The Players Championship boasts one of the strongest fields in golf, and this year is no different. Jason Day dominated the field last year, and Rickie Fowler won in dramatic fashion in 2016. Who will win this week at TPC Sawgrass? Our panel offers their picks (and even some sleepers).
Jeff Ritter: Since returning from his early season rib injury, Rory has quietly rang up a bunch of top-10s, and he also has a solid Sawgrass track record. He’s gonna win somewhere soon. Why not now? For a sleeper, Wes Bryan already looks like the Tour’s ROY, and his fearlessness could serve him well this week.
Alan Bastable: Sergio. What’s the Spanish phrase for “oozing confidence on a golf course that he loves” — five top-12 finishes since ’08! Sleeper: Sergio. Just me or is no one talking about him this week?
Josh Sens: Garcia. The Old Sergio won here. So why not the New Emotionally Unburdened Sergio? Far from turning him complacent, the Masters win should only free him up. My sleeper? Vijay. Cuz, you know, course knowledge.
Alan Shipnuck: Spieth. His tee-to-green game this year has been excellent; strangely, his putting has held him back. This is the week he puts it all together. My sleeper is Brian Gay. Maybe the best putter on the planet has been on a mini hot streak, and with Sawgrass taking driver out of the hands of the longest hitters it’s a great track for this finesse player.
Michael Bamberger: Dustin Johnson. Best player to have won only one major. Needs this for his hall of fame credential! Sleeper is Phil Mickelson. Nobody in the modern era (since the event moved to May in 2007) has won it twice. Phil does well where he has done well.
Marika Washchyshyn: Sergio Garcia. He was T2 in 2015 and third in 2014 when he wasn’t as on top of his game as the Masters champ is now. He’s won here before and has momentum swinging in his direction. My sleeper is Patrick Cantlay. The Valspar runner-up finished T14 at the Zurich Classic alongside Patrick Reed and third at the RBC Heritage. I like the kid’s energy at a revamped TPC Sawgrass.
Joe Passov: I’m liking perennial darkhorse Kevin Chappell this week at the Players. TPC Sawgrass always favors ballstrikers, and Chappell is one of the best on Tour. Fresh off a T7 at the Masters, Chappell won at a true shotmakers course, the TPC San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open, and he was in the hunt late in the game at the 2016 Players before finishing second to Jason Day. And, when in doubt, go with a GOLF Mag cover boy!
Sean Steinemann: Kevin Kisner, or as I like to refer to him, Ice-Cold Kisner, comes into the Players hungry after losing in a playoff at the Zurich (another Pete Dye golf course) and was also in a playoff at the Players two years ago. He’s ready to win a big one, and this course sets up perfect for his game and his Southern charm. My sleeper is J.B. Holmes. I don’t have many stats to back this one up, but as Ben Crenshaw once said, “I have a good feeling about this.”
Sean Zak: When he got off to such a sluggish start this year and dropped outside the top 20 in the world, it was easy to forget about Brooks Koepka. Since the API, he’s gone T9, T11, 2nd and (sorta carried his brother to) a T5 at the Zurich. Top 15 talent and in good form? Sign me up. Sleeper-wise, I’ve settled on Francesco Molinari, who has only shot over par four times in 18 rounds here. No brashness to his game, just incredibly solid ball-striking. Sawgrass will reward that.
Jessica Marksbury: I’m going with Sergio. Not only is he a former champion, he’s been in the top eight three out of the last four years. With the green jacket in his closet, there’s no stopping him now! My sleeper is Morgan Hoffmann. He’s a Florida resident, and his best finish this year was a T2 at the Honda Classic. He’s been in the top 14 in his last two tournament appearances, and I just like his chances this week for some reason. He’s the first guy I thought of.