Fire up that b-roll of the island green 17th! Welcome to the much bandied about “fifth major" at Pete Dye's love-it-or-hate-it TPC Sawgrass. Regardless of your feelings about the prestige of The Players or Sawgrass, one of the strongest fields of the year takes on a course that theoretically favors no particular type of golfer.
The par-72 track is listed at just over 7,200 yards. Players deal with water and/or sand on almost all of the tee shots, and rarely have an opportunity to go full bore off the tee without consequence. Mounding around the greens makes slight misses much worse on approach shot. Plenty of bunkering around the greens and no shortage of water. Without proper strategy and precision, there's no recovery at Sawgrass.
Slick Bermudagrass greens are among the handful of toughest on tour, so poor putters should only be considered if there among the most precise of ballstrikers. The vaunted par-3 17th isn't difficult...until you're playing it down the stretch on Sunday (just ask Sergio Garcia).
Given Sawgrass' small, quick, undulating putting surfaces, proximity to to the hole is key. Wedge play and work in the 150 to 175 yard range is important as well, with a mind toward scrambling and putting beyond the usual strokes gained metrics. Course performance is slightly more important than usual, as Dye's tracks take repeat exposure and emotional management to master.
Creme de la creme
Justin Rose: $9,200
Sticking with our usual “fade the high-priced chalk" strategy, Justin Rose is attractively priced at $9,200 this week. No doubt Dustin Johnson ($12,000) and Rory McIlroy are ($11,200) are slightly better plays, but given that they're massively more expensive and will be much higher owned, dropping down to Rosey is could be a sneaky good play. Out of action since his runner-up finish at the Masters, the Englishman is well rested, and returning to a venue where he cracked the top 20 last year. Seventh in strokes gained: off-the-tee and ninth in strokes gained: total, Rose is poised for a top-five finish.