This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
THE PLAYERS Championship
TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course (7,189 yards, par-72)
$2,250,000 and 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner
The fattest prize pool in all of golf is up for grabs this week as THE PLAYERS Championship, hosted by TPC Sawgrass, consists of all top 50 members in the Official World Golf Ranking, highlighting the season's strongest field to date. Having been played in the month of May since 2007, the PLAYERS' scheduling change to March now plants the event in the Florida Swing following the conclusion of the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational. The event's move forced groundskeepers at TPC Sawgrass to overseed the course in order to remain pristine through winter conditions, and the layout should play both tougher and longer with cooler air moving in. A rare wire-to-wire champion emerged by four shots in 2018, but we'll hope for a bit more parity in this year's edition.
Recent Past Champions
2018 - Webb Simpson
2017 - Si Woo Kim
2016 - Jason Day
2015 - Rickie Fowler
2014 - Martin Kaymer
2013 - Tiger Woods
2012 - Matt Kuchar
2011 - K.J. Choi
2010 - Tim Clark
Key Stats to Victory
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Putting
Birdie or better percentage and bogey avoidance
The puny greens at TPC Sawgrass call for superb precision with iron play, landing SG: Approach atop the list of key stats this week. There are five par-4s that play between 450-500 yards, but all four of the par-5s are reachable and susceptible to eagle chances as proximity from over 200 yards becomes a factor as well. To touch on driving accuracy, Webb Simpson finished dead last in distance off the tee but led the field in FIR percentage en route to his 2018 victory here. Even though the course will play a bit longer in the cool March air, expect guys to constantly take less than driver as they look to avoid a plethora of hazards. Simpson also paced the tournament in SG: Putting by nearly two strokes last year. Lastly, scoring chances can come in bunches as we saw 26 competitors reach 20 or more par-breakers in 2018, but there's more than enough water on the course to also place an emphasis on bogey avoidance.
FanDuel Value Picks
Dustin Johnson, $12,300 - Despite 10 career appearances at TPC Sawgrass without a single top-10 showing, Johnson earns the most luxurious price tag on this week's board with wins in two of his last four starts. The top-ranked player in the world surged to a demanding five-stroke victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship the last time he teed it up, while he resides top-30 on Tour in each Strokes Gained category. The PLAYERS' transition to March should work in Johnson's favor as the course plays longer.
Tiger Woods, $11,100 - A withdrawal prior to the Arnold Palmer Invitational due to a neck strain should help limit the inflated ownership we usually see with Woods, but he's supposedly in good shape after receiving treatment the past few weeks. His notorious back surgeries have become known to cause tension higher up in the neck area, but he managed to play through such issues in Mexico en route to a T10 when seemingly no one but his peers on Tour knew he was dealing with discomfort. One of just six men to own multiple wins at the PLAYERS Championship, Woods has gained 5.8 strokes or more tee-to-green in his last three starts dating to the Farmers Insurance Open.
Xander Schauffele, $11,000 - The 2017 Rookie of the Year tied for runner-up honors during his PLAYERS debut last season, when he led the field in SG: Tee-to-Green and boosted his DFS score with a pair of eagles as well. Schauffele has risen to eighth in the OWGR with top-25s in eight straight starts since a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions, currently sitting atop the FedExCup standings as a result. He's 11th in SG: Approach, 13th in SG: Putting and 16th in scrambling.
Tommy Fleetwood, $10,600 - Fleetwood failed to avoid the disaster round last week at Bay Hill as he carded a four-over 76 on Saturday, but he rebounded with a four-under 68 on Sunday and ultimately finished second in SG: Tee-to-Green. The Englishman is the highest-ranked player in the world without a victory on the PGA Tour, but he's trending in the right direction and reached 12-under and TPC Sawgrass in 2018.
Patrick Cantlay, $10,000 - Cantlay held a share of the 18-hole lead at the PLAYERS last year before failing to break 70 in his two weekend rounds, though he still managed to finish top-25 as he played the par-5s in 10-under. He's notched a T17 or better in all but one of his eight starts to begin the 2018-19 campaign, ranking seventh in SG: Tee-to-Green, ninth in SG: Off-the-Tee and first in par-4 scoring.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Rafa Cabrera-Bello, $9,800 - The Spaniard recently notched top-25s in three straight events from the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am through the WGC-Mexico, but took the next step with a T3 at Arnie's place last week. He surged to an opening seven-under 65 before stumbling a bit in Round 2, though he still led the field in putts per GIR and finished top-10 in driving accuracy, SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Putting en route to 20 total birdies. On the season, Cabrera-Bello is ninth in SG: Total, 18th in par-breaker percentage and ninth in putting from inside 10 feet.
Henrik Stenson, $9,600 - A slump spanning nearly two months finally came to an end when Stenson bounced back from a first-round 77 at the API, playing his final 54 holes in a collective 10-under-par on the way to finishing top-3 in SG: Approach, driving accuracy and GIR percentage. He'll be able to sacrifice distance off the tee again this week at TPC Sawgrass, where he found the winner's circle in 2009 and owns top-25s in five of his last seven appearances.
Sungjae Im, $9,000 - The impressive rookie gained over 6.5 strokes approach during his Bay Hill debut last week, ultimately ranking seventh in SG: Tee-to-Green and eighth in putts per GIR as he fell just three shots shy of champion Francesco Molinari. Im is gaining strokes in every category through 37 measured rounds, displaying plenty of poise at 20 years old as he sees a majority of these venues for the first time ever.
Byeong-Hun An, $8,700 - Im's fellow countryman is certainly not gaining strokes with the flat stick, but An leads the Tour in SG: Around-the-Green and is up to fourth in SG: Tee-to-Green without a missed cut all season. He broke 70 in each of his two weekend rounds at Bay Hill last week, ultimately gaining over 10 strokes tee-to-green. Despite finishing T30 at the 2018 PLAYERS, Benny An hit just 33 fairways in regulation. It'll be interesting to see if he keeps driver in the bag more often this time around.
Chris Kirk, $8,200 - Kirk has been volatile with five missed cuts already in 2019, but he's gained strokes approach and tee-to-green in three consecutive starts culminating with a T15 at the API. He racked up 21 par-breakers at Bay Hill, but was hampered by a trio of double bogeys as well. Aside from a WD at the PLAYERS in 2016, Kirk has gained at least 4.3 strokes tee-to-green in each of his last four TPC Sawgrass performances.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
There's such a vast distribution of talent at the PLAYERS so you shouldn't become overly preoccupied with ownership projection, as this week's so-called chalk should see slightly less exposure thanks to the strength of field. Looking around DJ at the top of the board, I'll likely fade Justin Thomas and Justin Rose while pivoting to the red-hot Rory McIlroy instead. Thomas messed up his wrist at the Honda and lost strokes approach for the first time in nearly a year. Rose meanwhile owns just one top-10 in 15 trips to TPC Sawgrass.