Last week’s winner Bryson DeChambeau and the rest of the PGA TOUR heads east to Ponte Vedra for THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass this week. They will be back for the first time since the golf world was halted at this time last season following that Thursday’s first round. Now, 48 of the Top 50 players in the world will gather back for the biggest purse of the season with only the injured Brooks Koepka and Matthew Wolff missing the event.
Rory McIlroy will come in as the defending champion of this event from 2019, when he won in the tournament’s new place on the schedule in early March. He will come into this year’s version with the second-lowest odds to win this week at some books, just a few points behind world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
It will undoubtedly be a great show this weekend with about 9,000 fans to be allowed on the grounds each day. The Stadium Course will allow for some of the traditional scenes especially around the signature island green of the par-3 17th hole.
TPC Sawgrass Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
7,189-yard par 72
- Four par 5s, Four par 3s, 12 par 4s
- Average Green Size: 5,500 ft (larger than average for PGA TOUR)
- Bermuda grass greens with Poa trivialis
- 2.5-inch bermuda rough
- Sand Bunkers: 88
- Water Hazards: 17 (In play on 17 holes)
There are so many great holes around TPC Sawgrass that it’s hard to determine where to start, so instead of grouping them, I’ll highlight the key scoring opportunities as they come around the course. The first of those is at the par-5 second hole, which plays as the second-easiest hole on the course each year. It will be imperative for players to get off to a great start, and a birdie is a must at this hole, which will yield them more than 38% of the time.
The next good scoring opportunity comes at the short par-4 fourth, which can be a bit of feast or famine. Good drives off the tee create the chance to make birdie, but a tee shot into the fairway bunker or rough can bring double or worse into play with water surrounding the green. Things get tougher from there since holes five, six and eight are three of the five most difficult at Sawgrass. Players will be happy to escape at even par through four rounds across these holes, where bogey or worse is the result around 25% or more of the time.
Closing out the front nine is another attackable par 5, where birdie or better is the result more than 30% of the time. Players will try to push their drive as close to the tributary that splits the hole before a long approach to the green surrounded by grass mounds and bunkering. The last hole of the outward nine starts a stretch of four holes that may be the best opportunity for the coveted DraftKings birdie streak bonus if a player can find a scoring opportunity on the par-4 10th, because the 11th and 12th are two of the easiest holes on the course.
Similar to most holes at TPC Sawgrass, the 11th and 12th provide birdie opportunities with good shots, but they could equally result in bogey or worse. The nature of this Pete Dye track allows for good shots to be rewarded, but it will also put big numbers in play. The driveable par-4 12th is one of the better examples where the 302-yard hole can result in an eagle opportunity off the tee or a water ball that brings double or worse into play.
Holes 13-15 are all difficult tests that are likely to play over par for the week. The 14th is clearly one the top two most difficult holes on the course and will yield birdie less than 10% of the time and bogey or worse at over a 30% clip. Players will look to navigate this stretch at even par in order to ramp up into one of the greatest finishing stretches in all of golf.
Very few courses around the world have as iconic of a final few holes as TPC Sawgrass. Starting with the par-5 16th, the tournament can change in an instant on the easiest hole on the course where eagle will be in play in all four rounds. Once again though, the pressure of the weekend can and will bring large numbers in play, as well, especially as the leaders come into the stadium atmosphere around the 16th and 17th holes.
Once players walk off this par 5, they will walk around to the most exciting hole in golf at the par-3 17th. The signature island green looks and plays smaller than it is, even from just 137 yards. The 17th has seen about 50 water balls per tournament over the past five years and everything from hole-in-one to a 12 across the years. It truly is one of the greatest holes in all of golf.
After the leaders finish the most nervy wedge shot of their careers, they will be required to navigate the finishing hole, which plays as the toughest on the course. The par 4 has water running down the entire left side, with trees protecting from players bailing out to the right. It will undoubtedly play well over par on the week, and the birdies will be few and far between on this 462-yard dogleg left. We can only hope that the 72nd hole will be the deciding challenge for the 2021 PLAYERS champion.
Course Horses (Last 5 Years)
Adam Scott (T12-T11-T6-T12-T38)
The 2004 PLAYERS Champion has a run of solid finishes at TPC Sawgrass, as this course just seems to fit his eye. Scott has four straight top-12 finishes at The PLAYERS and hasn’t missed a cut on TOUR in a year. He seems like a safe bet for a solid finish this week.
Rory McIlroy (1-MC-T35-T12-T8)
Is there any course where Rory doesn’t have good results? He seems to be a staple in this section of the article each week, and rightfully so this week coming into The PLAYERS as the defending champion. If he can make it happen this week, he would be the first one to win back-to-back PLAYERS.
Jason Day (T8-T5-T60-1-MC)
Another Australian that has found great success at Sawgrass is Day, who has top-10 finishes in three of his last four trips to this event, including a win in 2016. He will look to build off the consistent play he has had over the past three tournaments, including a 31st at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.
Hideki Matsuyama (T8-MC-T22-T7-T17)
The leader after the first round of the 2020 PLAYERS Champion was set to be Matsuyama before things quickly changed overnight and the remainder of the tournament was cancelled. He shot an opening-round 63, which was just more continued good play on a course where he has four top-25 finishes over the past five years, including two top-10s.
Pictured above: Rory McIlroy
Photo credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images