrappy down the stretch last week at the Wells Fargo Championship (yes- I do realize he finished solo 4th), and with no tournament course knowledge this week and him being a bit loose off the tee at times, I’m calling for a weekend off for Moonlight Jon gRahm.


Marc Leishman
Marc Leishman
– Also my BOLD play here last year, Leishman has had a stellar season thus far, capped off by a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.  He’s well rested since his t-44th at the Heritage, and should have extra confidence this week, having gone 4/4 in cuts made here in his past 4 appearances, including a t-8th in 2013.


Joel Harrington


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