The Players Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
TPC Sawgrass, Pete Dye, the 5th Major, the 17th…sound familiar?
The joy of The Players is the staging at the same venue with the iconic 17th amongst the aforementioned creating both positive memory triggers for players but also history. The fact that the course changes – so does Augusta – to keep up with the times is only so relevant in the search for a winner.
Fowler shoved any criticism of his stature down his detractors throats with an awesome finish last year eventually winning third time round against Kevin Kisner on the 17th. His play over the closing holes on Sunday and then into the playoff was off the scale and what a surprise Kisner, beaten into second, kicked on to show us the class act he is.
As wonderful as The Players is and as deep as the field is, Rory, Jason, Rickie and Jordan…enough said…I’m not buying this 5th Major malarkey. Those of a certain vintage will remember Kerry Packer’s attempts alongside Jack to make the Australian Open the “5th Major”. As successful as Packer was with World Series Cricket he wasn’t able to elevate the Aussie Open. Why? Because you can’t manufacture status…it has to be earned and to evolve. Maybe in 50 years if The Players stays at TPC and the games greats win it often enough…maybe. Put it this way – ask Rory how many Players titles he’d relinquish for ONE major – and he’s got four. Would Ricky swap his Players medal for a major? Oh yes.
On to the action. One stat to start – no one has ever defended here. Rickie lead through 54 last week but his game faded on Sunday to the point he was quite wayward. This isn’t what puts me off though – it’s his price. You can’t quibble with his numbers. 69.815 scoring, 298 off the tee, 62% fairways, 71% GIR…it’s all great, but 3 wins in 164 starts and 2 missed cuts from 12 this season. No thanks at the 20/1.
I mentioned this lot earlier: Rory, Jason, Rickie and Jordan.
Rory’s record around here is impressive with 3 top 10’s in his last 3 starts. He could have won last week and that just adds to a deepening list of chances this season. He clicks and it’s all over as a contest but he seems to be struggling to put it all together and once again we will death ride him.
Jason has a single top 10 to go with some less than stellar performances here including 3 missed cuts the last of which was last year. He did eventually get to Canada and ignite his year but allied to his faltering play since the Masters we’ll leave him alone.
Jordan’s been off since his Masters calamity. On reflection he had 2 ordinary holes, 10 and 11 and one stinker, 12. He nearly came back to win the thing so mental resilience is clearly not lacking. That being said the time off and scars must take some sort of toll. He has a debut 4th and a MC here but that could have been a post Masters winning fallout last year when he was doing the media circus.
So who wins the Players? The past tells you just about anyone. The big names are mixed in with the likes of Craig Perks, Tim Clark, Stephen Ames and Fred Funk from the recent past.
So power is not a total pre-requisite for a start.
We have decided not to ride the favourites, surprise, so as usual we’ll look further afield.
Patton Kizzire. 24th last week, 5 top 10’s this season from 16 starts, Patton is +65% for greens in regulation, 12th for scoring average and 6th strokes gained putting. So his numbers diminished slightly for his showing at Quail Hollow. We’ve touched on his winning twice to head the Web.com tour in 2015. Making his tournament debut his game is in great shape. and he’s 150/1
Chris Kirk. The unassuming American with the deliberate swing has come into some form recently with two top 5’s in his last 5 starts. His best performances at TPC Sawgrass have come in the last 2 years with 13th placed finishes including leading this event going into Sunday last year finishing with a disappointing 75 but he has sampled the last tee feel.
With four wins from 152 career starts – better than Rickie as hard as that is to believe – add in three 2nds and 21 top 10’s and he’s looking like the next generation Kuch – and he won this.