The PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass – Tournament Preview

The PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass – Tournament Preview

13 March 2024

Ahead of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass we take a closer look at the tournament, the course, and some of the competitors.

Last year we saw Scottie Scheffler win by an impressive 5 strokes and with his recent form, dominating at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he is in a great position to defend his title. 

Tyrrell Hatton charged through the pack with an incredible -7 under par final round to take solo second place. This was made even more remarkable as he was level par for the front nine! Shooting 29 on the inward half with the infamous Island Green is some serious golf.

This year we will not be seeing Hatton as he has recently joined Jon Rahm’s Legion 13 team on LIV Golf. The next time we will see Rahm on the PGA Tour will be at Augusta where he will look to defend his Green Jacket.

Jon Rahm Presented the Green Jacket
image credit:
Jon Rahm presented Green Jacket – Image credit: Mary Clarke – For The Win

Looking to this year, who will we expect to see in contention down the stretch?

We have picked three players that we can see in the hunt come Sunday afternoon – disclaimer, none of them will come as a surprise!

Scottie Scheffler – dominant in every aspect of the game.

Scheffler will almost certainly be up there on Sunday, especially now that he figured out his putting problems. 

Unfortunately for all the other Tour players, Scottie with a Spider is a dangerous man. In the fourth round at the AP Invitational, Scottie gained nearly 4 strokes on the field with putter in hand! He also had nine consecutive single putts and holed every putt inside 15ft…

To add to this incredible round, he also went bogey free and shot the easiest -6 under par you will ever see.

Aside from last week, Scottie leads the Tour in Greens in Regulation with 78% and a scoring average of 67.48 – GIR is arguably the most important stat.

Why? Getting up and down isn’t easy and even on the PGA Tour, players get up and down 58.66% of the time.

Rory McIlroy – hard to see past him even if he did have a round to forget on Sunday at the AP Invitational.

Rory has been at the top of professional golf for over a decade and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, currently leading Strokes Gained off the tee, averaging a gain of 1.25 strokes.

McIlroy is arguably one of the best drivers of the ball the game has ever seen – this season he is sitting second in driving distance with an average of 316y. Last season, he averaged 326y! 

After he booms it off the tee Rory gets to work with his approach play where he currently sits 5th in proximity from 75-100y. Last season he ranked 8th in Strokes Gained approach play – which makes sense when you are fighting for the title of number one player in the world!

When we look at Rory’s putting we see an interesting stat, he currently ranks T1 in putts inside 3ft on the PGA Tour, but 129th in Strokes Gained putting. This would suggest that McIlroy is not holing as many putts as he should and so far this season he is often tapping in from short range.

Last season he finished ranked 65th in Strokes Gained putting so perhaps he has just gotten off to a slow start, having only recorded 14 tournament rounds.

One thing we have come to learn from Rory over the years, is when he has his best stuff he is pretty much unbeatable and after watching Netflix’s Full Swing, Rory is focusing on his golf more than ever now.

Justin Thomas – ‘You don’t leave JT at home’

For the same reasons Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson picked Justin Thomas, so to do we. 

Things may not have worked out for the Americans in Rome but regardless, when Thomas is on his game, he can hold his own with the best of them.

So far this season, JT ranks 5th in scoring average, typically shooting 69.59 which is 1.79 strokes better than last season.

Perhaps a contributing factor to this improvement is his birdie average, currently ranked second and averaging 5.18 birdies.

JT’s approach play from 50-125y may be the area of his game that is giving him these birdie chances, currently ranked 4th in this bracket with an average proximity of 13’9” – the Tour average last season was 18’9”!

Lastly, we look to the iconic Island Green

Below we have included the best shots from the 17th last year, but do not be deceived, these are some truly exceptional shots, players will gladly take pars on this hole. 

We cannot imagine the emotions players must feel as they setup to their ball and pray that they find the putting surface – it is hard enough at times playing the local medal!

We have pulled some data surrounding amateur golfers’ proximity and overlaid it on the Island Green… needless to say, it doesn’t look great!

Amateur Golfer Proximity on Island Green at TPC Sawgrass

Each year, at the Island Green we see incredible shots, both good and bad, which is what makes The Players such a great tournament to watch.

Even once the players have tackled the 17th, the 18th hole can very easily cause issues too with water down the left and that solitary tree in the middle of the fairway.

The Players 2024 gets underway March 14th

Who will win? We don’t know, but what we do know is, we’ll be watching!

*Stats from the PGA Tour


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