It’s the fourth designated event in five weeks, with none bigger thus far than this one. My favorite event of the year, the 2023 PLAYERS Championship is finally here at TPC Sawgrass. All of the best players on the PGA TOUR will converge in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. As always, the week’s golf preview begins with a look at odds for THE PLAYERS Championship.
I’ve been fortunate to play TPC Sawgrass and always enjoy watching the game’s best navigate a familiar course.
Last year’s PLAYERS Championship felt like a bit of a throwaway in many respects. The weather was borderline unplayable for half of the field. Cam Smith won despite not being able to keep his tee shots on the planet. And he has no champion’s parking spot or locker to show for it. And I watched from a bachelor party with foggy memories of the event beyond that. Some light weekend rains and moderate winds are in the forecast as of now. Here’s to hoping for a clean competitive slate in 2023.
TPC Sawgrass features water hazards on 17 holes. Pete Dye’s most famous design will bait players into taking these hazards on. The constant threat of hazards has resulted in incredibly volatile leaderboards over the years. Of the top-20 players in SG: TOT over the last 36 rounds, only three have avoided missing the cut at this event within the last three years (Jon Rahm, Will Zalatoris and Seamus Power). With that in mind, it’s a good idea to embrace the volatility. Diversify exposure, and identify low-owned pivot plays for DFS.
Here’s a full look at everything to expect from the 2023 THE PLAYERS Championship odds.
2023 OPENING PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES
Scroll to the bottom of this article to compare complete PLAYERS Championship outright odds across legal U.S. sportsbooks. Find the favorites in Florida this week with odds shorter than 20-to-1.
THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
Always renowned for hosting a major-caliber field, the palpable stakes and historical context of THE PLAYERS has earned the distinction of “The Fifth Major.” Admittedly, some of that luster feels lost this year, as a tournament known for hosting the convergence of all of the game’s best in one place will not do so for the first time in 2023. Just like we’ve seen in each of the first three full-field designated events of 2023, LIV players will not participate at THE PLAYERS. And without them, it feels wrong to designate this event as a fifth major.
As evidence, the defending 2022 PLAYERS champion, Cameron Smith, has not been permitted to return to the field. The memory of his victory has been wiped off the record as far as any promotion of this event is concerned. Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson round out a list of past champions who have since left for LIV and will not play.
On the bright side, the designated events have continued to deliver major-quality leaderboards at every opportunity in 2023. Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler will headline as the favorites yet again this week, with other elite talents like Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele and Max Homa entering this field of 144 in top form.
The list of past champions returning to tee it up this week includes Thomas, McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Si Woo Kim, Jason Day, Matt Kuchar and Adam Scott. There was speculation as to whether we would see a follow-up Tiger Woods appearance with TPC Sawgrass being a considerably easier walk than Riviera CC. Unfortunately the GOAT is still resting up the rehabbed leg. He isn’t likely to be seen again until the Masters. Woods and Davis Love III are the only repeat winners at THE PLAYERS over the last 30 years, demonstrating the volatility of this event.
INTRODUCTION TO TPC SAWGRASS
Much like the other Pete Dye designs we see on TOUR, TPC Sawgrass is a positional course. With its persistent water hazards and quirky greenside bunks and undulations, TPC Sawgrass mitigates the advantage of longer hitters. It rewards players with elite approach and short game.
Once remnant swamp land, the foundational property for TPC Sawgrass was purchased in the 1970s for $1. The goal was transforming it into a state-of-the-art tournament golf course to host THE PLAYERS Championship. Today, we see a modern marvel and the quintessential tournament stadium course with some of the most pristine manicuring in golf. The par-3 17th island green is perhaps the most recognizable hole in all of golf. The final three holes are my favorite closing stretch of any course on the PGA TOUR.
The stakes don’t get much higher than a purse of $25 million (top prize $4.5 million) in one of the toughest fields, with an electric crowd. At par 72 sitting just under 7,200 yards, TPC Sawgrass rewards four days of well-rounded play. We’ve seen bombers like Rory McIlroy and Jason Day win as often as shorter specialists like Si Woo Kim, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson. Creativity and deft touch around the greens would seem the common through-line when looking down the list of annual contenders. Runoffs around the greens will give players even more options to use their creativity with many “Texas Wedges” drawn from these tight lies.
For TPC Sawgrass course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past PLAYERS winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our PLAYERS Championship odds page.
EVENT HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
You’ll be hard pressed to land on any one player with conviction on the basis of course history alone. Shane Lowry is the only player in this week’s field who has finished top 20 in each of the last two years, with finishes of T13 and 8th. Notables like Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay have both missed the cut here in each of the last three years. The field’s big three of Rahm, McIlroy and Scheffler combine for just three finishes inside the top 30 over the last five years. So expect a bit of carnage and unpredictability.
Despite the star power of winners here over recent years, just as many unheralded players have produced top-five finishes. Anirban Lahiri, Jim Furyk, Jhonattan Vegas, Eddie Pepperell, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker, Jason Dufner, Kyle Stanley, Kevin Chappell, Colt Knost and Ken Duke each have T5 finishes dating back to 2016. We should expect to see some parity on the leaderboard come Sunday. Longshot bets are still plenty viable for THE PLAYERS Championship odds.
This, again, is not a week to chase course history blindly. A course this susceptible to gusting winds with water in play on 17 holes will lend itself to randomness and unrewarded quality shots. Justin Thomas has, however, proven an exception as someone able to find consistency in spite of Sawgrass’ volatility. The 2021 champion has never missed the cut here over seven career appearances and has six finishes inside the top 35. Thomas was left for dead on the bad side of a severe weather draw in 2022 and still managed to post an impressive T33 finish.
His steady success is a testament to his elite iron play and crafty touch around the greens. And he looks to be rounding back into his world-class form after an impressive showing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.
Others Excelling At THE PLAYERS
After Thomas, the rest of the top 10 in Course History includes Adam Scott, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Si Woo Kim, Hideki Matsuyama, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Corey Conners and Doug Ghim. This illustrates a trend of veteran course managers with proven results in high pressure events. And Doug Ghim.
Nine players in this field have delivered multiple T10 finishes over the last five years: Keegan Bradley, Fleetwood, Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, Kim, Day, Jon Rahm, Shane Lowry and Brian Harman.
Eight players have avoided missing the cut in four consecutive trips to THE PLAYERS: Bradley, Thomas, Conners, Rahm, Tom Hoge, Adam Long, Nick Taylor and Denny McCarthy. On the other hand, notable players with at least three missed cuts over their last five appearances include Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton and Russell Henley.
Shorter Pete Dye courses tend to correlate more than those from any other architect. For the most part, Dye courses share the same philosophy: force strategic, positional tee shots. Penalize wayward approaches with complex bunkering and tricky greenside runoffs. The top-10 players SG: T2G on Pete Dye courses are Justin Thomas, Rory McILroy, Chris Kirk, Shane Lowry, Russell Henley, Viktor Hovland, Corey Conners, Si Woo Kim, Patrick Cantlay and Luke List.
Unpacking those Dye courses, Harbour Town, Stadium Course and TPC River Highlands most closely resemble the layouts and design at TPC Sawgrass. They have produced overlapping leaderboards over the years of players who are accurate off the tee, possess strong irons and show crafty around-the-green play. Webb Simpson, Kim and Matt Kuchar are approach specialists with crossover wins at THE PLAYERS and these comp courses.
Cameron Smith’s 2022 win furthered an interesting trend of crossover winners between this event and the Sony Open. Four of the last seven Sony Open winners are PLAYERS champions. The stakes and field strength of the two events could not be more different. However, both courses do share exposure to gusting winds and emphasize positional tee shots on a Bermuda layout.
I’m also looking closely at Sedgefield CC and Innisbrook (Copperhead) as other Bermuda courses which favor a similar profile. TPC Scottsdale features a similar assortment of risk-reward holes with abundant hazards. It has seen consistent success in recent years from players like Simpson, Matsuyama, Thomas, Kuchar and Rickie Fowler. Finally on a more secondary basis, East Lake and Colonial CC are worth referencing for similar positional play and moderate scoring difficulty.
The top-10 players in SG: TOT across each of these comp courses are Jon Rahm, Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Henley, Sungjae Im, Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns, Keegan Bradley, Tyrrell Hatton and Keith Mitchell.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER FOR 2023 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS
- Good Drives Gained / SG: OTT
- SG: APP
- Opportunities Gained
- Bogey Avoidance
- SG: ARG / Scrambling
- Par 4: 450-500
- Par-5 Scoring
- SG: Putting (L36, Bermuda)
- SG: T2G (Pete Dye Courses)
- SG: Ball Striking (<7,200 Yard Courses)
- Course & Comp Course History
As per usual with Pete Dye courses, distance is simply a nice bonus to have at TPC Sawgrass. Many of the neighboring water hazards and tight tree lines take the driver out of hand. With that in mind, I’m not looking too closely at the Driving Accuracy. The field should play inherently more accurately when laying up off the tee.
Even still, I’ll look for players who excel in total driving to position themselves well and avoid the penalty areas. Good Drives Gained is my usual go-to stat on Dye Courses. This stat captures the players who are best at positioning themselves to hit greens in regulation and avoid tricky green-side complexes. The top-10 players in Good Drives Gained are Justin Suh, Collin Morikawa, Aaron Rai, Jason Day, Russell Henley, Kevin Yu, Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler, Hayden Buckley and Gary Woodland.
As a workaround to SG: OTT to approximate tee shots on courses with a high volume of forced layups, I’m looking to players who rate out well in SG: Ball Striking on courses under 7,200 yards. The top-10 from this category are Conners, Henley, Shane Lowry, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Luke List, Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama and Chris Kirk.
While distance doesn’t rule, it’s going to help on the four par 5s. Those with plus distance can reach all four in two. The top-10 players in Par-5 Scoring entering this week are Patrick Cantlay, Seamus Power, Max Homa, Thomas, Viktor Hovland, Kevin Yu, Finau, JT Poston, Sam Burns, and Keith Mitchell
Approach And Short Game
While THE PLAYERS has bred a diverse cast of winning profiles over the years, the common theme seems to be “fairway to green.” The best players on Approach and Around-The-Green have stockpiled wins. With the medley of grass types on these over-seeded greens and number of forced layups off the tee, I’m emphasizing the best iron and wedge players.
The top-10 players SG: APP over the last 36 rounds are Tom Hoge, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Tom Kim, Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Russell Knox, Tony Finau and Sepp Straka. The top-10 players in SG: ARG over the same span are Justin Thomas, Scott Piercy, Vincent Whaley, Hideki Matsuyama, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Danny Willett, Max Homa, Stephan Jaeger, Patrick Rodgers and Andrew Putnam.
To wrap, the ideal player this week should be top 50 in SG: APP, SG: ARG, and Comp Course History, and above average in Good Drives Gained and Par-5 Scoring. Just 10 players fit that bill: Finau, McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Homa, Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry, Si Woo Kim, Tom Kim, Brian Harman, and Martin Laird.
Correlation And TPC Sawgrass
Looking at the stat correlations this week for TPC Sawgrass, there are some notable shifts compared to TOUR average. Here, P4: 450-500, Par-5 Scoring, and Par-3 Scoring each fall outside the top 10. Instead, Good Drives Gained and total Par-4 Scoring make the most notable jumps in importance. Just outside the top 10, we also see notable jumps in the importance of SG: P 15-20 ft and SG: ARG. Meanwhile, Sand Saves Gained and Prox 200+ drop in importance.
There are just 10 players who rate out above average in each of the above top-10 stat categories for TPC Sawgrass: Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Ben Griffin, Tyrrell Hatton and … Tom Kim.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: TOM KIM
A simple glance down the list of past winners at THE PLAYERS would suggest an uphill battle for debutants. Virtually all recent winners had posted a top-20 finish at THE PLAYERS prior to picking up their first win. But, course history has proven a bit of a paradox at THE PLAYERS. No two leaderboards look the same year over year. The winner never tells the full story at a given event either, with many examples of debutant contenders over recent years such as Taylor Pendrith, Doug Ghim and Joel Dahmen. So if trends are meant to be broken, let it be at the hands of this 20-year-old phenom.
I understand some may have cast away the “phenom” label for Kim by now. He has just one top-40 finish over his last five starts. A few mediocre results on less-than-ideal course fits don’t erase his seven top-15 finishes over his last 12 starts however. So, this seems like a perfect time to buy low on the future star.
Gaining Experience Under Pressure
A few weeks ago, I was bullish on Kim at the WM Phoenix Open on the premise that he would soak up the crowd atmosphere, avoid hazards with his precise ball striking. He could lean on his caddie, who’d won the event previously with Rickie Fowler, to atone for his lack of experience. While the T50 finish in Phoenix wound up a bit disappointing, all of these elements remain in play once again at TPC Sawgrass. Only this time, he’ll be less disadvantaged to the bombers in the field.
Kim has already won twice on sub-7,200 yard courses, leaning on his strengths of Driving Accuracy (No. 12) and SG: APP (No. 4). Available as long as 50-to-1, Tom Kim is already my first bet of the week at THE PLAYERS Championship odds.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT 2023 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
The 2022 PLAYERS Championship was a weird event for so many reasons. The field faced brutal rain and wind conditions which forced a weather stoppage that led to a significant wave advantage. It ultimately pushed play to conclude on Monday. Even weirder, Cameron Smith won on this positional course despite losing more than 5 strokes off-the-tee. And golf fans may never hear about it again with the PGA TOUR effectively erasing his win from the history books. Although outlier conditions existed last year, wind does often play a factor at TPC Sawgrass. It will be worth monitoring throughout tournament week.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool for DFS. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2023 PLAYERS Championship odds as well. It’s broken out by projected pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.
For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m prioritizing SG: APP, SG: ARG, Comp Course History, SG: BS (<7,200 Courses) and Good Drives Gained, followed by a more balanced mix of SG: P (L36, Bermuda), Par-5 Scoring, Bogey Avoidance, Opportunities Gained and Par-4: 450-500.
For the second week in a row, none other than Jon Rahm claims the No. 1 spot in the model. A lot has changed over the last 72 hours. Most of the golf betting community was left considering betting in the “Without Rahm” markets or simply employing Rahm single bullet cards from here on out after his first round lead at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He’s looked human, spiraling down the leaderboard since, however. So despite being a worthy favorite at a course he’s finished top-15 twice, I don’t have the same trepidation to fade for a longer card in an event that should continue to breed volatility.
After Rahm, my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Sungjae Im, Justin Thomas and Shane Lowry.
With Tom Kim already cemented on the card at 50-to-1 odds, I’ll look to see where markets adjust on Monday. Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Keith Mitchell and Seamus Power are all players I’m interested in targeting if their numbers improve.
Thanks for reading and good luck with your 2023 PLAYERS Championship bets!
2023 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS TABLE
Bet on any golfer by clicking on THE PLAYERS Championship odds in the table. It should begin to populate by midday Monday as sportsbooks open odds for THE PLAYERS.