It’s that time again! Mother’s Day weekend on the PGA Tour — and that means a couple things.
First, it’s PLAYERS Championship week. The tournament everyone who can’t win a major wants to win! Until recent years, wins at the PLAYERS were the, “yeah, but” answers to the likes of Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia. Currently, it’s the answer for Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
Second, it means that on Sunday a lot of players will be wearing pink or, in most cases, a color reminiscent of pink.
Anyway — from a fantasy golf and betting standpoint, it’s one of the deepest, richest fields of the year. It’s one where all the big names show up for battle, leaving you plenty of options for your fantasy squad. As well as plenty of dark horses.
In the tournaments long, storied history, plenty of those sleepers have turned a good week on the course into a career-defining victory. Here’s a look at who’s for real this week and who are just pretending:
Sergio Garcia — If you’re not adding the newly-minted major champion to your fantasy roster this week, you’re truly making a mistake. Garcia is a former winner here and is the all-time earnings winner for this event. In the last three years, Garcia has also notched a solo third and a T-2 showing in the event.
Graham DeLaet — Still looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, Canadian standout Graham DeLaet is poised for a solid week at TPC Sawgrass. All the important statistics point to upward trend soon, and the PLAYERS is notable for getting guys long overdue their first win. DeLaet isn’t exactly setting the world on fire right now, but he’s got top-25 finishes in each of his last two starts, including a tie for 6th at the RBC Heritage.
Brian Harman — Last week’s winner, Brian Harman, makes this list for a few reasons. First, is obviously that you like to ride the hot hand. Second, the win wasn’t much of a surprise when you consider he’s finished inside the top-15 in each of his last four starts. Third and finally — much less publicized — is that Harman actually plays quite well at TPC Sawgrass. As recently as 2015 he finished in a tie for eighth.
Jordan Spieth — Many people are shying away from Spieth this week thanks to his poor performance here in each of the last two seasons. That being said, I still remember his 2014 showing where he finished T-4 in his Sawgrass debut. I lost money on him that year, but was impressed with how well he played. Everyone knows that at the PLAYERS, it’s often feast or famine — and I personally believe Spieth is overdue for a large meal.
Kevin Chappell — Last year’s runner-up at the PLAYERS is coming in hot after his win at the Valero Texas Open and his T-7 at the Masters. Last week, he missed the cut — but I don’t suspect that will continue. Consider last week’s performance an abortion. Chappell is still hot, still playing well and still has a chance to do big things at TPC Sawgrass.
Dustin Johnson — Still the best player in the world, DJ’s last five starts have resulted in a T-3, a T-2 and three wins. His entire season has been, dare I say, “Tiger like.” With just one missed cut in 8 starts, DJ has finished worse than sixth in just one of the other seven. In reality, this blurb is about 65 words too long as I could have just posted, “Dustin Johnson — Duh.”
Patrick Cantlay — Still a bit of a sentimental choice, I love the way Patrick Cantlay’s game is trending right now and, as I said earlier, the PLAYERS has a way of making winners out of guys for whom that has been a while coming. Strong performances early in the season got him here and I think he continues the trend.
Rory McIlroy — Few players have been more successful at TPC Sawgrass than Rory McIlroy. He’s got new gamers in his bag this week which might be a little cause for concern, but not enough for me to tell you to avoid starting him. Rors has made four appearances in this event and has never finished worse than T-12.
Lee Westwood — While I’ve chosen players in the past for their track records, I’m going to avoid Lee Westwood this week due to his current form. His performance at the Masters notwithstanding, Westwood has been dismal to say the least in 2017. No need to add Westy this week. Bro’s an anchor.
Matt Kuchar — Kuchar has been playing well lately and that’s normally a good thing, but in my experience with betting on Kuch it means he’s going to have a really bad week — and then win the following one. I’m avoiding him this time, but he’ll surely be on the top have of this piece next week.
Zach Johnson — Johnson finally broke 70 on Tour last week and while that’s a good sign for the slumping major champion, Johnson’s blip of success last week isn’t enough for me to shake off the emotional trauma he caused with his disastrous performance at the Masters.
Bubba Watson — Save for the T-5 with J.B. Holmes at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Bubba Watson has been a hard man to find on almost any leaderboard this year. Obviously, everyone has a tough year — but with 144 names to choose from this week there’s no reason to have his on your list. Don’t worry, Bubba. The Travelers will be here in no time!
Patrick Reed — Despite a very strong showing at Eagle Point Club through 54-holes last week, the numbers on Patrick Reed still aren’t doing it for me. I’d much rather see him finish T-10 this week on my bench than miss the cut in my starting lineup. Once there’s a little more consistency, the five-time Tour winner will be back in my good graces.
Brooks Koepka — I truly love Brooks Koepka’s game and am 100% on board with the idea that he will one day when majors and 2-3 events a year. You can quote me on that. That being said, he’s a still a little young and wild and doesn’t have the consistency that fantasy players need. I’m going to pass on him this week, but that doesn’t mean he’s in the dog house. Of all the names on this list, he’s the one who least belongs here.
Justin Thomas — Mojo from his hot start to the season is almost gone. He hasn’t been terrible, but I wouldn’t expect much more than a made cut and a mid-pack finish for Justin Thomas this week.