The Players Championship Preview With Analysis and Picks to Win

Tournament: THE PLAYERS Championship Picks
Dates: May 8-11, 2014
Course: TPC Sawgrass Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper,

It is good to be back in my old stomping grounds as a contributor for Predictem. Hopefully, my return is a welcome one; I know that Ive always enjoyed writing the piece. Ive taken a break for sure, but Ive stayed close to the golf world, so lets see if we can have some success at the betting window this week as the PGA Tour is off to Sawgrass for THE PLAYERS Championship.

THE PLAYERS is routinely referred to as the fifth Major on Tour and it shows in the strength of the field as nearly all of the top-50 in the world are teeing it up. Tiger Woods is the notable exception to that list but the rest of the best will tangle for one of the biggest prize funds in all of golf.

TPC Sawgrass is one of the most recognizable venues in the rotation, mostly due to the island green at the par-3, 17thbut the course as a whole is difficult with plenty of sand and water to make for a prototypical Florida layout. Sawgrass stretches to 7,215 yards at par-72 and while number 17 gets all the attention, the hole is only the ninth most difficult overall. Of course, it has the highest potential for train wrecks and that makes for great TV. Eighteen is actually the most difficult hole on the course and plays at a monstrous 462 yards. The field average on the last is nearly 4.4 strokes so between the island green and the finishing hole, there are plenty of chances for strokes to be given away or leads to be squandered. Again, good TV.

Overall, the course demands a versatile and accurate game to both find fairways and correctly approach the greens. Putting is always a difference maker but the greens here arent particularly difficult to read or putt so the tee to green play gets a slight nod in importance this week. When deciding on whom to put your money on, I think you have to look at players that can work the ball both ways in order to tackle the doglegs. Length is nice to have, but the course isnt so long that shorter players cant succeed. Id rather more fairways hit than just pure power but the par-5s here are the best scoring chances so the bombers do have a slight scoring edge provided they can avoid giving stokes back everywhere else.


Big names have done well here with the likes of Tiger, Phil, Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott all winning at least one PLAYERS Championship but the event has also been won by some relative unknowns like Stephen Ames, Tim Clark and Craig Perks. It really makes for an open field and while it is top loaded with big time stars; the course has proved it doesnt care what your name is.

The online sportsbooks have come out with their lines for the week and there are plenty of players that have very long odds attached to them. Picking a winner out of a very deep field is difficult but if you can correctly tab the winner this week, it will bring a better payday than many other events. Lets take a look at some players that look like they have the goods.

Rory McIlroy (12 to 1 odds to win)
The early Tour schedule has been dominated by some relatively average talent, at least in terms of winning so it seems like Rory may be in a slump of sorts but he hasnt missed a cut in seven starts and has five top-10 finishes, including his last three in a row. 12 to 1 is pretty fantastic value for the odds on favorite so I dont even mind a smaller unit blind bet here just in case he finds it this week and runs away with the thing. He is plenty long to tackle the course and while he doesnt hit a ton of fairways, the winter has taken its toll in Florida and the roughs arent as high or thick as they have been in years past. Players are getting away with more and can attack with a little more confidence that a missed fairway can still net a birdie. McIlroy is fourth in scoring average and its probable that the winner will need to get to at least 12-under to take the trophy this week. Birdies are better this week and Rory is third in birdie average.

Jordan Spieth (25 to 1)
It was impressive to watch him during his Masters T2 but it was just as impressive that he managed a T12 the following week at the Heritage. Many players would have gone into the tank after a Major near-miss but this kid proved he is nearly unshakeable. Jordan has had a few weeks off and Im sure he is looking to take on the best again and get a win this time. Hes only missed two cuts on the year and hes been in the top-25 on ten occasions already. Top-25s dont often mean anything more than an ability to hang around but I like that he can at least adapt to differing courses and conditions without a lot of previous experience. He has been a little weak in the tee to green stats but his 23rdranked putter has brought top-15 birdie and scoring averages. Spieth is seventh on Tour in par-4 birdies and that almost always nets a sizeable edge on the field. I like Jordan to run in the top-15 this week and push for a win if he can drive the ball well.

Bubba Watson (30 to 1)
I think Bubba is one of the potential big values this week. He admittedly did not handle his first Masters win very well and it really showed in his results for a year and a half. Watson has shook that with two wins in 2014 and is teeing it up for the first time since his latest Augusta win. Bubba can work the ball as well as anyone on Tour and can dominate the course with his length. He is 10th in ballstriking, 11thin greens hit and 3rdin scoring average. Im not sure what else you need to feel good about laying at least a modest bet on someone. Outside of a very weird round of 83 that was apparently allergy induced, his mistakes are few compared to the last couple of seasons and he looks like he can simply hit any shot he wants to when he is on. Maybe another Waffle House visit will be in order this week.

Graham DeLaet (50 to 1)
We are starting to get into really big payday potential here and we are still dealing with very good players. That is great news for bettors, really. Graham is a solid overall talent with two second place finishes already this season and five total top-10s. DeLaet is the Tour leader in greens hit and overall ballstriking and Sawgrass is a shotmakers course. That sentence really should be all I have to write to at least make you interested in this cat. His putting has been below average but he earns that rank by making a ton of pars rather than being just a lousy putter. I really like him in head to head matches and prop bets for him to finish in the top-15.

Graeme McDowell (60 to 1)
Graeme has missed only one cut in eight starts and has five top-10 finishes. Im not great at math but thats a 71% top-10 rate when he makes the weekend. Unless you think he will flame out this week, hes probably worth a bet on his contention rate alone. McDowell is 15thin fairways hit, 30thin greens and is the Tours second ranked putter in terms of strokes gained. He averages a full stoke a round better than the field. He basically turns another guys top-50 into a top-25, and another guys top-25 into a top-10. Imagine what he can do if he plays well all week. He may be a little short off the tee and some windy conditions could expose that but Id have no problem taking him to win a match against nearly anyone and a prop bet for a top-15 should be a good potential payday too.

Francesco Molinari (100 to 1)
I am going deep into the field for this one but I really like this guy and a controlled throwaway bet here is perfectly acceptable in my mind for a guy who hasnt missed a cut yet in the states. Molinari really only plays the top level tournaments here so you have to look at his sheet a little differently as he earns his stats on tough courses against high quality opponents. Francesco has hit an impressive 70% of fairways in PGA action this year, good for 10thand is no worse than average in the other tee to green categories. He is top-10 in total driving and scrambling so he is a better clutch putter than overall putter, just the kind of thing you need when trying to have a longshot cash in.

Head to Head Matchups
note: listed matchups are composite findings from a variety of online betting sites. If your bookie doesn’t offer these odds, they can be found and bet at Bovada Sportsbook.

Rory McIlroy (-115) v Adam Scott (-105) (pick to win: Adam Scott)
Scott gets the nod here in that he has been better off the tee over the course of this season. You might be able to grab him at even money some places and that sweetens the deal even more. Scott is 18thin total driving to McIlroys 63rdand while the missed fairways might not doom Rory, having the wrong angles will limit his ability to attack greens. I like Scott as the more consistent ballstriker for this week.

Jordan Spieth (-120) v Bubba Watson (EVEN) (pick to win: Bubba Watson)
It seems a little too good to be true to be getting even money on a guy like Bubba and maybe it is. I wouldnt be afraid to roll with Spieth in any betting scenario but he is too big a favorite to bring value over a stat sheet as good as Watsons.

Good luck and see you next week!

Odds to Win

The Players Championship – Outright Winner

Rory McIlroy 12/1

Adam Scott 14/1

Matt Kuchar 18/1

Sergio Garcia 20/1

Justin Rose 22/1

Luke Donald 22/1

Henrik Stenson 25/1

Phil Mickelson 25/1

Bubba Watson 28/1

Jim Furyk 28/1

Jordan Spieth 28/1

Lee Westwood 33/1

Zach Johnson 33/1

Dustin Johnson 40/1

Charl Schwartzel 50/1

Graham Delaet 50/1

Jimmy Walker 50/1

Keegan Bradley 50/1

Rickie Fowler 50/1

J.B. Holmes 50/1

Harris English 55/1

Brandt Snedeker 66/1

Graeme McDowell 66/1

Hunter Mahan 66/1

Ian Poulter 66/1

Jason Dufner 66/1

Ken Duke 66/1

Kevin Na 66/1

Martin Laird 66/1

Patrick Reed 66/1

Ryan Moore 66/1

Webb Simpson 66/1

Bill Haas 80/1

Hideki Matsuyama 80/1

Kevin Streelman 80/1

Louis Oosthuizen 80/1

Martin Kaymer 80/1

Ryan Palmer 80/1

Steve Stricker 80/1

Brendon De Jonge 100/1

Cameron Tringale 100/1

Charley Hoffman 100/1

Chris Kirk 100/1

Chris Stroud 100/1

Francesco Molinari 100/1

Fredrik Jacobson 100/1

Gary Woodland 100/1

Jamie Donaldson 100/1

John Senden 100/1

Jonas Blixt 100/1

K.J. Choi 100/1

Kenny Perry 100/1

Kevin Stadler 100/1

Marc Leishman 100/1

Matt Every 100/1

Nick Watney 100/1

Rory Sabbatini 100/1

Seung-yul Noh 100/1

Billy Horschel 125/1

Bo Van Pelt 125/1

Charles Howell III 125/1

Chesson Hadley 125/1

Daniel Summerhays 125/1

Jason Kokrak 125/1

Jonathan Byrd 125/1

Joost Luiten 125/1

Matt Jones 125/1

Pat Perez 125/1

Russell Henley 125/1

Russell Knox 125/1

Thomas Bjorn 125/1

Angel Cabrera 150/1

Ben Crane 150/1

Boo Weekley 150/1

Brian Harman 150/1

Brian Stuard 150/1

Carl Pettersson 150/1

Erik Compton 150/1

Ernie Els 150/1

Geoff Ogilvy 150/1

George Mcneill 150/1

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 150/1

Jeff Overton 150/1

Jerry Kelly 150/1

John Huh 150/1

Kevin Chappell 150/1

Martin Flores 150/1

Michael Thompson 150/1

Retief Goosen 150/1

Robert Garrigus 150/1

Roberto Castro 150/1

Ryo Ishikawa 150/1

Stewart Cink 150/1

Will Mackenzie 150/1

Aaron Baddeley 200/1

Brendan Steele 200/1

Bryce Molder 200/1

David Hearn 200/1

David Lingmerth 200/1

Jason Bohn 200/1

John Merrick 200/1

Kyle Stanley 200/1

Luke Guthrie 200/1

Morgan Hoffman 200/1

Nicholas Thompson 200/1

Richard Lee 200/1

Sang-Moon Bae 200/1

Scott Brown 200/1

Scott Langley 200/1

Shawn Stefani 200/1

Stephen Gallacher 200/1

Thongchai Jaidee 200/1

Tim Clark 200/1

William Mcgirt 200/1

Andres Romero 250/1

Brian Davis 250/1

Brian Gay 250/1

Camilo Villegas 250/1

Greg Chalmers 250/1

Jeff Maggert 250/1

John Rollins 250/1

Justin Hicks 250/1

Lucas Glover 250/1

Mark Wilson 250/1

Michael Putnam 250/1

Scott Stallings 250/1

Steven Bowditch 250/1

Stuart Appleby 250/1

Yong-Eun Yang 250/1

Charlie Wi 300/1

D.A. Points 300/1

James Driscoll 300/1

James Hahn 300/1

Josh Teater 300/1

Justin Leonard 300/1

Derek Ernst 350/1

Ted Potter Jr. 350/1

Charlie Beljan 400/1

John Peterson 400/1

Briny Baird 500/1

D.H. Lee 500/1

Darren Clarke 500/1

J.J. Henry 500/1

Johnson Wagner 500/1

Woody Austin 500/1