The Players Championship – Preview, Matchup Picks, Picks to Win the Tournament

Tournament: THE PLAYERS Championship
Date: May 8 - May 11, 2008
Location: TPC Sawgrass - Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Matt of Predictem.com

The PGA Tour heads back to Florida for it’s next event, THE PLAYERS Championship, coming to you from Ponte Vedra Beach. This week’s event will have a full strength field with one notable exception, and will be contested on one of the most recognizable courses on Tour. THE PLAYERS also has one of the richest purses of any tournament, with $6 million on the line, $1.6 million to the winner. Phil Mickelson is back to defend his ’07 crown while the remaining players look to take advantage of another Tiger-less event.

TPC Sawgrass has become a spectator favorite, mostly due to the drama of the island green at 17. Playing at 7,220 yards, par-72 this week, the course will be a complete test for the winner and the last three holes will prove pivotal. The 16th is a 523 yard, par-5, that plays as the easiest on the course. A virtual must birdie, the hole played at a 4.58 average in ’07 while yielding 12 eagles. That will be the players’ last chance to breathe easy as they are then faced with the two most difficult holes on the course. We all know the dangers that wait at the 137 yard, par-3 17th. The diminutive hole played at 3.39 strokes in ’07 and can absolutely derail an entire round with a couple of poorly struck shots. If you can get through 17 in good shape, the 462, par-4 finishing hole awaits and typically plays almost a half stroke over at 4.41 strokes. There will be plenty of opportunity for lead changes on Sunday with these three finishers.

Lets take a look at the players out to take down this title. We will highlight the favorites, check out a few wildcards and break down some Tournament match-ups. The odds and matches come courtesy of Bodog, or check out another of our golf sportsbooks to find the bets for you.

Phil Mickelson

11 to 1 to win, 9 to 4 for a top 5 finish or tie.

Lefty will likely be the odds on favorite until Woods’ return and is looking to make it two wins PLAYERS in a row. Mickelson gets it done in all phases, ranking 26th in driving distance and 14th in greens hit, leading to a 2nd All Around rank. Phil is 5th in scoring at 69.56 and has not finished outside the top-25 in any event besides his one MC. Mickelson does have the one win this year, and it may be time for another after a T5 and T12 in his last two.

Adam Scott

12 to 1 and 5 to 2

The Aussie has yet to miss a cut in 7 American starts and has finished inside the top-25 in six of those. A win at the Nelson two weeks ago was followed up by a T8 at the Wachovia for the Tour’s number 1 All Around Player. 6th in driving distance and 20th in putting show a versatile and complete game for Scott, he is also 2nd to Tiger in scoring at 69.27. No true weakness for this player, I like his 3rd round average of 68.4 in a Saturday match.

Jim Furyk

20 to 1 and 3 to 1

Look for a good week out Furyk as he will have the crowd behind him as a Ponte Vedra resident. Furyk has a solid stat sheet overall, ranking in the top-40 in fairways hit, GIR%, and scoring average. It might be time for him as he has been close the last two weeks with 4th and 7th place finishes. Furyk has played his final rounds at about a half stroke under par, so if he can get it going on Sunday at a little better pace, he should be in contention.

Padraig Harrington

20 to 1 and 7 to 2

Harrington has been close here before, with runner-up finishes in ’03 and ’04 and has yet to miss a cut this year on Tour. Playing in his first event since the Masters, Paddy leads the Tour in birdie average at 4.4 per round as well as putts per round (27.25). Even when innaccurate, Harrington can make something out of nothing as evidenced by his 3rd rank in scrambling.

Vijay Singh

20 to 1 and 7 to 2

The Tour’s workhorse will be teeing up for the 12th time in the U.S. and has 4 top-10’s in his previous starts. He has been 14th and 17th in the last two and has only one missed cut thus far in ’08. Vijay gets it done by hitting a 4th best, 70.3% of greens, giving him the looks at birdie to get to his 69.88 stroke average. Singh ranks 5th in pre-cut scoring average, so ride him in the Thu/Fri matches.

Stewart Cink

22 to 1 and 4 to 1

Cink has but one MC this year while leading the Tour with 6 top-ten finishes. He was a T3 here last year, and his last three weeks have seen him 3rd, 7th and 8th, so a serious run wouldn’t surprise. Cink is 7th in greens hit and scoring average and is 3rd in All Around Rank.

Geoff Ogilvy

28 to 1 and 9 to 2

Much like Cink, Ogilvy has been hot of late with his last four events ending with a 10th, 14th, 2nd and a win at the WCC-CA. A 76 on Sunday at the Wachovia dropped him down to 22nd or another top-10 would be on the books. 12th in total ball striking, Ogilvy leads the Tour in greens hit from outside the fairway, giving him a few extra chances.

Here are a few players that are further back on the board that could pay big with win this week.

K.J. Choi - 33 to 1 - Super accurate player (3rd in GIR%) won early in the year.

Sergio Garcia - 33 to 1 - Runner up in ’07 PLAYERS, 16th driving dist/ 27th GIR%

Anthony Kim - 40 to 1 - 1st PGA win last week, 6th in scoring average.

Justin Leonard - 50 to 1 - ’98 Champ is 6th in GIR% and 7th in Putting.

Stephen Ames - 50 to 1 - ’06 Champ leads the Tour in par-3 birdie%, only 1 MC in ’08.

HEAD TO HEAD MATCHES (All players listed currently at (-120) All matches are for entire event)

Phil Mickelson v. Adam Scott Pick: Mickelson

This one is probably a 50/50 look, I like Phil and his 1st ranked -22 overall on par-4’s and his 1st ranked bounce back stat should keep him close even if he scuffles.

Jim Furyk v. Vijay Singh Pick: Furyk

Furyk is literally at home this week and is coming off of two good looks (4,7).

Stewart Cink v. Padraig Harrington Pick: Harrington

Hard to pick against Cink given his run lately, but I like Harrington and his lead in putting and birdie average.

Geoff Ogilvy v. K.J. Choi Pick: Ogilvy

Oglivy is closing in on finishing one off after stellar March/April. Choi ranks 134th in putts per round and his best play was earlier in the year.

For the Win:

Short Odds Favorite: Mickelson 11 to 1 - looking to defend

Middle of the Road: Harrington 20 to 1 - all the birdies should add up sooner or later.

Longshot: Ames 50 to 1 - sneaky quiet player likes the track.

Good Luck!