- Full preview of the Players Championship with The Golf Insider
- Five value picks between $17 and $201
It’s a big week in global sport – and global betting! – with Six Nations rugby, Champions League football and the Cheltenham Festival of Racing. For us golf lovers, the world’s best players hit the fairways of Florida. Outside of the four Majors, this is probably ‘the’ tournament to win: the Players Championship.
The Players is always a spectacle and never fails to deliver a gripping contest. And this year’s renewal looks wide open.
The Players Championship: The Tournament
The Players is called the ‘fifth major’ and with good reason. It’s played on a superb course, attracts all the top golfers and provides great drama with signature holes like the par-3 17th. It only dates back to 1974 but has already acquired status comparable to the majors – and there was talk at one stage that it might become one. However a change in the annual schedule, which has seen the US PGA Championship move from August to May, has probably put paid to this idea. But a switch back to March, and pre-US Masters, is still a good move and should see the event regain its high-quality appeal.
The Players Championship: The Course
We’re at TPC Sawgrass this week, at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. The facility was opened in 1980 and is designed by well-known course architect Pete Dye. The layout is a par 72 at 7,189 yards. Best known for the “island green” on the 17th, it’s a fine test for the players. Scoring is tough but not impossible.
264: Greg Norman (1994)
63: Colt Knost & Jason Day (2016)
The Players Championship: Past Winners
2019: Rory McIlroy
2018: Webb Simpson
2017: Si Woo Kim
2016: Jason Day
20185: Rickie Fowler
The Players Championship: The Field
It’s almost a standard field with 144 players teeing it up this week. Rory McIlroy is the $7 favourite with BetEasy.
The Players Championship: The Weather
There’s a bit of cloud cover each day but it’s doubtful there’ll any rain this week in Florida. Temperatures will be in the mid-20s, wind speeds will fail to reach 10mph. Really, conditions should be nigh-on perfect, if a touch humid (around 70%).
The Players Championship: Outright / Each-Way Value Bets
Justin Thomas (currently $17 with BetEasy)
I firmly believe that Thomas should have a better record at Sawgrass than what he does (35-11-MC-3-24). On three separate occasions he’s produced one bad round which has cost him a high finish, aside from when posting his best effort of third in 2016. Now it’s easy to miss, but in his last eight tournaments Thomas has finished 6-MC-3-MC-1-17-1-4, so he’s clearly playing well. And as a former winner in Florida (his adopted home state) he’ll be right at home in this week’s conditions.
The fact that he constantly goes unnoticed when compared to players like McIlroy, Rahm and Johnson is hard to fathom, as his numbers stand up: twelve PGA titles in 145 starts is some strike rate, with all those wins coming from 2016-20. I expect him to play well this week and the he’s a solid shout to challenge come Sunday… and better value than several of the big names currently around the top of the market.
Sunsets on this island never get old 🙌 pic.twitter.com/yA8lBUEZaD
— THE PLAYERS (@THEPLAYERSChamp) March 10, 2020
Brooks Koepka (currently $41 with BetEasy)
Koepka has been battling a knee injury and only returned to action in mid-January after three months out. It’s been slow progress since he returned at the Abu Dhabi Championship, but he’s now played five times and last week, despite an average finish, he shot a very good final round 71. That would have been the best score of the day had it not been for a double bogey on his last hole.
One thing we’ve learnt over the last few years is that as soon as Koepka is being written off he often produces his best golf, and this is especially true at the Majors. Although the Players isn’t an official Major, it is known as the ‘fifth Major’ and it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Brooks thrive this week on a long soft course that’s ripe for the picking with his game. He has solid form here over the last three years and at the price he looks well worth siding with.
Matt Kuchar (currently $51 with BetEasy)
Kuchar has had a very encouraging start to 2020, which seems to be going unnoticed by most. He won the Singapore Open in January against the likes of Rose and Stenson and was second at the Genesis Open in February. Last time out in Mexico he finished 22nd. Had it not been for an opening round 75 he would have comfortably have been in the Top 10 in Mexico. Kuchar is a winner and when presented with the opportunity he isn’t one to go away quietly. He won this event in 2012, finished third here in 2016 and most recently finished 26th last year. He knows the course better than most and is playing more great golf this year. At 50/1 he looks one of the best each-way bets of the week.
— Mark Cheevers (@chivesy6) March 9, 2020
Rory Sabbatini (currently $201 with BetEasy)
It wasn’t that long ago that Sabbatini looked like claiming his seventh PGA Tour win after an eight-year drought. His game during the 2019 season was superb and he managed to register five Top 10s, four of which were Top 6 finishes. He’s had a relatively slow start to 2020, but last week at Bay Hill was his third made cut in a row and his game is starting to look sharp once again. During his last two events he’s ranked fourth and 18th in Driving Accuracy and 11th and ninth in Greens-In-Regulation, so his game is on the up once again.
His record over the last five years at Sawgrass is really solid, with a best place finish of sixth in 2015, and he’ll be confident of giving it a good run this year now that his game is in good nick again. I think Sabbatini is worth chancing to continue his progression this season on a course he knows and plays well.
Talor Gooch (currently $201 with BetEasy)
Gooch hasn’t missed a cut all season and last week’s 13th place finish at the Arnold Palmer made it twelve cuts in a row. His best finishes have been fourth at the Houston Open, tenth at the Genesis and 13th last week at Bay Hill. All three events were filled with quality competitors, so the form is impressive. Gooch is definitely a player who thrives on the tougher layouts and this should be another venue where he can prosper. Last year Gooch’s best finishes were at the Wells Fargo Championship (13th), Torrey Pines (fourth), and the Desert Classic (third), two of which were on very testing layouts. He missed the cut last year at Sawgrass but can use that experience this time around to benefit him. He’s playing well enough to make a mockery of odds of 200/1 – especially if you want to include an each-way play.