Could Dustin Johnson shoot a 62 in the final round of the 2019 Players Championship for the win? Sure. Could Justin Rose drop a 60 for his second win of the year? I guess. Could Tiger Woods send in a 53 early and hoist a third Players trophy? OI, that’s where I draw the line. The point, though, is that this year’s title is likely to come down to the four golfers in spots 1-4 on the leaderboard after 54 holes.
- Jon Rahm (-15)
- Rory McIlroy (-14)
- Tommy Fleetwood (-14)
- Jason Day (-12)
I’m going to make a case both for and against each golfer taking home the PGA Tour’s most coveted trophy on what should be a nasty Sunday test at TPC Sawgrass.
Jon Rahm (+200)
Why he will win: Rahm has probably the most irrational confidence of anyone in this group. He probably thinks he’s going to go out and shoot another 64 for the win on Sunday … and he might. Rahm is leading the field in strokes gained from tee to green (an unfathomable scenario on Friday evening with Rory and Fleetwood way out in front), and if he even approaches the numbers he’s currently putting up, all he’ll have to do is putt average on Sunday for the win.
Why he will not: He’s gained over nine strokes on the field on approach shots over the last two days. As we saw with McIlroy and Fleetwood, it’s almost impossible to keep up that pace for an extended period of time. The other part of this is that this is Rahm’s first 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, and Sawgrass isn’t exactly forgiving (nor a place where he’s historically played well). If it starts to go sideways early like it did for Fleetwood and McIlroy on Saturday then I’m not positive Rahm is going to respond the same way.
Tommy Fleetwood (+330)
Why he will win: There are two cases to be made for Fleetwood and both involve the weather. The first is that he weathered what could have been a catastrophic storm on Saturday by playing the back nine in 32. That may have saved his tournament. The second is that it’s supposed to be cold, rainy and windy at TPC Sawgrass on Sunday. If he can find his swing again (admittedly a big if), those are perfect conditions for Fleetwood to win his first PGA Tour event.
Why he will not: He said after his round that that his misses were huge on Saturday, and he’s right. He ranked 79th of 80 in proximity to the hole on Saturday, which means it was a borderline miracle that he broke par. He still drove it great, but if he hits it like that again with his irons, there’s no chance.
Rory McIlroy (+225)
Why he will win: Maybe he’ll flip his third and fourth round numbers this week. Normally, he’s fallen off over the last few years in final rounds, but this week Round 3 may have been his bad one. He’s also not likely to drive it as poorly as he did two days in a row. He hit just four fairways in Round 3. If he does that again, that’s a wrap. But if he reverts to his Round 1 and 2 ball-striking, he’ll be in it until the final hole. Also, don’t look now, but he’s been rolling it great on these greens thus far.
Why he will not: Two things. (1) The weather will not be in his favor. (2) He has not closed.
Jason Day (+900)
Why he will win: Day is the only one of this group who has a win here, and he’ll be freed up to let it fly on Sunday with so many studs ahead of him. His iron play has continued to improve all week, and if it does so again on Sunday, he could have a 67 in the bag for the win.
Why he will not: There’s a reason he’s +900 to win even though he’s solo fourth, and that reason is that he’s three back of the No. 10 player in the world and two back of the No. 6 and No. 13 players in the world. It doesn’t sound like a lot, and maybe if it was just one golfer in front of him and that golfer wasn’t of this caliber, then it wouldn’t be. But when you’re ceding that many strokes to that many elite players, it can feel herculean to make up all that ground.
The sleeper: Dustin Johnson (+2200)
If there’s a sleeper on the board, it’s D.J. at 22-1. He could get in just ahead of the leaders with a 65, which would put him at 17 under on the week. Then he’ll have to pray the wind howls over the final three holes as those guys try to get to the house ahead of him. It’s not likely to happen, but if there’s anybody with the juice in that group beyond this foursome, it’s Johnson.