Last week was probably the worst I’ve ever looked in a Faves & Fades article, at least through 3 rounds. I faded Bryson, Spieth, and Rory and it looked like for a majority of the tournament those guys were going to finish 1-2-3. It’s not great that I faded the API champion, but seeing as I rarely play sub-20/1 players, I’m not losing sleep over it and ready to turn the page to THE PLAYERS.
There are so many great options at the top of this board, it was hard to narrow down to just 3 favorites, and even to find 3 worthy fades, but I came to a good consensus with my process on the below players. So let’s dive right in!
Justin Thomas (+2200, $9,900)
Even if JT was not one of my favorite plays this week, I was still going to bet him at these odds just based on his sheer value alone. But in fact I do love JT this week, and I would’ve given him some consideration sub-20/1 or even in the $10K range.
There has been no shortage of distractions for Thomas in 2021. He lost his apparel sponsor, he lost his Grandfather, and then he nearly lost a close friend and mentor in Tiger Woods. While I can’t insert myself into the mind or mental state of Justin Thomas, I’m projecting based on the way he’s been carrying himself in the media this week that being a couple weeks removed from personal tragedy will do him some good here.
Mental game aside, the only knock you can have on JT is his driving accuracy, so playing a positional course like TPC Sawgrass that allows you to club down off the tee on several holes should do him wonders. In fact if you look back over the last 36 or 50 rounds played, JT is the #1 Ball Striker on sub-7,200 yard tracks. He’s also #7 in this field SG: ARG over the last 50 rounds, which is huge asset to have around these greens complexes.
Thomas has good history at THE PLAYERS with a T3 and T11 within his last 4 trips and has never missed the cut. He’s had great individual rounds here OTT, APP, ARG, and Putting, he just hasn’t been able to put it all together for 4 days yet. That’s going to happen eventually, and at these odds, there’s no better time than now to jump on.
Webb Simpson (+2200, $9,500)
There’s a reason Webb is able to sustain consistent success with his game at the same tracks year over year. He plays a simple game and never tries to over-power a course. Okay maybe sometimes he is trying to over-power a course and he just isn’t capable of doing it due to his lack of Distance. But when you put Webb on a track where the rest of the field is not really able to gain strokes with distance off the tee, he delivers, and that’s exactly the set up we have this week at TPC Sawgrass.
Simpson is #6 in the field SG: SG coming into this week and leaned heavily into those short game strengths when he won here in 2018 gaining a mind boggling 14.4 strokes with his short game. He actually won the event despite losing strokes to the field on Approach, which rarely ever happens, and with him coming into this event ranking a respectable 55th in SG: APP, we can expect even more positive regression there.
Webb has finished T16 or better 4 of his last 6 trips to TPC Sawgrass, and coming off a win at Harbour Town this past June, we should expect continued Pete Dye success from Webb again this week.
Patrick Cantlay (+2600, $9,200)
I was hoping more people would overreact to Cantlay’s stomach bug/dehydration that forced him to WD from the WGC a couple weeks ago. If not for that, I thought people may over-look him because of his generally bland demeanor and not-so-flashy style of play. But no, he’s still probably the consensus most popular play of the week for THE PLAYERS because everyone else is apparently already well aware that he destroys Pete Dye tracks and rides arguably the hottest recent form of anyone in this event.
Cantlay is only 6 starts removed from winning The Zozo, and set single-round course records at The Stadium Course and Pebble Beach within his last 3 events played – two good short course comps to TPC Sawgrass. The man is on fire. Despite his price, he’s #1 SG: TOT in this loaded field of the world’s best over the last 24 rounds. He’s #1 in every model I run on Fantasy National, and regardless of how chalky he ends up being this week, I’ll want plenty exposure to Cantlay in DFS.
Dustin Johnson (+1200, $11,200)
Dustin Johnson lost 10 strokes putting last we saw him at the WGC-Workday, which is absurd, but obviously only occurred as a result of me cursing him with my OAD pick. Now that I can no longer pick him in OAD, I’m sure we’ll never see a performance like that again for the rest of the season.
I’m fading DJ primarily because TPC Sawgrass levels the playing field for a lot of the best players in the game by removing distance from the equation, so I just don’t think this is track you need to pay up to get the best player in the world at.
You have to really reach to poke holes in DJ’s game, but for what it’s worth, he typically is not at his best on Florida Bermuda courses, ranking 63rd SG: SG on Bermuda. 2019 was his best showing at THE PLAYERS, finishing T5, but that’s his only career T10 finish here. As long as he doesn’t win, I think most DFS lineups will do fine without him this week.
Rory McIlroy (+1800, $10,600)
Last week I faded Rory on the basis that he has 1 T5 finish in the last calendar year, and has been priced to the point where any finish worse than T5 is not worth the investment. A week later, and the (technical) defending champion at THE PLAYERS still only has one T5 since last March.
His body language around the media has not been great this week and clearly he is frustrated with the state of his game, particularly not being able to kick into his normal Sunday competitive gears. Rory has some of the best course history at TPC Sawgrass in this field, but his recent short game woes coming in are what concern me the most this week, as he ranks 93rd in the field SG: SG. I have no problem being late back on the Rory train, but he needs to show he can finish T5 again before I start paying a Top 3-player price for him.
Tommy Fleetwood (+4100, $7,900)
A lot of people look at the Florida stats and jump all over Tommy Fleetwood. For me, I just don’t think he’s the same player right now as the past history at those courses suggests. Fleetwood used to be synonymous with Approach play, but recently over his last 24 rounds, he ranks an abysmal 100th SG: APP and 128th SG: BS. Granted, those stats do not include some of his more recent Euro Tour performances, but he showed over the weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational that he still has some room to improve in the iron game’s consistency before he’s back to his vintage form.
If I wanted to play a guy who’s never won on Tour before, I’m just going to look double these odds for Abraham, Ancer who has better course history and recent form right now.