Donald Tops The ICG Fantasy Five List For The PLAYERS Championship

by Michael Weigand, PGA, ICG

A quick check of the schedule shows that it's time for the PGA TOUR's unofficial fifth major this week: the PLAYERS Championship.

The course has become famous for the island green 17th hole, and rightly so. There may not be a more recognizable hole in all of golf. And though it would be considered a short par 3 by almost any player's standards, the professionals can attest to the fact that, yard for yard, the 17th at TPC Sawgrass is the most risky hole they face.

The tournament originated in 1974 and was held at a handful of other sites before settling at the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course in 1982. Past champions include 3-time winner Jack Nicklaus, 2-time champs Fred Couples and Davis Love III, LeeTrevino, Tom Kite, Greg Norman and Nick Price. In recent years, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia have all hoisted the PLAYERS Championship trophy.

Interestingly, despite his illustrious career, Tiger Woods has won the event only once. It's no secret that Tiger wouldn't count the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass as a place of serenity and comfort. Over the last five seasons, Woods' record at the PLAYERS includes two WDs, a DNP, a T37 and only one finish inside the top 10 (an eighth place finish in 2009). Aside from a win at Bay Hill this year, things aren't looking much better in 2012 for the former world no. 1. From a fantasy perspective, it's hard to see Tiger as a solid pick for this week. But, he IS Tiger Woods, after all.

Regardless, let's take a few moments to discuss a few players that we feel have a good shot at competing for the title in Ponte Vedra Beach this weekend.

Here now, our iCHOOSEGOLF Fantasy Five for the PLAYERS Championship:

ldonald_celebrates.jpgLuke Donald: It's been a little bit of an up-and-down year for Donald. Not only is he moving back and forth between the no. 1 and no. 2 world ranking, he's also playing a game of "feast or famine" in his results. Donald won the Transitions Championship and finished T6 at the WGC Cadillac Championship to go with a third place finish in his last start - the Zurich Classic. In his other four starts, though, he hasn't finished higher than 32nd, although he hasn't missed a cut. Luke is 13th in Driving Accuracy this season to go with a 4th place ranking in Strokes Gained Putting. Add everything up and Donald is 10th in Scoring and looking to keep that trend going this week. He finished T4 at this event last year so look for similar results this year.

Jim Furyk: In the last 10 years at the PLAYERS Championship Furyk has three top-5 finishes against only two missed cuts. It's obvious the former U.S. Open champ (who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach) is certainly familiar with the course. In 2012, Furyk has worked his way back into form after a disappointing 2011 season marred by injury. He lost in a playoff in February at the Transitions (to Donald) and has four other top-11 finishes to go with only one missed cut this season. Jim is 3rd in Driving Accuracy, 25th in Strokes Gained Putting and 5th in Scoring. He's also 14th in Scrambling - a stat that is crucial to success at the Sawgrass Stadium Course.

Nick Watney: Coming off his best finish of the year, it's time to start talking about Watney. This selection is a bit of a "gut feeling" pick as Watney's stats aren't great but they are improving. Nick is 15th in Greens In Regulation which should help. Over the past two years, Watney has finished T4 and T17 at this event so it's clear he's gotten comfortable with the course. Amidst all the talk of the great, young players on the TOUR these days, Nick's name has been overlooked a bit. A solid finish this week should vault him back into the conversation.

Sergio Garcia: The fiery Spaniard is only four years removed from winning the PLAYERS Championship. He's also experiencing a bit of a renaissance this season. He hasn't missed a cut in six PGA TOUR events in 2012 and has a T4 at the Northern Trust, a T12 at The Masters and a T16 at the Transitions Championship. Interestingly, Sergio is currently ranked 13th in a category that has been his nemesis: Strokes Gained Putting. Always a good ball-striker, if Garcia can continue his solid putting ways, perhaps we'll be talking about Sergio as a 2-time PLAYERS champion.

Zach Johnson: A wise man once said that "every man has to know his limitations". Zach Johnson epitomizes that mantra. The midwest native and former Masters champ has learned to play to his strengths and has forged a solid career in doing so. In 2012 Johnson hasn't missed a cut in 11 events, has a runner-up finish at the RBC Heritage, two top-10s and five top-25s to his credit. Zach is currently 10th in Driving Accuracy, 25th in Strokes Gained Putting and 16th in Scoring. He finished T12 last year at the PLAYERS and T22 the year before that. If you need a solid player that nobody is talking about to round out your fantasy golf roster, look no further than Johnson.

Note: Yes, you'd be silly not to pick Rory McIlroy for your fantasy team. Honestly, we could list him at the top of the Fantasy Five in each event in which he's entered. However, we try to offer a bit more in-depth analysis here at iCHOOSEGOLF and avoid some of the "no duh" picks. ~ M

Live coverage of the PLAYERS Championship begins on the Golf Channel on Thursday at 1:00pm EDT / 12:00pm CDT.


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