The PLAYERS Championship – Golfers to Target

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The PGA Tour returns to TPC Sawgrass for the PLAYERS Championship! The PLAYERS Championship is golf’s “fifth Major,” attracting an elite field. 48 of the top 50 golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings will be in attendance this week. Last year’s event was abruptly cut short as the world began to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

TPC Sawgrass is a challenging golf course, but there are plenty of scoring opportunities. TPC Sawgrass is a short Par 72, measuring at 7,189 yards. The greens are bermudagrass overseeded with poa trivialis. There are 17 water hazards that are in play, which means golfers will face danger on numerous tee shots and approach shots. All four Par 5s play under par, and the short Par 4s will also be birdie opportunities. I will be targeting golfers who are great ball-strikers who also have the ability to save par with their short game. Four of the last five winners of the PLAYERS have recorded a Top 10 Finish in one of their two starts immediately preceding this tournament. Golfers who are in good form tend to be the ones who play the best on this course.

Each week, I will highlight golfers from different price tiers to help you build your betting card! The four price tiers I will highlight this week will be the: the top-tier, mid-tier, sleepers, and longshots. Top-tier golfers will consist of golfers who are 30-1 or less. The mid-tier will consist of golfers who are longer than 30-1, but shorter than 50-1. Sleepers will consist of golfers who are longer than 50-1, but shorter than 100-1. Longshots will consist of golfers who are longer than 100-1.

Top-Tier (Under 30-1)

Rory McIlroy 16-1

Due to last year’s event being canceled, Rory is still the defending champion. Rory has been “struggling” in his recent outings. In post-round comments, he suggested he has yet to put his entire game together at once and is searching for answers. However, Rory has recorded back-to-back Top 10 finishes. In his five tournaments in 2021, Rory has one missed cut, and four Top 20 finishes. Using 2021 ShotLink data, Rory ranks amongst this field: third Off-the-Tee, 15th Tee-to-Green, and 14th in total strokes gained. Rory has shown flashes of his dominance and if he can put it all together, 16-1 is a number that we won’t see again for a long time.

Justin Thomas 22-1

Thomas has had a tumultuous start to 2021. After a hot-mic moment led to dropped sponsors, Thomas also lost his grandfather. The off-course issues have affected his on-course performance with missed cuts on the Euro Tour and at the Genesis Invitational. Thomas had a terrible first round at the WGC-Workday, but rebounded nicely to storm up the leaderboard and finish T15. Thomas looks to carry that momentum into TPC Sawgrass, a course where he has never missed the cut. Using 2020 ShotLink data, Thomas ranks amongst this field: first in Approach, first in Tee-to-Green, 12th in Around-the-Green, and 20th Off-the-Tee. Thomas profiles perfectly for TPC Sawgrass and I expect to see him back in contention.

Collin Morikawa 22-1

Morikawa is coming off a very impressive win at the WGC-Workday. In that event, Morikawa was precise with his irons, and dismantled a very difficult course. If Morikawa gains strokes with his putting, his ball-striking is so good that he will almost always be in contention. Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Morikawa ranks: second in Approach, fifth in Tee-to-Green, and 17th Off-the-Tee. Morikawa has the ability to beat the very best and I don’t see any reason for him to slow down.

Patrick Cantlay 24-1

Cantlay has been one of the hottest golfers since October. Cantlay’s last six results have been: 1, T17, T13, 2, T3, and T15. Cantlay is fully rested, taking the last two weeks off. Cantlay is a well-rounded golfer who does not have any major weakness. Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Cantlay ranks: 12th Tee-to-Green, 13th in Putting Average, 17th in Approach, 21st Off-the-Tee, and 10th in total strokes gained. Cantlay has shown his incredible scoring upside by tying course records at Pebble Beach and the American Express. Cantlay will continue to ride this hot streak, and his name should be on the first page of the leaderboard.

Mid-Tier (Under 50-1)

Tyrrell Hatton 40-1

Hatton has been playing exceptional golf since the start of 2020. Hatton has won three times worldwide since the start of last year, winning at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (2020), the BMW PGA Championship (2020 – European Tour), and the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship (2021 – European Tour). Hatton has played two PGA events in 2021 with finishes of T21 and T22. Hatton’s third consecutive week should be good for him as he searches to limit big mistakes. Hatton had one blow-up hole at the WGC-Workday, and had a very bad first round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If Hatton can avoid dangers, his game fits TPC Sawgrass very well. 40-1 is a great number for the #7 ranked golfer in the world.

Daniel Berger 44-1

Berger has been great since the PGA Tour resumed play last June, recording two victories. Berger’s last five results have been: 10, T7, MC, 1, and T35. Berger is a scoring machine who plays well in each facet of the game. Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Berger ranks: second in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, fifth in Birdie Average, 10th in Bogey Avoidance, 12th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, 15th Tee-to-Green, and 19th in Putting Average. Berger will look to be the first person to win multiple times in 2021, and he has the game and current form to do exactly that.

Scottie Scheffler 50-1

Scheffler catapulted up the leaderboard during the final round of the WGC-Workday to give Collin Morikawa a brief scare. Scheffler has the ability to make birdies and get streaky. He is often grouped together with Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, and Viktor Hovland because they all came onto the PGA Tour at the same time. Scheffler is the only one of that group who has not won on the PGA Tour. The win is coming for Scheffler who has two Top 10s in his last three events. Scheffler is a good Tee-to-Green player who gives himself scoring opportunities. Scheffler needs to avoid dangers and keep his ball dry, and he should be in a position to make a run up the leaderboard.

Jason Day 50-1

The former World #1 golfer has been searching to find his old form. Day went through an equipment change to start 2021, carrying six different brands in his bag. Day struggled at the start of the season as he was getting used to the new equipment. However, Day has three straight made cuts, including one Top 10 finish. Day is an elite scrambler, finishing first among all PGA players in strokes gained Around-the-Green last year. The former champion of this event is hunting for his first win in over two years. If Day can keep his driver straight, and allow his short game to be the star, he can return to the very top of the leaderboard. 

Sleepers (Under 100-1)

Will Zalatoris 75-1

Zalatoris is making his debut at the PLAYERS Championship, which could scare some people off of him. However, Zalatoris is not scared of debuts. Zalatoris’s PGA debut was at the U.S. Open where he finished T6. The 24-year-old is a ball-striking machine and lives at the top of leaderboards. Zalatoris has made twelve starts in the 2021 PGA season, with nine Top 25 finishes, and five Top 10 finishes. Zalatoris might be young, and might be a rookie, but he is not scared of the moment. Zalatoris’s ball-striking is already elite, and precision off-the-tee and on approach shots will be the recipe for success this week.

Abraham Ancer 90-1

Since the Masters last November, Ancer has been a Top 20 machine. In his last seven events, Ancer has five Top 20s and two missed cuts. If Ancer makes the cut, there’s a good chance you will see his name at the top of the leaderboard. Ancer has been a Pete Dye specialist. TPC Sawgrass is a Pete Dye designed course, and Ancer has gained 1.4 total strokes per round over his last 40 rounds on Pete Dye courses. The last Pete Dye course that was played on Tour was the American Express, where Ancer finished T5. Ancer does not excel in any particular category, but he doesn’t struggle in any either. Ancer is a really balanced golfer, and his lone appearance at TPC Sawgrass resulted in a T12.

Louis Oosthuizen 90-1

Oosthuizen withdrew from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Oosthuizen is a big-game hunter, recording high finishes in elite fields. Oosthuizen quietly finished T6 at the WGC-Workday with a great all-around performance. At the WGC-Workday, Oosthuizen gained six strokes Tee-to-Green, while also gaining a combined 8 strokes on Putting and Around-the-Green. TPC Sawgrass is a demanding course that requires golfers to excel in every aspect of their game. Oosthuizen has not been able to win PGA events, but he’s always knocking on the door. This could be the week Oosthuizen breaks through, and I’ve seen this number as low as 50-1 at certain shops. 

Billy Horschel 95-1

Horschel is no stranger to Florida. The former Florida Gator has performed well in his home state during his career. Horschel has played at TPC Sawgrass seven times, with two missed cuts, and four Top 30 finishes. Over his last 212 rounds on Bermudagrass, Horschel has gained .41 strokes putting. Horschel loves this surface and his key to success will be how well he strikes the ball. Horschel struggled last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but two weeks ago he finished T2 at the WGC-Workday. When he finished T2, he gained four strokes Off-the-Tee and gained nearly eight strokes Tee-to-Green. If Horschel can find that magic with his irons and drivers again, he has what it takes to contend. 

Longshots (Over 100-1)

Russell Henley 140-1

Henley has seen a resurgence in his overall play over the last couple of months. In 2021 among all PGA golfers, Henley is fifth in Approach, ninth in Greens-in Regulation, and 19th in Proximity to the Hole. Henley is elite with his irons, and has seen good results because of it. Henley has played ten events since the start of the 2021 PGA season, recording seven Top 30 finishes. The three-time PGA Tour winner has not won since 2017, but this is the best golf Henley has played in awhile and he could certainly have a great week if his irons stay hot.

Chris Kirk 150-1

Kirk has been on an awesome run of golf. Back in January, Kirk finished T2 at the Sony Open on his last start using a major medical exemption. That runner-up finish at Sony, earned Kirk a full PGA card and he hasn’t looked back since. In the four starts since that event, Kirk has two finishes of T16, and finished T8 last week. When Kirk is playing his best, it’s usually due to his Tee-to-Green and Approach play. Kirk is a great value at this number and should be a golfer to target for top finish bets.

Cameron Tringale 180-1

Tringale has not played in this event since 2017, but he has three straight made cuts at TPC Sawgrass. Tringale is another golfer who is riding a hot wave. Tringale has eight straight made cuts dating back to November. Tringale has two Top 10 finishes in that span and six Top 30 finishes. Tringale has never won on Tour so this would be pretty unexpected, but he is still a golfer to target in matchups and top finishes. In 2020, Tringale was eighth amongst all PGA Tour players in Approach, and 25th in Tee-to-Green. If Tringale can stay out of trouble with his Off-the-Tee play he should be in position to let his irons shine.

Gary Woodland 300-1

Woodland has not been good since a hip injury derailed the end of his 2020 season. However, Woodland has had flashes of returning to form. Woodland finished 43 at WGC-Workday after a disastrous final round that saw him shoot 78. Most of Woodland’s struggles have come from his Off-the-Tee play but this is an outrageous number for a former Major champion. Woodland has three Top 30 finishes at TPC Sawgrass in his last six attempts. Woodland is currently +400 to finish inside the Top 30 which is the type of bet I would look at for this week.