2017 Players Championship Predictions

Who will win the 2017 Players Championship? This is the PGA Tour's flagship event and is considered by many to be an unofficial fifth major. Our research staff offers previews and predictions. The 2017 Players Championship is scheduled for May 11-14 at TPC Sawgrass.


Our golf editor is taking two weeks off and will not cover the Byron Nelson and the Dean & DeLuca Invitational. Please see the Sports Bulletin for a calendar of events. Thanks.


The Favorites 

Dustin Johnson
Best Result: T28 (2016)
SG Tee to Green: 1st
Outlook: The world no. 1 player is the top favorite to win The Players and it is for a good reason. Excluding the Masters (WD), Johnson has three wins and one runner-up in his last four starts. When someone is playing this well, course compatibility and history are irrelevant. He did show rust last week with a poor start but recovered nicely to finish second. There is no reason why he won't do well this week.

Sergio Garcia
Best Result: Win (2008)
SG Tee to Green: 3rd
Outlook: The newly crowned Masters champion picks a good course to return after a layoff. Not counting Tiger Woods, Garcia is the most successful player at TPC Sawgrass with a win and countless top finishes. The Spaniard's strong tee-to-green game and fabulous iron play make him a perfect fit for the Pete Dye's design. Rust may play a role this week, but his fantastic record at TPC Sawgrass and confidence from winning his first major (more than) compensate for it.

Rory McIlroy
Best Result: T6 (2014)
SG Tee to Green: N/A
Outlook: Johnson and Garcia may garner all the attention, but it will be a mistake to overlook a great talent like McIlroy. His powerful game is a good fit for a lot of courses including TPC Sawgrass. Since fully committed to playing The Players in 2013, he has finished in the top 12 every year. The world no. 2 player will be playing for the first time since becoming a married man; I think it will help more than hurt the four-time major champion.

The Contenders 

Jon Rahm
Best Result: Debut
SG Tee to Green: 2nd
Outlook: Rahm's rookie season has been one for the ages. In 13 starts this season, he finished in the top 20 ten times and in the top 5 five times. These are staggering numbers. He is playing courses he did not play previously like a veteran. Considering his form, it is entirely plausible that he would contend this week. However, debutants have rarely won The Players. The last winning debutant was Craig Perks way back in 2002.

Rickie Fowler
Best Result: Win (2015)
SG Tee to Green: 4th
Outlook: The former Players champion is enjoying his best season yet on tour. In eight non-team starts this season, he finished in the top 20 seven times for an 88% rate. He is one of the best putters this season and is currently second in SG Total. Fowler has never been more consistent in his performance. He is returning to a course where he emphatically shed the tag of "the most overrated player". In addition to the win in 2013, he was also a runner-up in 2012. If his form holds, a second title here is a good probability.

Jordan Spieth
Best Result: T4 (2014)
SG Tee to Green: 13th
Outlook: Spieth's game is made for major-caliber golf courses. The two-time major winner likes to plot his way around the course and is a clutch putter. However, TPC Sawgrass puts a premium on tee to green which plays against Spieth's strength. Although he earned a T4 on his debut, he has yet to make a cut since. The good news is that he ranks a respectable 13th in SG Tee to Green this season. The bad news is there are many great tee-to-green players who are playing better than him at the moment.

Players to Watch 

Hideki Matsuyama
Best Result: T7 (2016)
SG Tee to Green: 7th
Outlook: Matsuyama recently partnered with fellow Japanese Hideto Tanihara at a team event in TPC Louisiana. Although the partnership was forgettable, it did allow him to work on his putting. He adjusted his putting stance and also gained useful tips from Tanihara who is a great putter. The result was impressive as Matsuyama actually made more putts than his partner in the four days. If he putts like that this week, he has a serious chance of winning The Players. The Japanese does have an affinity for this course with three top-25s in three attempts. He was in the final group with champion Jason Day last year.

Jason Day
Best Result: Win (2016)
SG Tee to Green: 57th
Outlook: The defending champion has struggled with form since returning from injuries. He only has one top-10 in nine starts this season. Most concerning is the fact he currently ranks 147th in putting—traditionally one of his best attributes. However, Day is still the defending champion. If his putting gets hot, he should be able to contend.

Justin Thomas
Best Result: T3 (2016)
SG Tee to Green: 5th
Outlook: The TPC Sawgrass favors great tee-to-green players; Thomas happens to be one of the best. In his two starts here, he finished T24 and T3. After a mini slump in the middle of the early season, Thomas has been playing better recently with three top-25s in five starts including two top-5s.

Matt Kuchar
Best Result: Win (2012)
SG Tee to Green: 52nd
Outlook: Kuchar is one of those players with a consistently strong record at TPC Sawgrass. He won the title in 2012 and was third last year. However, his tee-to-green game has not been up to standards this year. His knowledge of the course will propel him to do well, but Kuchar needs to improve his tee-to-green if he wants to win.

Dark Horses 

Kevin Chappell
Best Result: 2nd (2016)
SG Tee to Green: 37th
Outlook: After finally winning his first career PGA Tour title, Chappell will be aiming for a Players title. The 2017 Texas Open winner is one of the best ball strikers on tour, which allows him to contend on many high-caliber courses. He was the sole runner-up at last year's Players Championship and is coming off a T7 at the Masters.

Martin Kaymer
Best Result: Win (2014)
SG Tee to Green: 33rd
Outlook: After winning both the U.S. Open and Players Championship in 2014, the two-time major winner has not won any tournament since. However, the German has been playing some decent U.S. golf of late. In seven PGA Tour starts this season, he recorded five top-25s including a T4 at Honda Classic--on a course that is somewhat comparable to TPC Sawgrass. Kaymer certainly knows how to play big-time golf. If the conditions are favorable, it is not out of the question that he could contend for the title.


Winner: Rickie Fowler. Anyone who could should pick Dustin Johnson to win. He is playing so well right now that it's hard to ignore him. However, we suggest fantasy players should save Johnson for a major or two down the road. Our winner's pick this week is Rickie Fowler. The American is having his best season yet, even better than 2015 when he won The Players or 2014 when he finished in the top 5 of every major. In eight non-team starts this season, he finished in the top 20 seven times for an 88% rate. He is sixth in SG Putting and second in SG Total. In our opinion, Fowler has never been more consistent in his performance. The world no. 9 player enjoys a solid record at TPC Sawgrass, having won in 2015 and finished second in 2012. Also, Fowler won the Honda Classic earlier this year on a course that is somewhat comparable to Sawgrass.

Top 10 Finish: Sergio Garcia. The Spanish star has the best record at Sawgrass of anyone in the field. Garcia won here in 2008 and has two runner-up finishes. If not for his many epic collapses, he could have been a multiple titlist. Some courses just fit a player's eye and the TPC Sawgrass appears to be just that for Garcia. The Spaniard comes into this event after winning the Masters for his first major. He will be a popular pick this week.

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