It may not be a PGA Tour major tournament, but don’t tell that to the competitors and fans at this week’s Players Championship.
The tournament, like last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, will have a stellar field with 49 of the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup points race taking on Pete Dye’s famed TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
The reason the top 50 aren’t here? Ben Taylor, ranked No. 30, is getting married. This will be a star-studded field taking dead aim at a huge payday.
To get there, they will have to win the battle against one of golf’s most intriguing holes: The daunting par-3 17th. At just 135 yards on the scorecard, the hole appears to be just another par-3. But, there’s so much more to this hole.
With an island green (an idea hatched by Dye’s wife, Alice), the hole grabs a player’s attention as soon as his final putt drops on the 16th green. It’s a long, anguishing walk to the 17th tee area at around 135 yards. Ironic that it’s about the same distance as the upcoming tee shot.
While the player is walking, he’s going to have more than enough time to think about everything that can possibly go wrong with his next swing. That starts with a shot that must find the green. If it’s wet, the player gets another shot at the green, either from the same teeing area or a shorter drop area.
Pick your poison. After all, you’ve already dunked one shot.
If you’re on the green: Congratulations. Now you’ve only got to do it three more times (if you make the cut). We’re sure we’ve already got a few players starting to sweat just thinking about this tee shot. There’s also 17 other holes that will more than test the shot-making skills of the world’s best players.
Oh, and don’t forget that big payday awaiting the winner. The champ will pocket a cool $4.5 million paycheck, as well as 600 FedEx Cup points. It’s the first event to offer 600 points.
Let’s see who is going to stand up to the test TPC Sawgrass is bound to unleash this week.
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Odds to Win The Players Championship
As always, shop around the sports betting industry for the best odds on your plays.
Once Again, No Defending Champion
Cam Smith, last year’s winner, is getting ready for another event next week on the LIV Tour.
Not showing up to try and defend your title just doesn’t happen here. In fact, this will be just the third time a player hasn’t teed it up the next year and both were because of injuries.
Jerry Pate was dealing with a shoulder injury in 1983, and a sinus infection sidelined Steve Elkington in 1998.
Smith closed out last year’s tournament with a final round 66 to edge Anirban Lahiri by a shot. Smith had one of those rounds people never forget (OK, maybe just golf nerds never forget).
He opened his final 18 with birdies on his first four holes and five of his first six holes. Tournament over, right? Not quite.
Smith bogeyed his final three holes of the nine before running off another four-in-a-row birdie run to open his back nine to help seal the win.
Smith being out of the picture will help us focus on another recent champ who’ll be more than happy to get back in the winner’s circle.
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Expert Players Championship Analysis: Bet Justin Thomas to Win
Justin Thomas, who won here in 2021, has had one of those off-and-on seasons. He’s +2000 this week and is looking for a little consistency in his game, which is kind of hard to fathom considering he’s ninth in the world golf rankings.
He’s only 62nd in the FedEx Cup race, but his play last week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T-21) showed flashes of the golfer we’ve come to expect to see week in and week out. Thomas has got five starts in this wraparound season with just one top-10 finish, a T-4 at the WM Phoenix Open. Not good for someone ranked ninth in the world.
A final round 74 last week likely cost him a top-10, but we’re going with the assumption he was taking chances he wouldn’t normally take to try to get back in contention.
Last week’s first three rounds show he’s putting the pieces in place as the year goes on. Whether that results in a win this week, well, we’ll have to see. One thing we are sure of is it won’t be for lack of effort.
Thomas is one of those guys who will battle through his swing, the weather, or anything the course can throw at him.
One more quick fact: Thomas has won just twice since 2020. But both of those were big-time titles including The Players in 2021 and last year’s PGA Championship.
If you’re going to win, it might as well be on one of golf’s biggest stages.
Looking Down a Star-Studded List
Take a little look at Jason Day to win at +2800. The reasoning here is twofold: One, he won here in 2016. Two, his game is coming back into form.
He’s eight-for-eight in made cuts in this wraparound season, and also has five top-10 finishes including his last four events. He was T-10 last week at Arnie’s event.
Day’s fallen down in the world rankings to No. 47, but he’s 22nd in the FedEx Cup race, so all his work is paying off. We like the fact he’s playing more and more, and doesn’t appear to be battling any injuries — at least at the moment.
We’re hoping he stays healthy and his confidence and game keep rising. Can he win again? The odds are against him, but stranger things have happened. See Kurt Kitayama last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Around the Prop Scene
With all of the big names teeing it up, the props just might be the best way to make a buck or two. We’re going to take a look at a prop we’ve never tried before just to have a little fun.
We’re betting that Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland will both finish in the top five at +650.
The duo is coming off disappointing efforts at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Rahm had it going after the first round, but then was stuck in neutral for the final three rounds and finished T-39, his worst finish in a long time. He was T-55 last year at this tournament but, as most golf fans know, he’s been nothing short of phenomenal since the current wraparound season started.
Hovland was in the battle to win last week until he bogeyed two of his final three holes to slip to a T-10 finish. He was also T-10 here last year, so he’s got to have good vibes.
One other prop bet to look at is will there be a hole-in-one as well as a playoff. At +500, it’s a solid number but having two variables in play does make it a little more of a challenge.
For the hole-in-one part, there have been 10 aces at the par-3 17th in the tournament’s history including Shane Lowry last year. For the playoff portion, there have been extra holes in just two tournaments over the past 11 events. The most recent was Rickie Fowler’s win in 2015.
But, the last three events have seen one-stroke victories, so one putt here or there and we’re looking at a playoff or two or three.