The Players Championship Picks – Preview With Analysis

The PLAYERS Championship Preview and Picks to Win
Dates: May 12th15th, 2011
Course: TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper,

We may only have one official Major out of the way, but the PGA heads to Florida this week for the unofficial Fifth Major, The PLAYERS Championship. The TPC at Sawgrass welcomes the players and tests them with one of the most famous holes in all of golf, the island green at the par-3 17th. Most of the best players in the world are in attendance this week, making a win at the PLAYERS among the most coveted in the game. Tim Clark is the defending champion and will face a tall task to make it two in a row against the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson along with the best of the European Tour. The Golf Channel has all the early round action with NBC picking up the weekend broadcasts.

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is Florida golf through and through. The 7,215 yard, par-72 layout boasts 93 sand traps and 24 water hazards and presents a stern test to both a players tee to green skill and putting. The finishing two holes will likely have a lot to say about who takes home a victory this week as the diminutive par-3, 17th can be a nightmare for players and the par-4, 18th follows as the hardest hole on the course. Greg Norman and Fred Couples both carded course record rounds of 63 in the middle nineties and that record stands today. Look for a pretty moderate scoring pace with some players struggling to rounds in the upper seventies.

Each week, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and highlight a few players that we think can win it all. We give you a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a few head to head matches like you can find at any online betting site. Here are our pick to win the 2011 PLAYERS Championship with odds and matches courtesy of the board at Bodog.

Short Favorite Pick: Luke Donald (16 to 1 odds to win)

The winner of the Accenture Match Play is coming off a playoff runner-up at the Heritage and is a combined 43-under par in his last four events. Donald leads the Tour in money earned in just seven starts and also leads with six, top-10 finishes. Luke hasnt missed a cut at Sawgrass since 2006 and while he hasnt really contended at the PLAYERS, he certainly looks in shape to do so this year. Donald leads the Tour in scoring average and has top-5 ranks in birdie average, par-5 scoring and scrambling. The PGA now uses a strokes gained through putting as a replacement to putting average, but no matter what you call it, Donald is one of the premier putters out there, currently 13th in shots gained through putting.

Middle of the Road Play: Nick Watney (33 to 1 odds to win)

Watney isnt often listed with the group of flashy Euros and American young guns that are supposed to take over the game, but he should be. The WGC-Cadillac champion missed his first cut just last week ending a great run to the start of the season that saw five top-10 finishes and an average finish of 5.4 through the first month-plus. Nick has moved into the top spot in the all around category on the strength of top-23 or better ranks in driving distance, total driving, greens hit, putting average and ballstriking. TPC Sawgrass demands a solid overall game and rewards players that are versatile across the stat sheet so look for Nick to have a strong run this week.

Longshot Prediction: Jason Day (40 to 1 odds to win)

Days early season has produced four top-10 finishes in just nine starts and his T2 at the Masters showed he is not afraid of any player or any course on Tour. Jason has continued his good play with a T9 at the Heritage and he presents a threat to win even though he will be teeing it up for just the second time at the Stadium Course. Day is one of the best drivers on Tour, ranking 16th in distance and 24th in overall driving but he does need to hit more fairways to consistently contend. He is a good putter which is a real plus when coupled with his length and the rest of the sheet is good enough for 11th in the all around category. If he can find enough fairways to put some pressure on the course, look for a potential weekend run.

Head to Head Matches (our pick to win) *picks are for entire event, check with your favorite online bookie for single round matches and prop bets.

Jim Furyk (-115) v. Dustin Johnson (-115) (Johnson)

The obvious edge here is with Johnsons length off the tee, but Dustin is also hitting more greens right now and owns the best birdie average on Tour. If Furyk was hitting the ball a bit better, this one would be much tougher to call, but simply having an edge in fairways hit isnt really enough to get the nod at Sawgrass.

Bubba Watson (-115) v. Steve Stricker (-115) (Stricker)

Similar match as in above with Watson owning a decided length advantage, but Stricker does get the nod to win based on a much better putting average and a better scoring mark despite making about the same amount of birdies. Watson is leading the Tour in greens, but Stricker is good in that area making his lack of length much less of an issue.

Check back weekly for my FREE PGA picks with analysis! Good Luck!