The PLAYERS Championship Betting Preview – Picks to Win
Date: May 10-13, 2018
Location: TPC Sawgrass – Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
By: Evergreen, Golf Betting Analyst, Predictem.com
Every week is a big week on Tour for some but this week is a big one for all. The Players Championship is the next stop for the PGA Tour and next winning a Major, this is the biggest win a player can add to their career record. The Top-50 in the OWGR are auto-invites each year and the rest of the field is filled out with leading money or tournament winners from the year prior. This event has one of the largest prize pools in all of golf and a win carries several big-time exemptions as well. Just about everyone worth talking about makes the trip to TPC Sawgrass and the popularity of the course itself lends more credibility to this marquee event.
Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth grab most of the attention when they are in the field but don’t forget past Players champs like Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Sergio Garcia. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are headliners with last week’s winner Jason Day looking to stay hot. Veterans like Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose round out the short list of the favorites for an event that is traditionally won by a big name. Si Woo Kim was one of the few surprise winners from recent history but no matter who wins this week, that player will have tackled one of the toughest courses and the deepest fields on the way to victory.
Sawgrass is one of the more famous courses in all of golf. The Pete Dye gem is overwhelmingly associated with the island green at the par-3, 17th but the 7,200 yard, par-72 layout is championship caliber from start to finish. The course has seen just about every green surface and bunker re-tailored over the past few years but nothing has changed dramatically about how the course plays. Sawgrass features some of the narrowest fairways on Tour with legit rough waiting for errant drives. Waste areas and pot bunkers will gobble up missed shots as well and holding the hard and fast greens is sometimes impossible from anywhere other than the fairway. Past winners have almost always been the best from tee-to-green during the week as there is virtually no way to succeed here when you aren’t hitting it in the right spots. There are three par-4’s that come in at under 400 yards and no par-5 goes beyond 585 yards so this track is diminutive by modern standards but even the short holes will each your lunch if you cannot hit it straight.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. Jason Day stood out as a great value last week and we correctly tabbed him for a win at 20 to 1 so we are looking for two W’s in a row. We make some picks to win the event and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are popular around the various golf betting outlets. Here are our picks to win the 2018 PLAYERS Championship.
Jon Rahm (22 to 1 odds to win)
The elite group of favorites (Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy) just doesn’t bring enough value for a potential win but Rahm is an elite ball striker at a significantly better payout. Rahm is the 2nd rated player off the tee and adds the 31st best greens hit mark to come in as one of the better overall tee-to-green players on Tour. He has used a top-15 putter to lead the Tour in birdie average and is 16th in total strokes gained. He missed the cut at the team event in New Orleans but is a perfect 9-for-9 in singles events with a win at the CareerBuilder and a 4th at the Masters. He is 8th in eagles and 7th in one-putt percentage so he has just about every boxed checked. He is ready to win a bigtime event.
Tommy Fleetwood (50 to 1)
Fleetwood would be a bit of a surprise winner to the casual golf fan but none of his fellow Touring pros would see a Players win as odd. Tommy is coming off his only missed cut of 2018 but look for that to be a bump in the road for the Tour’s #1 ranked overall driver. Fleetwood is top-10 in both off-the-tee and tee-to-green metrics and putts well enough to produce the 16th best scoring average on Tour. The stats show he doesn’t have a strong recovery game but he makes so few errors that he doesn’t have to scramble all that often. He has shown he can hang with the toughest fields both overseas and here in the US and it is only a matter of time before he permanently inserts his name on the list of players that are going to carry this game for the next decade.
Emiliano Grillo (66 to 1)
There are few true longshots in the field given the restrictions to be included but having to navigate through the best in the world will attach some long odds to talented players. The 25-year old Argentinian won the 2015 Frys.com event and has not been outside of the top-64 in the world since. He has made the cut in six of his nine career Major starts and has shown he is trending toward another Tour win with two top-10 finishes in his last three starts. He finished 11th here in his Players debut last year and is one of the more accurate players in Tour with top-14 marks in both fairways and greens hit. He is not one of the longer players out there but Sawgrass doesn’t require that raw power. Grillo is 23rd in tee-to-green performance, gaining about a stroke one the field in that category. He is 34th in birdie average and 27th in scoring so there is a rock-solid foundation for this young man. A win will come when he simply puts it all together.
Player Match-Up Betting
Everyone loves Phil. I love Phil. I just don’t love betting on him anymore. Lefty is still capable of magical shot and rounds but I wish he didn’t need to rely on the magic so often. Phil ranks outside the top-200 in fairways hit and that spells trouble at Sawgrass. Mickelson did win here but his last three Players starts resulted in two missed cuts and a T41. Casey has been in the top-25 each of the last two seasons and has the edge in all ball striking categories and is nearly 100 spots better in off-the-tee performance. Phil is the best putter on Tour by many statistical evaluations but he needs to be considering his sometimes wild driver. Look for Casey to be much more boring through the week and net another finish in the 15th to 25th range while Lefty is in danger of missing another cut if he slashes it around the way he did the first two days at the Wells Fargo last week.
Reed has been impressive since his Masters win with T7 and T8 finishes since donning the Green Jacket. Many players have a prolonged swoon after winning a Major but it looks like Reed has only been motivated to validate that win and that makes him a very tough out at another premiere Tour stop. Rose has the edge in fairways and greens hit but has failed to do much at Sawgrass over the last three years with one top-20 finish alongside a T65 and a missed cut. Reed has one missed cut over that span as well but logged top-25 finishes in the other two to show a bit better handle on this event. You wind up splitting hairs with these two when it comes to scoring so stick with Reed’s hot hand. Rose has had a tremendous 16 months or so but has cooled slightly this spring and you should make him prove it again before you take him against another big name player.
Good luck and good golf