2019 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 certainly 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 was inducted into the Hall of Fame a couple of years ago, it was 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 13 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 really 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 Paul Azinger nervously sweat and flip pencils 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 Arnold Palmer Invitational remained sizzlin’ as Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week Matthew Fitzpatrick finished runner-up, while Semi-Flier Luke List finished t-10th.  Lockzilla Bryson DeChambeau made the cut, but overall disappointed finishing well out of the mix at t-46th.

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

LOCKZILLA (Last week: DeChambeau t-46th)


Brooks Koepka– TPC Sawgrass is not a bomber’s paradise.  Is Brooksy a bomber?  Absolutely.  I mean, look at those pipes.  But, beyond those pythons is a deft touch around the greens, precision control with his irons and an ability to throttle down off the tee when needed.  All of which was on full display at the Honda just two weeks back (seriously- I couldn’t care less that he missed the cut last week at Bay Hill).  PGA National (the Honda) was a course where he never before had contended and finished just one shot out of a potential playoff with winner Keith Mitchell.  Just because Brooksy has 3 majors doesn’t mean he’s content or slowing down anytime soon.  His track record here is nothing special (t-11th last year, which was backdoored with a stellar Sunday 63), but I liken it to the Honda where he’s at the point where he can contend almost anywhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised whatsoever to see him add another massive piece of hardware to his trophy case.

SEMI-FLIER (Last week: List t-10th)


Adam Hadwin– Last year at the PLAYERS I played the Canadian as my BOLD play of the week and had this to say about him—“This dude is just straight nails and inevitably will seriously contend and likely win a BIG event at some point very soon.”  I may have been a little premature with that prediction, but I stand by it and this very well could be the week it comes true.  Hasn’t missed a cut since the Safeway Open in October, already seriously contended this season with a t-2nd at the Desert Classic in late January and was t-33rd at Bay Hill last week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last week: Poulter t-23rd)


Justin Thomas– I know, I know.  Absolutely no reason to put him here as both his current form (3rd, t-16th, 3rd, 2nd, 9th, t-30th so far in 2019) and his course history (4/4 cuts made, t-3rd in ’16, t-11th in ’18) point to him playing well.  And the fact that he’s my son’s favorite player.  🙂  All that being said, I didn’t like what I saw at the Honda a couple weeks back (yes, I realize he still made the cut and finished t-30th, but he was really, really scrappy, particularly on the weekend).  He’s also an extremely popular pick this week.  Sometimes these are just gut fades, just like with Poulter last week who everyone was on and while he wasn’t a total bust, he also didn’t particularly play well in finishing t-23rd.  I’m on the fade train with JT this week.  Hop aboard and thank me later.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last week: Fitzpatrick 2nd)


Kevin Kisner– Coming into his 5th PLAYERS appearance, the Kis has sort of done the every-other thing thus far, going made cut, MC, made cut, MC in 4 tries thus far.  His best appearance?  Why none other than his first one, when back in 2015 he finished runner-up to Rickie.  He’s rounding into mighty solid form, notching 4 straight finishes inside the top 30, including a t-23rd last week at Bay Hill, which was much better than the final finishing result showed as he gave a bunch back to the field with a Sunday 75.  I like this course/setup for Kis and not only think that he has a chance to contend, but also a real chance at hoisting the trophy on Sunday.

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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