One short year ago, I sat here writing a preview for the 2020 Players Championship, not knowing that a pandemic would soon turn the world upside down. Today, it finally feels like we’re beginning to get back to “normal.”
At this week’s Players Championship, a typically strong field of 154 players will take on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. This par-72 Pete Dye design has always been demanding both mentally and physically. Players need to strike the ball well, as errant shots here are punished more than they are on almost any other course on the PGA Tour.
So in your fantasy leagues this week, focus on elite ball-strikers with calm, collected demeanors. Here are a few who fit that description:
Corey Conners $7,400
Last week at Bay Hill, Conners was in contention the whole tournament but just couldn’t close it out. He was on fire with his irons, gaining over seven strokes on approach. If he continues to strike the ball that well at TPC Sawgrass, watch out. Conners is also ninth in the field off the tee, which is impressive considering he is average in length. Like many players who have done well at the Players Championship, he simply keeps the ball in play.
Chris Kirk $7,000
Kirk will fly under the radar this week. Not many people would guess that he has made eight of his last nine cuts on the PGA Tour. His eighth-place finish in last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational was his fourth top 16 in five starts in 2021. He also has a strong record at TPC Sawgrass, making seven of his past eight cuts at the Players, including three top-13 finishes. Kirk’s approach is conservative: he plots his way around the course and doesn’t make many mistakes. That is exactly the kind of player we’re looking for this week. At $7,000, Kirk is a great value play.
Simpson has missed only three cuts in the past 26 months. During that time, he has finished in the top 20 an astounding 30 times. Webb’s affinity for TPC Sawgrass is well known; he won here in 2018 and has finished 16th or better in each of his past three appearances at the Players. He keeps it in play off the tee, is above average on approach and around the greens, and prefers putting on Bermudagrass—all good predictors for success this week.
Dating back to his win at the Zozo Championship in the Fall, Cantlay has finished 17th or better in all six of his starts, including three top-three finishes. His methodical approach and ball-striking prowess fit the Stadium Course perfectly, and he is top 30 in all of this week’s important metrics, which is quite a feat in a field this strong. Cantlay is due for a win, and the Players Championship would be the perfect time for him to put it all together.