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Rory McIlroy
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Across the Pond

THE PLAYERS: Ten-Year Trends

by Dave Tindall
Updated On: March 10, 2020, 8:24 pm ET

When using trends, the ideal scenario is to have as many constants as possible.

It's why The Masters, always held at Augusta National, tends to work better than the U.S. Open which moves around and has rather changed its identity in recent years.

THE PLAYERS Championship has always been hosted at TPC Sawgrass which helps us although a move from May back to March last year isn't ideal.

A common theme to be found in the 2019 quotes when players talked about differences was that the course was less bouncy in March due to the Bermuda being overseeded.

And yet, the final result showed Rory McIlroy beating Jim Furyk.

Rory had three previous top 8s and four top 12s in the previous six editions at Sawgrass while Furyk had also finished runner-up in the May slot in 2014.

In other words, the change in date didn't blow everything out of the water.

Okay, we need to accept that trends can be an inexact science but hopefully there are clues to be found by taking a close-up look at the last ten winners.


TPC Sawgrass champions 2010-2019

March 2019 Rory McIlroy (Age: 29, WR: 6th, Played: 9, Sawgrass Best: 6th, Previous year: MC, 2019 Best: 2nd, Florida best: 6th, Incoming form: 6-2-4-5)

May 2018 Webb Simpson (Age: 32, WR: 41st, Played: 8, Sawgrass Best: 15th, Previous year: 16th, 2018 Best: 4th, Florida best: 5th, Incoming form: 21-5-20-29)

May 2017 Si Woo Kim (Age: 21, WR: 73rd, Played: 1, Sawgrass Best: 23rd, Previous year: 23rd, 2017 Best: 22nd, Florida best: 49th, Incoming form: 22-MC-WD-30)

May 2016 Jason Day (Age: 28, WR: 1st, Played: 5, Sawgrass Best: 6th, Previous year: MC, 2016 Best: 1st, Florida best: 1st, Incoming form: 5-23-10-1)

May 2015 Rickie Fowler (Age: 26, WR: 13th, Played: 5, Sawgrass Best: 2nd, Previous year: MC, 2015 Best: 9th, Florida best: 12th, Incoming form: 9-MC-12-71)

May 2014 Martin Kaymer (Age: 29, WR: 61st, Played: 5, Sawgrass Best: 15th, Previous year: 43rd, 2014 Best: 18th, Florida best: 58th, Incoming form: 18-23-31-MC)

May 2013 Tiger Woods (Age: 37, WR: 1st, Played: 14, Sawgrass Best: 1st, Previous year: 40th, 2013 Best: 1st, Florida best: 1st, Incoming form: 4-1-1-37)

May 2012 Matt Kuchar (Age: 33, WR: 15th, Played: 7, Sawgrass Best: 13th, Previous year: 54th, 2012 Best: 3rd, Florida best: 8th, Incoming form: 13-44-3-10)

May 2011 K.J. Choi (Age: 41, WR: 34th, Played: 9, Sawgrass Best: 16th, Previous year: 34th, 2011 Best: 3rd, Florida best: 6th, Incoming form: 3-8-6-MC)

May 2010 Tim Clark (Age: 34, WR: 40th, Played: 7, Sawgrass Best: 9th, Previous year: 9th, 2010 Best: 2nd, Florida best: 22nd, Incoming form: 63-MC-30-22)


Winners trends


5 were in their 20s
4 were in their 30s
1 was in his 40s
9 were 37 or under

World ranking

2 were World No 1
5 were in the top 15
8 were in the top 50

Course experience

9 had played the event at least 5 times before their TPC Sawgrass win

Course form

10 had posted a T23 or better
9 had posted a T16 or better

Incoming form

7 had finished in the top 20 in their previous start
9 had finished T22 or better in their previous start

Best finish that season

8 had posted a top ten 

Best finish in Florida that season

7 had posted a top 12 in one of the earlier Florida events
8 had posted a top 22 in one of the earlier Florida events

Narrowing the field

The strongest trends are listed below...

Aged 37 or under
In World's top 50
Has played TPC Sawgrass at least 5 times
Has a top 16 at the course
Finished T22 or better on previous start
Has a top 10 this season
Has a top 22 in Florida this season

Four players come through all those checks and are worth considering in fantasy rosters or for a bet.

1/ Rory McIlroy

The sharp-eyed will have noticed that no-one has ever defended this title. That obviously goes against Rory but by every other measure he's a great fit this week.

2/ Gary Woodland

The U.S. Open champion's tied eighth at the Honda Classic on his latest start gets him in. Aged 35 and ranked in the world's top 20, Woodland doesn't boast a stellar record in his eight starts at Sawgrass but T11 in the 2014 edition is sufficient.

3/ Rickie Fowler

The 2015 Sawgrass winner wouldn't have qualified up until a week ago due to lack of current/Florida form but T18 at Bay Hill squeezes him in. It's his 11th start at THE PLAYERS. 

4/ Marc Leishman

The 36-year-old World No. 15 was a winner at Torrey Pines and showed his class again with second place at Bay Hill last week. The final piece of the jigsaw is a tied eighth at TPC Sawgrass back in 2013 (he's had two top 25s since).

A quick mention for those who didn't make it. Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm haven't played the course enough times while Patrick Reed doesn't own a top 16 at Sawgrass. Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay haven't tested themselves in Florida this season while Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka don't have the necessary recent form.

Dave Tindall
Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.