This is March. In my opinion there is no greater month for sport than the month of March, and with the Players Championship moving back this special month just got a little better. As of this moment all 50 golfers ranked in the top 50 of the OWGR are slated to tee it up in Ponte Vedra Beach. TPC Sawgrass will be as beautiful as ever, and is rumored to be playing longer and with less rough than it typically does. This is always one of my favorite events to watch every year, and this week should be no different. Let’s take a quick look at my performance at the API before I tell you who I think should be poised for high-level golf this week.
Arnold Palmer Invitational Power Ranking Grade: B+
-9 of 12 golfers ranked made the cut.
-6 of the 12 golfers ranked finished in the top 25.
-3 of the 12 golfers ranked finished in the top 6.
A pretty solid week for me overall buoyed by the 3-5 slots which consisted of the winner Franky Molinari and two guys who were right in the mix all week in Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy. The Kisner sleeper was looking great through 54 holes but a poor Sunday showing from Kiz took some air out of that balloon. Fell victim to the Jason Day WD that really nobody saw coming, and Rickie and Rosey did not do much to back up their placement in the top two spots. Enough API talk, however, this is Players Week and it’s time to dive into this incredible field.
Standard Disclaimer: For non-major Championships I will be ranking 12 golfers a week, and for the Majors I will be going 20 deep. I don’t rank for guys that I think will be in the mix, I rank solely on likelihood of winning the golf tournament. Thus, whoever I give the #1 spot to each week, is the guy I feel is most likely to reach the winner’s circle, and so forth down the list. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
1. Justin Thomas– Fresh off an off-week and certainly will be hungry. Could easily already have 1-2 victories in 2019 and that is definitely on his mind. Has had plenty of low rounds at this golf course, and the move to March should only increase his chances.
2. Rory McIlroy– Felt like last week would be the week Rory struggled a little bit and he ends up being in the final group on Sunday. Not making the same mistake this week at an event he badly wants to add to his trophy collection. That said, his Sunday performances continue to raise eyebrows.
3. Francesco Molinari– When the Italian Stallion is hot, he stays hot. Expect no sort of letdown following his victory last week at the API. Francesco is a grinder who is at the point in his career where he wants to rack up as many victories as possible. Four top 10’s since 2010 at this event certainly doesn’t hurt things either.
4. Jordan Spieth– Surprise, Surprise. Jordan has missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass two of the last three years and doesn’t have a single top ten since last July at Carnoustie. So why in the heck do I have him slated 4th in this week’s rankings? I don’t have a clear cut answer to that frankly, but consider it a hunch. Grells always knows.
5. Henrik Stenson– One of the guys who has tamed this golf course consistently over the years. After a lethargic Thursday in Orlando, the Swede really got it rolling and looks to be out of the funk that he was in the past few months. He knows he may only have a couple of high-level years left and will be ready for the upcoming stretch.
6. Brooks Koepka– Missed the weekend in Orlando and likely headed right to Ponte Vedra to take some frustration out on some little white balls. His most recent competitive round at TPC Sawgrass? A bogey-free 63. Expect a motivated Koepka to be right in the mix come Sunday afternoon.
7. Tiger Woods– Many Tiger lovers were sent into extreme panic a week ago after Tiger announced his withdrawal from Arnie’s event. I am in the camp that believes it was more precautionary and that he should be ready to roll this week. The history here speaks for itself, and #81 is certainly a possibility.
8. Xander Schauffele– At a place where newcomers seemingly always struggle, what’d the X-man do here in his debut a year ago? Second Place. Plenty of motivation to do one better and add his third trophy to the 2018-2019 season. Simply no weaknesses.
9. Tommy Fleetwood- Starting to really turn the corner in 2019 but continues to be susceptible to one blow-up round. With water all over the map at this track that could certainly be an issue once again, but he should also give himself plenty of scoring opportunities.
10. Adam Scott– Very few men have played TPC Sawgrass better than this Aussie over the last decade or so. The form this year is there as well, so this pick makes all kinds of sense on paper. With the move to March his length should only help his chances, and it was in March when he won this event as a youngster.
11. Rickie Fowler– Has had a weird couple of weeks following his triumph in Scottsdale, and has a pretty weird history at TPC Sawgrass. A win and a runner-up coupled with four missed cuts show just how tricky this course can be. Neither a Rickie win or a Rickie weekend spent away from the golf course would come as a surprise to me this week.
12. Dustin Johnson– This golf course has almost served as DJ’s Achilles Heel over the years. In 10 career starts, Dustin has never finished inside the top ten in this event. All that being said, he is simply too good of a player not to crack this list in some capacity. Maybe the move to March will do wonders for Dustin in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Whether you think this event should be considered “The 5th Major” or not, there is no disputing that there will be some incredible golf on display at TPC Sawgrass. You simply can’t ask for a better field, and the course should be in pristine condition. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the golf.
Cheers as always,