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The Players Championship: Expert Picks

Russel Knox, ranked 30th in the world, has the local knowledge to thrive.

Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

The Players Championship
When: May 12th - 15th

Where: TPC Sawgrass
2015 Winner: Rickie Fowler (-12)


The format of this will go: I will select golfers based on the Yahoo format. I will select one A golfer, 2 B golfers and 1 C golfer that I think will do well as well as one dark horse pick, this should space out the selections and provide a vast field to select from for anyone who is in a format where you are limited to 10 starts per year.

TPC Sawgrass - Home to one of the most iconic holes in golf, TPC Sawgrass was designed in 1980 by Pete Dye. It uses a stadium concept where fans can sit up high and watch the play below. The course uses Bermuda grass and creates an abundance of traps and rough to force golfers to play tactfully. The course was revamped in 2006 with added drainage to speed up play, the course isn't overtly long but does require navigation. Every hole has a water trap and an abundance of trees lay on both sides.


A: 
Rickie Fowler - It's always a bit of a throw away to just go with last year's champion but: he has 6 top ten finishes this year, more than any other A golfer. 5 of those 6 finishes have been within the last 8 tournaments, he is driving very well right now, hitting for distance and getting to the greens quick (5th in Greens in Regulation Percentage, 32nd in Driving Distance). The add to this has been his putting which is also among the best on the tour right now. 

B: 
Russell Knox - The 9 year vet out of  Jacksonville University is an accurate shot and played very well two weeks ago at the RBC Heritage. Being from the area, he knows the terrain well playing at Jacksonville which is just 20 miles from TPC Sawgrass. Something you might not know, he's risen to 30th in the World Golf Rankings behind his strong play this year. He's not a flashy player and part of that lies in his strength, a humble, quiet composed player who shouldn't be shaken by the tests this course presents.

Zach Johnson - One of the most composed golfers, he has seen much success here. After a rough Masters, he'll be looking to make a strong rebound in the "5th" Golf Major. He finished 13th here last year, 26th in 2014, 19th in 2013, 2nd in 2012 and 12th in 2011. His strength here comes in his irons, which have always boded well, where he can approach the greens with excellence and is 8th on the tour on proximity to the hole.

C:
Kiradech Aphibarnrat - My last pick of Kiradech yielded a 6th place finish but this actually isn't that impressive because he's only had 1 start this year that WASN'T in the top 20. After a tumultuous 2015 where he missed the cut in 2 of the 4 tournaments he played, he's hitting on all cylinders this year. He's ranked 42nd in the world and seems to be quite comfortable navigating water hazards and Bermuda grass challenges that the Southeast courses have.

Sleeper Pick:
Patton Kizzire -
The 8 year vet out of Auburn  University, he's playing very well right now. His last 5 tournaments: Wells Fargo (24th), Zurich Classic (8th), RBC Heritage (14th), Shell Houston (MC) and Dell Match Play (9th). His success lies in his putting where he is 6thon the tour. He approaches the green well which makes up for his abysmal driving both distance and accuracy. This will be his first time playing at The Players Championship

Last tournament results - Wells Fargo Championship (155 total) - Picks: Mickelson, McIlroy, Rose, Lovemark and Rodgers
A: 3rd place
B: 4th place; 3rd place
C: 53rd place
Dark Horse: 86thplace

YTD Avg: (Average field of 128 people)
A: 38th place 
B: 36th place
C: 56thplace
Dark Horse: 47th place

Fun factoid about this tournament: An estimate shows that more than 100,000 balls are hit into the water at the 17th hole each year. Additionally - the hole was created by accident. Originally meant to be partially enclosed by the lake, the sand that surrounded the hole was used elsewhere on the course and ended up creating a very confined island.