Table of Contents

    By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast

    FLAGSHIP STATUS

    We’ve arrived at one of the more entertaining golf TV-watching weeks of the year – it’s THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass. The Stadium course is set in the shadows of PGA Tour headquarters and has long been the flagship event that the Tour puts on, which annually brings one of the strongest fields in golf. Add in the spectacularly manicured and cut greens at sawgrass, and drama-filled water features on the finishing holes, and you’ve got yourself a fun week on the couch for golf viewing. Hole #17 is the hardest wedge in golf even for the world’s best, and we get to laugh at their misery all week.

    Simply put, my picks in 2023 and on the Florida swing have been hitting plot points all over the bullseye, and I notched my 4th outright winner of 2023 (already) on the Florida swing thanks to Chris Kirk. No dice or bullseye at Bay Hill, but we’re still blowing on hot dice for the next round and it’s no time to stop with the winners as major championship season looms. Let’s take down TPC Sawgrass:

    THE DEVILISH DYE FAMILY

    TPC Sawgrass elicits a wide range of emotions from PGA Tour players, most of which are negative in nature. Though the 7200-yard track presents pretty fairly and is ripe for the taking in quiet conditions, Pete (and Alice) Dye did some devilish things in designing the Stadium Course that plays tricks on your eye no matter what the Florida weather brings. That’s why first-time champions are so rare, and the event is a riddle that lots of the world’s best have yet to solve. I don’t know if it’s the eye tricks and angles off the tee, or the runoffs around the greens that make double-bogey disasters so imminent that they infuriate players more. Regardless, we get to sit back, watch the carnage and make some money off of it just as the pros do.

    As you can imagine, with this being the PGA Tour’s firstborn baby, it’s undoubtedly an elevated event (as if it wasn’t already) with a loaded purse and field to boot. All of your Rahm/Rory/Scheffler trio is in action, plus the usual suspects including last week’s winner Kurt Kitayama and JT, Jordan Spieth, and the full buffet of the top 100 ranked golfers in the world. Pound for pound, the field at Sawgrass may be the best you see on the golf calendar before Augusta –  buckle in.

    AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

    FORECASTING THE PLAYERS

    While experience is the clear #1 indicator on a play this week, more specifically I’m zeroing in on players that have good bogey avoidance, know their way around their wedges, and can keep their head on straight in times of adversity. These are the cornerstones of recent champions of this event like Cam Smith, JT, and Rory. Similarly, we’re looking for who’s hot on tour that matches that steely-eyed demeanor when there’s disaster avoidance needed down the stretch.

    1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.

    2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.

    3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.

    4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.

    At The API at Bay Hill, I sniffed another winner all week but Scottie came up short in his title defense. Three finishes in the top 20, but no outright W so for the week, I conservatively give myself a B- for the picks this week. Back to the board.

    THE PICKS

    (Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)

    1: Justin Thomas – For the first week since January I’m looking outside of the Rory/Rahm/Scheffler oligarchy to a past champion who comes in at great value.

    2: Viktor Hovland – The Norwegian had a highlight-filled week at Bay Hill, and finished top 10 here at Sawgrass last year. Perfect timing for a big week.

    3: Matt Fitzpatrick – He’s a slow burn into building his 2023 resume but a t-14th finish at Bay Hill won’t steer me away – the careful nature of this track plays well to his game.

    4: Sam Burns – Taking a chance on a young un that’s been a bit quiet, but is due to thrive at Sawgrass as the analytics might indicate.

    5: Taylor Montgomery – Still not quitting the hottest rookie on tour after a couple of slow weeks, and this is a putter’s course where up and downs reign supreme.

    6: Kevin Kisner – Despite his cold streak, let’s not forget Kiz had an amazing run here at The Players last year…good vibes coming through for the longshot.

    RYP One and Done Pick: Justin Thomas

    THE DEETS

    Where to watch: Golf Channel and NBC all week. I’ll set the Over/Under for balls in the water at hole #17 at 53.5 for the week. Get your bets in!

    Why to watch: THE PLAYERS is the Tour’s flagship event, with the most loaded field, and arguably the most entertaining course to spectate in golf. Always a fun week at Tour HQ.

    What to eat: I’ll be a little further down the Sunshine State, but we’ll keep it Florida and get some steaks on the poolside grill this weekend to celebrate.

    Purse: $20 million

    Winner’s Share: $3.6 million

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    About Author

    Alex Lauzon

    Lauzon is a podcast host, live broadcaster, analyst and betting extraordinaire for the Course of Life brand. After earning a degree in broadcast journalism at Quinnipiac University, he worked in ESPN and ESPN radio newsrooms. He has interviewed athletes and celebrities from all walks of life who often love to play golf. When he's not playing golf or talking about the game on Course of Life, Lauzon enjoys time with his wife and dog, checking off the next island vacation destination or counting down the days to the next Dell Match Play in his hometown of Austin, Texas.

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