This week features the Tour’s flagship event, the Players Championship contested on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. This course will test every facet of a player’s game. And as usual with a Pete Dye design, players will be uncomfortable when the pressure is on. Let’s take a look at what is needed to succeed this week, and a few players who fit that criteria:

Keys for success this week:

  • Ability to keep the ball in play off the tee, oftentimes with less than driver
  • Elite iron play
  • Mental acuity and patience; you need to be able to pick your spots to be aggressive and take your medicine when out of position

Let’s take a look at three top-20 wagers:

Min Woo Lee Top 20 +225

When was the last time Min Woo missed a cut? How about the Byron Nelson last May!!! He continues to fly under the radar while blossoming into one of the top players in the game. Last year at TPC Sawgrass he was in contention, ultimately finishing sixth. The course really suits his game well, as he prefers to use less than driver often and is very accurate with that strategy, especially relative to his driver. He has played 21 events on the PGA Tour that have tracked ShotLink data. Prior to the Cognizant Classic, he only gained strokes on approach in four out of 19 events. In the last two weeks, he has gained 8.7 strokes on approach! If he brings any semblance of that improved approach play this week, he will be in contention.

Brian Harman Top 20 +240

I’m not quite sure what Brian Harman did to be disrespected with such a high price for a top 20 this week. Harman’s game is predicated on keeping it in play off the tee, being precise with irons, and managing his way around the course by eliminating mistakes. All of that is exactly what’s needed this week. He hasn’t missed a cut since the Memorial last year, and is likely full of confidence now that he is a major champion. In his last eight appearances at this event he has made the cut seven times. That includes three top-eight finishes, all of which came against stronger fields and at a time when he wasn’t as good of a player as he is today. Harman gained 5.6 strokes on approach last week. That’s the best he has hit his irons since a four-event stretch last year which concluded with him winning the Claret Jug.

Tom Hoge Top 20 +260

Hoge is striking his irons better than he ever has in his career, doing so at a level higher even than Scottie Scheffler is right now. Over his last 36 rounds, he has averaged 1.18 strokes gained on approach per round. Scheffler ranks second at 1.04 and the next player is way behind them at 0.84. In his last three events alone, Hoge has gained over 19 strokes on approach. When a player is hitting his irons like this, it takes away a lot of the trouble at TPC Sawgrass. He has finished 33rd or better in each of his last four Players appearances, all of which were against a stronger field when he wasn’t playing as well as he is now. Look for Hoge to be in contention this week.