Greetings golf enthusiasts and welcome the Players Championship edition of the Fantasy Golf Sommelier. This week we are in lovely Ponte Vedra Beach Florida for the first huge (NON Major) event of the season. Every time we get to this event the subject always comes up on whether or not the Players should be considered a major, and it’s no different this year, but while I don’t think it should be a major, I do think this is without a doubt the strongest field in golf, and one of the toughest tournaments to win. Sawgrass has typically been a course that tests every aspect of a player’s game, and usually rewards the best all-around player in the field that week, regardless of any particular profile such as bomber, short knocker, ball striker, putter, and whatever bucket we like to throw these guys into. I think it will play slightly different this year though with the move to March, cooler weather, and an over seeded course so definitely take that into consideration when looking at stats and trends this week, especially recent course history. All that being said, this is still, and always will be, a tournament designed to appease the players themselves and that’s typically why you see it setup for all types of games. Now, if we tie in the wine theme here with the course and the players this week, it definitely points me in the direction of wine blends. Especially Red blends, which are more prevalent as most white wines consist of one specific varietal (grape, i.e. Chardonnay). Blends typically contain up to 3 or 4 varietals producing an outcome that is a tasty combination of Great Fantastic goodness.
Red Blends have sky rocketed in popularity over the years to the point where they are actually one of the top selling wines by volume outside of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the US. What’s truly interesting though to note is actually the majority of Reds we typically buy at our local grocery stores, are actually in some form blends, so next time you pop the cork on your favorite Cab, check the label and you might find that there’s a little Syrah thrown in there for good measure. True blends as we know them will have a few varietals and have actually been a technique used for hundreds of years, despite the more recent popularity. It allows the winemaker to “play” a little with various varietals and create the best tasting and most powerful, unique flavors they can. It’s basically like what we do every week taking our favorite stats, or varietals you might say in this case, and combining them to create what we think is the best profile for a player to perform that week. Now, that process doesn’t always work, and sometimes, like playing around with wine grapes, we get a crappy player, but eventually as you get better at playing with the stats, you will find that you’re creating superior profiles that could lead to a vintage week for your wallet.
The most popular and sought after blend in the world is Bordeaux which, by name recognition obviously, comes from the French Bordeaux region and is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with varying portions of each depending upon the winery. The Bordeaux region itself produces five distinct varietals of grapes which are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot that can all be used in various blends. I’m told there’s even a super secret Sixth varietal, but have no clue what it is. Perhaps an astute reader of the FGS could enlighten me! I may even throw in a little swag for the first reader to correctly pinpoint it and tweet us with the answer (@tour_junkies for you heathens not on twitter yet!). What we typically buy here in the states though is called a Meritage Blend which is basically US grown blends of the five French Bordeaux varietals. Apparently this Bordeaux region is pretty stuffy though and won’t allow the Bordeaux name to be attached to any American wines, so we just came up with the name Meritage and told France to F off. It’s like champagne and sparkling wine, they are essentially the same but the French won’t let you call it champagne because it’s not from the Champagne region in France. Which is just dumb, but very French (je vous aime les Francais!). Regardless, the winner this week is most assuredly not going to be French anyway, so when you’re thinking about your plays this week, think of a fine Meritage blend and perhaps mix it up a little from your traditional thought process.
Now, on to the Players Championship plays of the week. As always, we are going to use the classic Wine Spectator 100 point scale for the picks (think of it like a confidence factor):
95-100 Classic: a great wine
90-94 Outstanding: a wine of superior character and style
85-89 Very good: a wine with special qualities
80-84 Good: a solid well-made wine
75-79 Mediocre: a drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
50-74 Not recommended (or a very shitty wine)
So, here we go, let’s dawdle on down into the sommeliers’ cellar of fine golf plays for the week…
Jon Rahm - $9,500 – 96 Points – Well right off the bat I’m going to set the tone this week with taking players who don’t exactly have the greatest course history, but fit the bill for this year’s setup. Rahm hasn’t been very good here in the past with a T63 and a T72 in two starts at TPC Sawgrass, but with the setup favoring bombers a little more this year and a softer course, I think its right in Rahm’s wheelhouse to flip the script on his prior play here. Keep in mind also, that while he doesn’t have the greatest history, Rahm shot a 77 on Saturday last year, and an 82 on Saturday in 2017 which effectively killed what otherwise would have been decent showings for him. Rahm is in the top 15 in the field in Driving Distance, Strokes Gained off the Tee, and Birdie or Better percentage which are three of my key stats for the week. I’ll be interested to see DraftKings ownership projections on Wednesday, but if we get him less than 15%, Rahm will be an excellent tournament play.
Xander Schauffele - $9,000 – 92 Points – Xander took a couple weeks off after the West Coast swing and the WGC Mexico, but is back and ready to contend this week on a course he finished 2nd on last year in his first attempt. I like Xander in both cash and tournaments this week as he is checking boxes all over the place in the stat categories including Driving Distance, Opportunities Gained, Birdie or Better Percentage, and he’s Number One in the field in Strokes Gained on Par 5’s which is another key stat I like on Par 72 courses with getable Par 5’s. I’m also a big fan of his starting group this week playing with two studs Justin Thomas and Justin Rose. That group will be a fun one to watch and they should feed off each other from a scoring standpoint.
Pop the Cork on him and Let it Breathe - This is the guy we didn’t mention on the pod but after further review, popped later in the week and is a sneaky good, possibly low owned play.
Adam Scott - $8,200 - 90 Points – The last time we saw Mr. Scott he was trunk slamming at the Honda Classic on a very difficult course he’s typically fared well on. Well now we’re back on another difficult course that he’s fared well on (T11, T6, and T12 in his last 3 starts) and won back in 2004 which actually was back when this tournament was still in March. Adam is a tremendous ball striker who typically struggles with the putter but is almost always in the hunt when he’s playing well as he is this year. I think the missed cut at the Honda is actually a good thing for ownership reasons and Scott should be a sneaky good pivot play in the 8K range off guys like Kuch, Mickelson, and Casey just below him.
The $10 Wine Special - Priced like a Sutter Home, plays like a Caymus!
Gary Woodland - $7,500 – 90 Points – So you’re telling me that DraftKings is going to give me a bomber in great form, who’s also been scoring and showing all the signs of a complete all-around game this year for $7,500?! Yeh, I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday! Woodland has been hot all year and I’m not expecting that to change this week on what Webb Simpson’s caddy Paul Tesori told us on the podcast would be a much softer course than we typically see here in May. The one downside to Woodland this week will probably be ownership, which should be relatively high based on his form and soft price, but I’m willing to eat that chalk on Gary in both my cash and GPP lineups.
Martin Trainer - $6,300 – 85 Points – I’m taking you guys deep down into the wine cellar and the bottom price shelf this week with Trainer and hopefully coming out with a fine vintage! You may remember, if you were paying attention during the WGC Mexico, that Martin was the winner of the Puerto Rico Event which was the first career PGA Tour victory for the 2018 Web.com Tour graduate. Trainer is a bomber who ranks 14th in the field in Driving Distance and is also top 15 in Par 5 scoring. This is a week where you have to take a few chances in GPP’s with such a large and strong field and I think Trainer is a guy with a great chance to make the cut, score some birdies, and possibly even finish in the top 30 which would be like finding a bottle of Caymus for $10 at your local Seven Eleven.
Boone’s Farm Vintage Fade of the Week - Boone’s Farm is basically convenience store wine we drank in college and possibly could kill you (not really, but it’s gross).
Rickie Fowler - $9,700 – 72 Points – Rickie has been hit or miss in the past at Sawgrass despite a win back in 2015 with two missed cuts, a T60, and a T77. Also when you dive in to the stats on Fantasy National, he’s really not checking a whole lot of boxes for a guy priced above 9K as he ranks 48th in Driving Distance, 43rd in Strokes Gained off the Tee, 56th in Scrambling, and 60th in Par 5 Scoring over his last 36 rounds. I’ve been a huge Rickie fan this entire year and for the most part, he hasn’t let me down, but you can’t play all the high priced studs, so I’m planting my flag this week and fading him.