Many consider The Players Championship to be the fifth major of the PGA Tour season – and they have an argument. Of the top 50 players in the world, 48 will show up at TPC Sawgrass’ Players Stadium Course this week in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
The course underwent major renovations since last year’s event. Most notably the par-4 12th hole was redone in order for it to be played as a potential drivable par 4. But make no mistake, this Pete Dye gem didn’t get any easier. It will still challenge every facet of a player’s game. Length is negated here as players hit less drivers than they might like, and shotmakers and GIR leaders tend to fare well.
With that said, here are my top 25 fantasy players for this week’s Players Championship:
1. Rory McIlroy: Has gone T-12, T-8, T-6, T-8 in his last four Players starts. The newlywed is expected to have some new clubs in the bag this week as he returns for the first time since a T-7 at the Masters.
2. Dustin Johnson: The best player in the world returned from injury and nearly won the Wells Fargo before finishing T-2. Aside from a WD in 2013, DJ is a perfect 7 of 7 in making the 36-hole cut at The Players since 2009. However, during that span he has no top 10s.
3. Hideki Matsuyama: Nothing worse than T-23 in three starts here, including T-7 last year. Has cooled off since his torrid start to the season, but was T-11 at the Masters, so it’s not like he’s far off.
4. Sergio Garcia: Has been enjoying his green jacket, but it’s time for him to get back to work. And he’ll do so at a place that’s been good to him. Since winning the 2008 Players, Garcia hasn’t missed a cut at TPC Sawgrass and he’s been T-12 or better four times, including twice third or better. Ranks fourth on Tour in GIR percentage.
5. Justin Rose: Six missed cuts here since 2005, but recently he’s been better, finishing T-19 last year and T-4 in 2014. Game is in good shape at the moment as Rose’s runner-up at the Masters continued a stretch of six top-15 finishes in his last eight starts.
6. Rickie Fowler: His 2015 Players victory came after one of the all-time-great finishes not just at TPC Sawgrass but on any Tour course. But he also has four MCs in seven career starts here. (He did also tie for second in 2012.) Recently, Fowler has been on fire, winning once and not finishing worse than T-16 in his last six Tour starts. Missed the cut at Zurich with Day, but Fowler is well-rested and ready to go.
7. Jason Day: Game and life is coming around as Day’s mother, who is battling cancer, was well enough to return home to Australia, and Day tied for 22nd at Augusta, his best finish in his last four Tour starts. Day didn’t look too sharp alongside Rickie Fowler at Zurich, but he is the defending champ at the Players, where he also has finishes of T-19 and T-6 in his last five starts at TPC Sawgrass. Of course, he has missed three cuts here since 2010, as well.
8. Jon Rahm: Making his Players debut but this kid can play. His worst finish in 2017 is a T-34 at the CareerBuilder Challenge. His fourth-place showing at Wells Fargo last week was his fifth top 5 of the season.
9. Jordan Spieth: Hasn’t teed it up since his T-11 at the Masters, so he’ll have a little competitive rust to shake off. TPC Sawgrass hasn’t been his best venue, as he’s missed his last two cuts here, but he was T-4 in his Players debut in 2014. Hitting a lot of greens this season, which will help here.
10. Matt Kuchar: Has made seven of his last eight Players cuts, a span that includes his win in 2012 and T-3 finish last year. His form is nice as he’s been T-22 or better in five of his last seven Tour starts. That includes a T-4 at Augusta and T-11 at Harbour Town.
11. Adam Scott: Doesn’t look completely comfortable out there right now, but he’s still posting solid results – T-36 at Wells Fargo, T-9 at Masters. The 2004 Players champ has made five straight cuts at TPC Sawgrass, hitting the top 20 three times during that period.
12. Justin Thomas: Looked refreshed after #SB2K17 as he and teammate Bud Cauley played well at Zurich. Last individual stroke-play event was a T-22 at the Masters. Thomas was T-3 last year at the Players after tying for 24th in his debut.
13. Kevin Chappell: Last year’s Players runner-up is 4 for 6 in making cuts at TPC Sawgrass. Current form is great, as Chappell tied for seventh at the Masters before winning the Valero Texas Open.
14. Brooks Koepka: Caught fire at the Match Play before going T-11 at the Masters and runner-up at the Valero Texas Open. Played well alongside his little bro at Zurich, too. T-35, MC in two Players starts.
15. Tyrrell Hatton: First-timer at Players, but his game should fit nicely here. He ended his run of 12 straight top 25s with an MC at the Masters, but was T-29 at the RBC Heritage after that.
16. Paul Casey: T-12 at Wells Fargo was his WORST finish in last three Tour starts, as he was sixth at Augusta and T-9 at the Match Play. Recent record at Players is odd – T-23, WD, WD, MC, MC, T-14 in last six starts.
17. Martin Kaymer: Yet to miss a cut in eight Players starts, which includes his win in 2014. Seven top 25s already in 2017, including two T-4 showings. T-32 last time out, at RBC Heritage.
18. Branden Grace: Building momentum behind T-11 at Harbour Town and T-10 at Valero. Made all three cuts at Players, but no top 25s. Good chance he ends that trend this year.
19. Russell Knox: Followed T-34 Players debut with top 20s in each of the last two editions here. T-11 at Harbour Town ended a string of rough performances.
20. Francesco Molinari: Had a poor weekend at Wells Fargo and ended up T-24. Mixed results at Players, but his good ones have been good – ninth in 2010, T-6 in 2014 and T-7 last year.
21. Tommy Fleetwood: Making Players debut but knows how to show up in big events. Won in Abu Dhabi this year and also was runner-up at the WGC-Mexico. He’ll enter this week coming off a runner-up at the Shenzhen International.
22. Charl Schwartzel: No missed cuts in last four Players starts, but also no top 25s. Current form is solid, though, as Schwartzel was third at the Masters.
23. Phil Mickelson: This has been a nice season for Lefty, who has eight top 25s in 11 starts. The 2007 Players champ, Mickelson made his next five Players cuts after that win, but has missed the weekend in each of the past four years here.
24. Pat Perez: T-17 last time out at TPC Sawgrass (2015) and coming off a T-2 at Wells Fargo. It’s amazing how good he can be when he’s healthy.
25. Daniel Berger: T-9 last year at Players, though hasn’t wowed anyone the last few weeks – T-36 at Wells Fargo, T-27 at Masters – since placing fifth in Houston.