The Florida Swing continues this week as the TOUR travels to Ponte Vedra Beach for THE PLAYERS.
The venue is THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. An iconic layout that has name recognition even for some casual fans.
The main defense of the course is water and wind but as we'll see in the weather section, one of those will be missing this week. They didn't come in and fill the water hazards since last year so I'm sure you can do the math.
The stacked field will load up at 144 golfers this week. Only the top 65 and ties will play the weekend. That means it will be tough for gamers to get all 6-of-6 through the cut this week since less than half the field is expected to make it through the cutline.
Just how loaded is the field? Well, 42 of the top 50 in my worldwide rating system are playing this week. The ones that are skipping or didn't qualify from that list? Tiger Woods (DNP), Robert MacInytre, Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood (DNP), Matthias Schwab, Joost Luiten, Thomas Detry, and Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
Now let's visit the weather forecast hub, look for some trending form, and then look at some course-fit values.
Thursday (R1): Partly Sunny with a high of 78 degrees. Calm winds that max out at 10 MPH gusts.
Friday (R2): Mostly Sunny with a high of 81 degrees. Winds at 4 to 6 MPH with gusts potentially reaching 15 MPH.
It looks like Mother Nature used all of here wind power last week so she's taking the week off for THE PLAYERS. There is some gusty conditions set for Saturday (10 MPH with gusts up to 20 MPH) but overall this is a pretty calm week for Florida in March.
I am going to focus on some recent results in this section to highlight what golfers may be trending in the right direction.
Jon Rahm -- The Spaniard hasn't lost strokes to the field since round three of the Sentry Tourney of Champs (18 straight rounds). That includes a +6.7 SG:Total round on day two of the Farmers and a +8.8 SG:Total round on Saturday at the WGC-Mexico Championship. This run of stellar form goes even farther back as he arrives with top 20s in seven straight worldwide events (eight if you include a runner-up finish at the Hero).
Sungjae Im -- This one is obvious for gamers that have been watching the Florida Swing closely. The young Korean has played seven of the last eight weeks and collected top 40s in six of those seven starts. He's posted rounds that were at least two shots better than the field average in 12-of-26 rounds. His form looks even better if you just look at the last two weeks where he won the Honda and finished runner-up at the API. He posted three rounds across those events that lapped the field by at least five shots. Can he keep that momentum rolling?
The PGA TOUR heads to TPC Sawgrass this week. The greens here get real speedy. The average listed stimp over the last 10 years is right around 12.5 feet. We should expect fast greens again this week.
Looking at sample-size-adjusted performance in rounds played on fast greens since 2018 (PGA, KFT, Euro Tour) the top performers on a per-round basis looks like this:
Other than raw performance, we can also look at who shows the biggest improvement on fast greens (versus their baseline). Using that as the criteria, the following names pop:
Some big names on the overlap list but not much current form. Spieth has finished outside of the top 50 in four os his last five starts. Koepka doesn't have anything better than a T17 (Saudi) in five starts since returning from injury. Finau brings the best form of the three (top 15s in five of his last seven starts) but also has T51 and MC in his last two starts.
Collin Morikawa: The young phenom has been compared to Tiger Woods in terms of iron-play potential. I thought that was very silly at first but now the results are piling up and going in his favor. Morikawa has gained 5.5 or more strokes in approach in six of his last 14 measured events. How good is that? For some perspective, Brooks Koepka has eclipsed that +5.5 SG:Approach number just nine times in his career (measured events only). Jon Rahm has done is seven times in his PGA TOUR career. The only question mark this week is whether his lack of course/tournament experience will be too much to overcome against one of the strongest fields of the year. There is certainly lots of value in his mid-range salary, though.
Best of luck in all your contests this week!