The PGA Tour heads north to Ponte Vedra Beach for the Players Championship, the flagship event of the PGA Tour and what many consider the “fifth major.” Last year, this tournament set the record for the largest purse in PGA Tour history, with $20 million dollars up for grabs. This year, it is shattering its own record, as 44 of the 50 best players in the world will be duking it out at the iconic TPC Sawgrass for a whopping $25 million dollars.
Unfortunately, Cameron Smith will not be in attendance to defend his title, as his defection to LIV has left him on the outside looking in. However, we will still be treated to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Scottie Scheffler, who continue to battle it out for the number-one spot in the official world golf ranking. Hosted on an iconic golf course where water comes into play on 17 holes, the Players Championship always delivers as one of the most exciting tournaments of the year.
Before we get into our picks for the Players Championship, make sure to take a moment to check out these awesome sports betting offers for this week. With the offers below, you can turn $6 into $350 guaranteed, or you can use one of the HUGE first bet offers to wager with more confidence on your The Players Championship selections this week.
The Players Championship Course Preview
TPC Sawgrass is one of the most well-known and respected venues on the PGA Tour, and much of that has to do with its magnificent and heart-stopping closing stretch. While the risk/reward par five 16th hole is always sure to provide fireworks, I would be remiss, not to mention what many believe to be the most recognizable hole in golf, the par three 17th island green. Despite measuring just 137 yards on the scorecard, the 17th hole still plays as the sixth hardest hole on the course, featuring nearly an 8% double bogey rate.
Making it through 17 is only half the battle, as TPC Sawgrass’ finishing hole has historically played as the hardest hole on the course, featuring a bogey or worse rate upwards of 32%. While the finishing stretch gets all the publicity, the entire body of work remains as one of the finest golf courses in the country and stands alone as many believe to be Pete Dye’s masterpiece.
Playing as a par 72 and tipping out to just a hair over 7,200 yards on the scorecard, TPC Sawgrass is not a golf course that can be overpowered. Precision and control is key, as the Dye design features hazards on every hole and ranked first last year out of all PGA Tour courses in penalty strokes per round. TPC Sawgrass rewards patience and often a prudent and conservative style of play.
Many who have experienced success here often leave the driver in the bag in hopes of avoiding the hazards and the two-and-a-half-inch Bermuda-grass rough. Ultimately, I will be looking to identify elite iron players with a proven track record of success on short, positional golf courses, who I trust to keep the ball in play off the tee.
TPC Sawgrass Key Stats
- Good Drive Percentage: Short Courses
- Opportunities Gained
The Players Championship Predictions: Outright Winner
Justin Thomas (+1900) (Bet $100 to collect $2,000) Get the best odds for this Justin Thomas pick at FanDuel (opens in new tab)
Only six PGA Tour players have won multiple Players Championships, and I believe Justin Thomas is in a prime position to become the seventh. The 2021 champion is coming off a ho-hum 21st-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he gained 3.5 strokes off the tee and 2.7 strokes on approach. During the below-average short game and putting kept him from the first page of the leaderboard, Thomas has been quietly percolating for weeks.
The consistency remains elite, as the reigning PGA Championship winner has yet to finish outside the top-25 in five starts this year. Thomas is percolating, and I still believe that he is extremely close to a vintage ceiling performance that has allowed him to win 15 times on the PGA Tour before his 30th birthday.
I trust his ability to club down and keep the ball in play off the tee at the Dye design, and he remains one of the strongest wedge players in the world, who also possesses a completely under-the-radar top-five short game. There’s a reason why Thomas ranks number one in this field in average strokes gained per round at TPC Sawgrass, gaining a stroke and a half to the field every time he tees it up here, and I’m expecting another elite performance out of the World No. 9 this week in Jacksonville.
Viktor Hovland (+2700) (Bet $100 to collect $2,800 FanDuel has the best odds for Viktor Hovland to win this week (opens in new tab)
Viktor Hovland was frustratingly close last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, sitting in the middle of the fairway just one stroke off the lead with a nine iron in his hands on the par-five 16th hole. He proceeded to chunk his approach shot, leading to a bogey, and closing it out with another sloppy three-putt bogey on the 18th hole. The point being his 10th-place finish last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was deceiving, as the young Norwegian was in a prime position to pick up his victory on mainland U.S. soil.
Operating with a glass-half-full approach, Hovland hit the cover off the ball at Bay Hill, gaining a whopping 6.3 strokes off the tee and 3.7 strokes on approach, good for his best ball-striking performance since last year’s Players Championship. The World No. 11 now returns to the site of the best ball-striking performance of his career, as Hovland gained over 14 strokes ball-striking last year at the iconic Pete Dye venue.
Unfortunately, this is the type of ball-striking we need to see out of Hovland to overcome his short-game struggles, which I am not even going to attempt to sugarcoat. Yet we’ve seen Hovland put a Band-Aid on these issues before and contend at the highest level. Coming off the best off-the-tee week of his entire career, this is the best Hovland has hit it in his entire career, and if there’s ever a time to capitalize, it’s now.