I often find myself explaining the enormity of a golf tournament — or lack thereof — to friends and other casual golf fans who are not as immersed as I am on a week-to-week basis.
Everyone knows about the Masters, but take the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, for example. Or the Memorial at Muirfield Village. For golf fans, those tournaments are biggies.
This week, the schedule takes us to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, home of the PGA Tour headquarters, for the tour’s crown jewel, The Players Championship. When speaking with folks about The Players, I always try to jog their memory by mentioning the famous island green at No. 17. That usually rings a bell and helps them realize that The Players is also a biggie.
The governing body at Augusta National puts on the Masters. The USGA runs the U.S. Open. The R&A puts on the Open Championship and the PGA of America hosts the PGA Championship. The Players Championship is commonly referred to as “the fifth major” and is run by the PGA Tour.
The Players Championship has the largest purse in golf and arguably the best field in the world, including the four major championships. No player has ever won it back-to-back and it is one of the more difficult tests the players face all year. The Players is held at TPC Sawgrass, a Pete Dye design and one of the finest in Dye's portfolio. No two holes at Sawgrass run in the same direction. Players are forced to hit all types of shots and work the ball both ways. Seventeen of the 18 holes have a water hazard. Sawgrass is not terribly long, but putting the ball in the proper position off the tee is paramount. Being out of position can result in a double bogey or worse in a hurry.
The variety of tournament winners speaks to Dye's masterful design, with many different skill sets required to succeed. Shorter, accurate hitters such as Webb Simpson, Martin Kaymer and Si Woo Kim have won here. So, too, have bombers such as Davis Love, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. Great ball strikers and short-game wizards have fared well here too, including Brian Harman, Stephen Ames, Jerry Kelly and Sergio Garcia. And just about everyone you can imagine has missed the cut — even multiple times.
There is certainly some randomness to this event in the sense that so many players have both won and failed miserably. Handicapping here is difficult because there doesn’t seem to be a tried-and-true formula, but as always, we do our best to crack the code.
Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups that I considered and those that I played for The Players Championship:
— Lanto Griffin (+ 105) over Russell Knox
— Adam Hadwin (+ 105) over Mackenzie Hughes
— Daniel Berger (-130) over Hideki Matsuyama
— Chris Kirk (+ 105) over Russell Henley
— Brian Harman (-130) over Luke List
— Billy Horschel (-130) over Jordan Spieth
— Si Woo Kim (-120) over Alex Noren
— Tom Hoge (-110) over Bubba Watson
Tune into this week's edition of “LongShots” at VSiN.com/podcasts for all of the plays from myself, Wes Reynolds, Matt Youmans and our guest, Ryan Burr of PGA Tour Live on ESPN.