It’s Players Championship time!
This is a big event with a fantastic field, and DraftKings has taken notice.
In addition to the usual $100,000 prize pool contest (first place receiving $10,000) at a $3 entry fee, DraftKings has on tap a $20 entry fee game with a $150,000 prize pool and a $20,000 first prize along with a $300,000 prize pool and $50,000 first price if you submit $100.
Big potential for sure, but if you’re still only comfortable splurging that $3 buy-in, that still leaves you open to a potentially large payout with the top 7,850 positions all earning cash. And remember, if you enter the $3 contest through the link below and beat my top lineup’s score, you get your money back!
Anyway, onto my analysis…
This Pete Dye track makes a player think, with numerous tee shots that portend trouble if the ball wobbles too far offline. There’s no reprieve on the approach game either, as misses in the wrong spots can drastically increase the chances of bogey.
TPC Sawgrass’ reputation speaks to that of a worthy champion. Most people, including Rory, have claimed that the layout doesn’t suit anyone’s game in particular, an argument for an all-around player. But a few have given Sawgrass the “ball-striker’s paradise” moniker as well.
As the tee shot danger would imply, driving accuracy has also garnered much value when analysts, like Brandel Chamblee, break down TPC Sawgrass.
Did my recent five-year sample of the top-10 finishers at the Players concur with all this?
For maybe the second time since I started doing this feature, yes, the assumptions were mainly correct.
Harking back to the more popular, Rory-backed theory, that vision of Sawgrass has plenty of traction. In my five-year sample, there was a very small disparity between driving, approach play, short game and putting. All proved important to competing well at TPC Sawgrass at very similar levels.
Still, there was a tiny separation. Driving was paramount, with approach play a close second, short game a close third and putting a close last. Therefore, the player that profiles best in this aspect is most important of the all-around sort, and to a lesser extent one that tends to be strongest in ball-striking.
Length nor ball flight came out too significant from this group, although longer, high-ball hitters are slightly more advantaged than the norm. Driving accuracy held significant sway in facilitating a top-10, but I do think it is overrated at TPC Sawgrass.
In the five-year set, I found 12 contenders that would be classified as wild drivers. I would definitely still lean toward a precise golfer off the tee, but don’t go all in on that front.
- Justin Rose, $10,500
- Bubba Watson, $9,200
- Lee Westwood, $8,400
- Charley Hoffman, $7,400
- Chris Kirk, $6,700
- Kevin Chappell, $6,400
Rose has just played too well of late and has too sound a game for this course (excellent all-around player especially in ball-striking categories) for me to avoid him. He finished T4 last year at Sawgrass as well.
I think Watson is a huge steal this week, and it’s sort of confusing why exactly he’s this low. He’s played just one bad tournament (the Masters) the whole year and while his record at Sawgrass isn’t great, it’s not a nightmare by any means. It also seems like Bubba gets a reputation for being wild, which doesn’t bode well at a position golf course like Sawgrass. Yet, Augusta is a position layout too and Watson has thrived there. And Bubba, far from wild, actually has pretty good accuracy for the distance he hits it and is a great iron player. His putting has come around as well, which really puts him closer to that all-around mold. I think this is the week Watson finally sees some prosperity in Jacksonville.
As for the rest, Westwood has been in sneaky good form this year and seems on the verge of a big performance (a win in Indonesia doesn’t count). His last two trips to the Players have netted top-10s, and his game has been far better on and around the greens in recent years.
Hoffman’s play was scorching about a month ago, and he really is the best fit among this group. His strength is in ball-striking, but he’s tended to be above average in all facets.
Kirk remains way underrated, his Deutsche Bank win was not as surprising as the media made it out to be (or at all, really). He has yet to put a season together where all parts of his game are clicking, but his ability in driving, approach play, short game and putting have all been apparent at times.
Chappell burned me in New Orleans, but I’m not backing off because he can jump out at any moment and this is a good course for him.
- Brendon de Jonge, $6,500
- Kevin Chappell, $6,400
- Shawn Stefani, $6,400
- Sang-Moon Bae, $6,400
- Graeme McDowell, $6,300
- Carl Pettersson, $5,700
Really watch out for de Jonge. He has been on a severe hot streak lately, which three consecutive top-25s actually understates. He’s known as a ball-striker and is accurate off the tee, but he’s an adequate-to-solid putter and short game player as well.
As for Stefani, his game was subtly in a really good groove with four straight top-26s through Houston.
Bae hit a rough patch for a bit, but I think is finding his way back and he’s developed a solid all-around game.
A rough season so far for McDowell, but he is healthy again after a lower left leg issue in March, he possesses the all-around game for this course and was closer at Hilton Head than T26 implies.
Petterson’s probably less accurate off the tee than you think, but he’s also in this all-around realm and has flashed some good play of late.
- Jordan Spieth, $12,800
- Henrik Stenson, $10,400
- Ian Poulter, $7,200
- Harris English, $7,000
- Brendon de Jonge, $6,500
- Carl Pettersson, $5,700
Let’s see: a position golf course that rewards an all-around game? Yeah, that’s Spieth’s dream to a T. I would be shocked if he finishes worse than top 5.
Stenson’s history at Sawgrass isn’t as robust as you might think (one top-10 since win in 2009), but he appears healthy again and when he’s been 100 percent this year, his results have been dominant.
Poulter has played well of late and he’s a better ball-striker than he gets credit for. No discernible record here since his runner-up in 2009… just remember the form he’s in.
And finally we have English, who is my biggest wildcard. He’s a pretty well rounded player who could acquire a huge win any week now. And hey, what do you know, he was in the final group at the Players on Saturday just three years ago.
10 interesting photos from the 2020 Players Championship
GolfWRX is live this week from the 2020 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
The field this week featured the best golfers in the world, including Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, and more.
Rory McIlroy enters the tournament as the defending champion, looking hoist the crystal again.
Check out all our galleries below, along with highlights from TPC Sawgrass.
- The Players 2020 – Wednesday
- The Players 2020 – Tuesday #1
- The Players – 2020 – Monday #1
- The Players 2020 – Monday #2
- Chez Reavie – WITB The Players 2020
- Joel Dahmen – WITB The Players 2020
- Rory Sabbatini – WITB The Players 2020
- Brice Garnett – WITB The Players 2020
- Mark Hubbard – WITB The Players 2020
- Louis Oosthuizen – WITB The Players 2020
- Roger Sloan – WITB The Players 2020
- Henrik Stenson – WITB The Players 2020
- Kevin Kisner – WITB The Players 2020
- Erik von Rooyen – WITB The Players 2020
- Nick Taylor – WITB The Players 2020
- Bettinardi – St Patrick’s Day custom putter covers – The Players 2020
- Matt Wallace – WITB The Players 2020
- Patrick Reed’s new custom Cameron putter – The Players 2020
- Aaron Wise – WITB The Players 2020
- Peter Malnati – WITB The Players 2020
- Adam Long – WITB The Players 2020
- Denny McCarthy – WITB The Players 2020
- Keegan Bradley – WITB The Players 2020
Bettinardi’s St. Patrick’s Day covers
Brand-new Srixon 745 in Keegan’s bag
Roger Sloan’s custom Cameron
Mizuno JPX 919 Hot Metal irons spotted in Nick Watney’s bag
Joel Dahmen with a battle-worn hybrid
Fresh eggs for Patrick Reed…
Justin Rose continues to tweak his equipment
Carlos Ortiz looks to be picking up some supplies to mark the end of his driveway…
Jordan Spieth with a Vokey WedgeWorks Proto 60T in the bag
Kiradech Aphibarnrat with lead tape and stamping on cavity-back irons. Solid!
GolfWRX Spotted: Justin Rose with mixed bag at Arnold Palmer Invitational
It’s not very often we get breaking equipment news this time of year on the PGA Tour schedule, but this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, one of the highest-profile players on tour, Justin Rose, was spotted testing multiple brands of clubs throughout his entire bag.
It started last week at the Honda Classic when Rose put a TaylorMade SIM driver with Mitsubishi Kuro Kage in play. As of today’s first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rose has a mixed set including TaylorMade, Cobra, and Titleist clubs, along with an Axis1 putter.
Here are the details of Rose’s equipment:
Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 degrees @ 8.5)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 TX
3-wood: TaylorMade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 TX
5-wood: Cobra SpeedZone Tour (16.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80 X
Irons: TaylorMade P730 (4-PW)
Shafts: Project X 6.5
Wedges: TaylorMade MG2 (52, 56 degrees), Titleist Vokey Design Prototype K Grind (60 degrees)
Shafts: Project X 6.5 (52, 56), Proto Hi-Rev 135X (60)
Putter: Axis1 Rose
Grip: Flat Cat Svelte
Ball: TaylorMade TP5 ‘19 (No. 1)
Inside look: Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges on tour…6 months after launch
Callaway Jaws MD5 wedges hit professional golf tours months ago. We reported on the launch extensively (see our videos later in the article) with deep coverage on the PGA Tour and at retail. As with any new offering, and especially for the gearheads on GolfWRX, it’s the tour chatter that drives us. What the pros do, play, and think is always a driving force.
Personally, I have always been fascinated by the aftermath of a launch. What are the reactions and tweaks that are made once the shine has worn off? It’s not uncommon for players to need to warm up to a new product before it ultimately finds its way into the bag permanently.
When Jaws hit the scene, it integrated quite quickly, and that is saying a lot. The MD4 was a very successful wedge line on tour and at retail. It was a huge initial launch and one Callaway was happy with as a solid portion of its staff put Jaws in play straight away.
In my conversations with tour staff and techs, spin and lower ball flight has been a recurring theme. In the case of the Tour, being able to flight a wedge down and not have it float, while maintaining maximum spin, is a weapon. Imagine being at Honda last week and knowing you can hit a knee-high fastball with a 58-degree wedge and trust the ball will stay down, not skip, and will stop dead in its tracks. On tour, its the speed of the stop that is valuable, not ripping it backward—that is typically only fun for TV. Golf these days is more like darts and less like billiards.
As to be expected, the grinds on all Callaway wedges are tour favorites. It’s pretty simple to fall in love with something that comes ought of the mind of Roger Cleveland, who has been the driving force in putting Callaway consistently at the No. 2 most-played wedge on Tour.
But how has the MD5 really done thus far?
Let’s be clear, most guys don’t make switches late-summer or fall (when MD5 was launched on tour). The season is too far down the river and the coming winter gives them quiet time to really test. Also, when you work through the California swing, a good portion of the higher-ranked staff only poke their heads out once or twice. This doesn’t mean the guys on the truck aren’t building new products, but a good portion of it is for winter testing, emergency backups, etc.
But now we hit the Florida swing. The Masters is a month away. The world’s best start to show up consistently, the playing surfaces change from the West Coast to the East Coast, and all of these guys are in full attack mode. Any real testing or guesswork is pretty much done, and it’s time to get going. This is the time when you can actually see if a product has staying power.
The question is since Jaws hit the scene, what have the pros learned, what adjustments have been made to dial them in, and ultimately, is this wedge line a success? I wanted to tackle this question from two different perspectives: from the reps on tour and two young staff players that have them in play.
In this case, there is the guy on the Callaway tour trailer who is in charge of wedges, Simon Wood, and young tour staffers Akshay Bhatia and Min Woo Lee.
Three unique perspectives—and also perspectives that give us an honest look at the performance and popularity of a “new” wedge on Tour.
I talk with Simon Wood quite a bit. He’s a good as they get in this category, having worked for years in Europe and on the U.S. tour. His knowledge is extensive and even more importantly, he is ridiculously honest. If the product is solid and he believes in it, he will tell you. If he goes quiet, there’s that too.
I caught up with him on a day off and this was the update he gave:
Wunder: It seems MD5 came out of the gates quickly and never really slowed down, are you surprised at the response?
Wood: Not at all. Truth is, these players are very particular about what makes it in or out of the bag. A new club has to do something better than the old one and do all the things they liked about the old one. The Jaws really spins. This is a unique groove system, and I’ve noticed the players like it for two main reasons 1) They can keep the trajectory down on the high lofts 2) they can be a bit more aggressive because of the amount of spin these wedges offer. Out on tour that’s a big deal.
Wunder: What percentage of staff (25+players on U.S. Tours) are in the MD5 across the board?
Wood: I’d say close to 50 percent, which is a good number considering how many good options are out there.
Wunder: Now that we are in the Florida swing, are you having to do anything special to adjust to the new grass and conditions?
Wood: No its the opposite actually. I think with the grooves being as good as they are and the number of options we have grind wise, we on the truck are doing less tweaking and grinding to wedges. That’s a sign one the R&D team did a great job with this design and two that our players trust our product enough to let their creativity take over.
Wunder: Any surprise grinds that are popping up more often?
Wood: It’s not a surprise because we knew it was good, but the low bounce W has been a hit thus far. Lots of guys testing and gaming that one.
I then went on to chat with Callaway staffers Min Woo Lee (winning WITB, podcast link below) and Akshay Bhatia on their experience with Jaws. This perspective was interesting because Akshay is young, he’s fighting for a place to play this summer, and he’s still learning the nuances of playing as a professional. Min just recently won in Australia and has enough time under his belt now to understand a real asset over something he’s still trying to make work.
Point is: pressure is high on both of these kids, and the last thing either wants to struggle with is their wedges.
Wunder: You were an early adopter of the MD5 last fall, have you noticed any significant improvement over your previous gamers?
Bhatia: Trust is the biggest one. I love the shape of these wedges and just knowing that Roger and Phil have an influence on the wedges you are playing gives me so much confidence. From a performance standpoint, I like the variety in grinds the MD5 offers. Anywhere I play I have an option, whether it be X in soft conditions or C for the firmer turf.
Wunder: With the aggressive grooves of the MD5, what shots have you gained that you didn’t have before?
Bhatia: Definitely the off-speed/three-quarter shots with some spin. These wedges really keep the ball down and it’s a bonus when I know I can take something off of a shot and the ball will stay down and hold its line into the wind.
Wunder: And your current set up is?
Bhatia: Currently, I’m in the Jaws MD5 50S, 54S bent to 55, and the 60C or X depending on the conditions (KBS $Taper 130X shafts in black with Iomic grips) with some heel and toe relief in the X. I also like to mess around wit the PM Grind 60 if I’m looking for a different look.
Young Callaway staffer Min Woo Lee, who recently triumphed at the European Tour’s Vic Open, has this to say
Wunder: What ball flight differences do you see in Jaws over the past wedge set?
MWL: Overall the same. I like to pick my trajectory. So if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have put it in my bag…need to have every shot at my disposal.
Wunder: Do you do any extra grinding to your S?
MWL: Just in the 60, there is a little leading edge relief ground in. Prevents it from digging and gives me a bit more ability to be aggressive into it.
Wunder: Are there any other grinds you tried?
MWL: I tried the low bounce W and really liked, but the S grind has been my go-to for a long time, I know how to play with that one.
Wunder: As far as full shot turf interaction, why do you prefer the S?
MWL: The S is always what I’ve been into looks-wise, nothing else really caught my eye like that grind did. I do pretty good chipping around with it around the greens and we have some history so why mess with a good thing.
Overall, I think the MD5 wedge line has been a success on tour. Let’s be honest, wedges arent drivers, but identifying a popular line over another is quite interesting. These guys can get a TV remote ground into something useable, so when there is a shift across the staff to a new model, it validates that the ideas in it are sound and the wedge performs like it says it will. For larger tour staffs like Callaway has, operating a 50 percent clip for full line use is a really solid number.
Let’s be clear here, Callaway hasn’t made a bad wedge…like ever. From X Forged to the MD line and now into Jaws, Roger and the team know what they are doing. In my experience with these wedges, I will say that the grooves are ridiculously aggressive, and as Bhatia mentioned, there is a grind to satisfy any conditions.
Do most OEMs make solid wedges? The answer is of course they do; they all do. But the advantage that Callaway has over the rest in this category is Roger Cleveland. Having the man who inspired some of the most iconic wedge shapes ever coupled with a superb R&D team yields a combination that will deliver quality and performance time after time.
Here are some pics from the forums of MD5 out on tour now.
Akshay BhatiaFrancesco Molinari
Brendan GraceIsaiah SalindaJ.J. SpaunAlex Noren
Chun An YunHenrik Stenson Matt Wallace
Check out the videos below to see me and one of our forum members put Jaws MD5 to the test!
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