From Labs return with their betting preview and tips for the much-anticipated Players Championship from the iconic Sawgrass. If you fancy a punt and are a new customer then take advantage of our Bet20Get20 offer below and then head over to our FanBoosts section and check out our selection of enhanced odds for the event.
PGA Tour’s Flagship Event
The Players Championship is the PGA Tour’s flagship event, offering a monstrous prize fund of $10.5 million that attracts the best players in the world giving it the tag as the ‘fifth major’. It’s played at the iconic TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course designed for drama with its knee-knocking closing stretch. There has been a change to the PGA Tour calendar and as a result it’s moved back to March and part of the Florida swing having been played in May between 2007-2018. With this in mind, it’s important to decipher who has enjoyed a productive start to the season and currently operating somewhere near their top level, to those who are merely getting warmed up for the upcoming majors.
Last 10 Winners
2018: Webb Simpson (-18)
2017: Si Woo Kim (-10)
2016: Jason Day (-15)
2015: Rickie Fowler (-12)
2014: Martin Kaymer (-15)
2013: Tiger Woods (-13)
2012: Matt Kuchar (-13)
2011: K.J. Choi (-13)
2010: Tim Clark (-16)
2009: Henrik Stenson (-12)
TPC Sawgrass, Florida, Par 72 – 7,245 yards
Pete Dye’s design is one of the most renowned courses in golf with its signature Island Green Par 3 17th arguably the most recognisable hole in the world. It’s a classic Florida layout with water everywhere but remains balanced with dog-legged holes going both ways and routed that no two holes ever play in the same direction.
Course form is a funny one here as unlike venues such as Augusta, where certain players tend to play well every year, Sawgrass is a lot more difficult to get a grasp of and there are fewer course specialists.
No player has ever successfully defended their title and the past champions have a real mix of high finishes and missed cuts. Apart from Si-Woo Kim in 2017, all 12 winners since 2006 had managed a top-16 finish here, with eight previously registering a top-10, but nine had also missed the cut at least twice.
Last year’s champion Webb Simpson hardly had standout form figures – MC-MC-69-MC-15-MC-66-15. Jason Day’s read MC-6-MC-19-MC before his victory, while Fowler’s were MC-MC-2-MC-MC, so don’t be put off by a player who has a few MC’s next to their name.
A key issue this week is how the course will play different in March as opposed to May. The general consensus is that it will play tougher. The Bermuda grass greens will be faster and the wind will be up, making a challenging course even more difficult.
What Type Of Player Goes Well At Sawgrass?
Average rank of the last 10 winners:
Driving Distance: 30.1
Driving Accuracy: 23.8
Greens in Regulation: 16.0
Putting Average: 14.2
Webb Simpson gave a masterclass in how to tackle Sawgrass in 2018. No one could get near him as he led form pillar-to-post, even posting the largest 54-hole lead in the tournament’s history as he got to 19-under. The 33-year-old doesn’t hit the ball a particularly long way, but his course management was superb as he plotted his way around, leading the accuracy rankings for the week and holing everything.
Sawgrass is no ordinary par 72 – some say it plays like a par 70 – and, unlike many of the venues on the PGA Tour, it can’t be overpowered with the driver. All these players who gain strokes off the tee with 330-yard drives are going to have to find those shots somewhere else, often relentless accuracy in approach play and around greens if recent history is anything to go by.
Indeed, Simpson was ranked fifth for Greens in Regulation 12 months ago and five of the last nine winners have been in the top-five for this stat. Even playing in March again, the value of hitting greens is just as important as the last three winners here at this time of year (between 2004-06) all ranked first for GIR during their success. What’s more, with the likelihood of gustier conditions, there is an even greater emphasis on accuracy.
Scrambling is the standout stat for past winners and has always been a key pointer here. Simpson was 24th last year, but he barely missed a green. 2017 champion Si-Woo Kim led, while Ian Poulter ranked second as he finished runner-up, and Day also led the field en route to victory in 2016. Top-end scrambling stats can only be achieved with sensible course management though, so it’s important to miss in the right place to avoid water and the severe run-off areas.
Price Of Recent Winners
2018 Webb Simpson 60/1
2017 Kim 500/1
2016 Day 12/1
2015 Fowler 66/1
2014 Kaymer 90/1
2013 Woods 10/1
2012 Kuchar 55/1
2011 Choi 45/1
2010 Clarke 100/1
It is such a demanding, not for everyone course; just look at world no.1 Dustin Johnson’s record here – MC-MC-34-57-WD-59-69-12-17. As a result, there have been some big price winners over the years, however, what many of them have in common is proven form in high-class fields.
It’s easy to forget that Webb Simpson won the 2012 US Open, while Martin Kaymer was also a major holder when he won in 2014, and he went on to triumph at the US Open just a month later.
Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and KJ Choi have numerous top-10 finishes at majors, while at just 23, Si-woo Kim has plenty of time to develop into a world-class talent.
Many of the market leaders are long off the tee, but this doesn’t discount them as Tiger Woods and Day have proven. However, Tiger is still the greatest iron player of all time, while Day was almost unbeatable at the time.
The likes of DJ, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas all rely on a power game, so this week is always a good opportunity to look further down the market to guys more suited to Sawgrass. Out of the top guys near the top of the betting, Francesco Molinari is the one most suited to TPC Sawgrass.
The set up here is not too dissimilar to that of Le Golf Nacional where he was Europe’s hero in their Ryder Cup success. Indeed, he’s registered three top-10 finishes in his last four appearance at the Players and has proved that 2018 was no fluke by adding a fourth title in 10 months at Bay Hill last week.
He produced a stunning final round 64 to come from five-shots back and was quoted saying it ‘was probably the best putting performance of my career’. On similarly firm and fast greens, as well as his relentless accuracy, the Italian is well-equipped to tackle this test.
The only issue with his success at the Arnold Palmer is that his price has been slashed. However, when he hit a hot streak last summer his form figures read 1-2-25-1-2-1 between Wentworth and The Open, so it’s not enough to detract us.
Xander Schauffele was runner-up to Molinari at The Open and the youngster has proven on numerous occasions that he can mix it in high-quality fields. He was runner-up here behind Simpson 12 months ago, finished 6th at the US Open and 3rd and 7th at the final two Fed Ex Cup events.
This season, though, he’s learned to close out tournaments – wining the HSBC World Golf Championship in Shanghai and the Tournament of Champions in January with a sensation final round 62. He’s since not finished outside the top-25 in four starts as the 25-year-old is becoming one of the most consistent players on tour, and having proven himself around Sawgrass, he can go well again this week.
Matt Kuchar came under serious consideration after ending his four year wait for a title with two already this season. However, after the embarrassment of short-changing his stand-in caddy following his success at the Sony Open, he may no longer be a crowd favourite and he’s 22nd, 28th and 50th in his last three starts. Like Kooch, Charles Howell III is a greens in regulation machine, leading the GIR stats on tour this season.
He’s third behind Schauffele in the Fed Ex Cup rankings so far and he’s been ultra-consistent with eight top-25 finishes form 11 starts, including four top-10s and a victory at the RSM Classic. The now Orlando resident will be comfortable with the surroundings and although he has plenty of MC’s next to his name here, a finish of 17th was his best attempt 12 month ago and he can kick on form that now playing the best golf of his career.
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