Following Kurt Kitayama’s breakthrough win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the Florida swing continues this week with THE PLAYERS Championship. Located in Ponte Vedra Beach, TPC Sawgrass (par 72, 7,275, POA Trivialis greens) has been the lone home of this event since 1982. Thanks to an incredible performance with his putter, Cameron Smith won last year’s THE PLAYERS Championship at -14. Unfortunately, given the Aussie’s departure to the LIV Golf league, Smith will not be defending his title at TPC Sawgrass this week. Do note that the 2020 edition of THE PLAYERS Championship was cancelled following the first round, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
TPC Sawgrass was designed by the great Pete Dye and is bar none one of the most difficult and volatile courses at the PGA TOUR level. With thick rough, 88 bunkers and water on all but one hole, there is danger lurking around every corner at TPC Sawgrass. Add in the strong wind gusts that this track usually sees an over-par cutline.
Per usual with a Dye design, extra distance OTT isn’t necessary at TPC Sawgrass, but being dialed in with your irons is. The putting surfaces at this par 72 are very small compared to the PGA TOUR average and each of the last three THE PLAYERS champions all ranked top-six in SG APP during their victories. Missing these tiny greens at times is inevitable, so targeting players who are crafty around the green is also a wise strategy. Of the last five THE PLAYERS Championship winners, two finished the event top-three in SG ARG.
As for what holes are the most crucial at TPC Sawgrass, taking advantage of the birdie chances the four par 5s present is essential if you want to be in the mix for a win at this venue, with two of the past four THE PLAYERS Championship victors leading their fields in SG on the par 5s. Last, but not least, putting a large weight on bogey avoidance is a must this week. Of the past five golfers to take home the novelty check at TPC Sawgrass, four finished top-six in least bogeys during their wins.
Regarded as the “fifth” major, THE PLAYERS Championship delivers a stacked field, with 23 of the top-25 players in the world teeing it up. 2019 THE PLAYERS champion Rory McIlroy and world No. 1 Jon Rahm are the current betting favorites for this week on the DraftKings Sportsbook, tied at +900. In total, this is a field of 144 golfers and there will be a standard top-65 and ties cutline following the first two rounds.
There is an overabundance of strong value plays to consider from this world-class field and below, I dive into four of my favorite bargain options for THE PLAYERS Championship, that all cost less than $7.5K on DraftKings.
Keith Mitchell ($7,400) – Mitchell owns a 3-for-4 record in terms of made cuts at TPC Sawgrass — including a T13 last season — and returns to Ponte Vedra in excellent form this week. The Georgia product has made 9-of-11 cuts this season, with six top-25 finishes, including a T24 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week. Mitchell has collectively gained strokes from T2G and on APP in six of his last eight starts and is far too cheap for his upside. On the DraftKings Sportsbook, Mitchell boasts +5500 odds to win THE PLAYERS Championship this weekend, which are the best odds of any player priced under $7.5K on DraftKings.
Corey Conners ($7,400) – Conners is a difficult fade at this depressed salary, which is a notable $400 decrease from the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week. At that event, the Canadian carded a T21 finish, while ranking fifth in efficiency on the par 5s at Bay Hill. Conners has now made seven consecutive cuts, with five of these finishes being top-25 results. Ranking 11th in SG APP across his last 50 rounds, Conners is one of the best ball strikers on the planet and he should have zero issues out producing this soft salary at TPC Sawgrass, where he has played very well at in the past. Conners has never missed a cut at the difficult par 72 in three appearances, with his best finish being a T7 in 2021.
Webb Simpson ($6,800) – After playing some poor golf in the fall, Simpson is finally regaining his form, just in time for his return to TPC Sawgrass this week, where he has made five of his last eight cuts, most notably with a win in 2018. Simpson is coming off a T24 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, marking his highest finish of the season. During this start, the 37-year-old put on a show with his irons, gaining 6.7 strokes on APP, which ranked third for the tournament and is the most strokes Simpson has gained in the category in over a year. If the former major champion can carry over this momentum as a ball striker to TPC Sawgrass, he is a real threat to finish inside the top-30.
Kramer Hickock ($6,000) – Hickock notched a respectable T42 in his THE PLAYERS Championship debut last season and has finished T29 and T14 in his last two starts coming into this week. Except with his putter, Hickock gained strokes in every major category during both these finishes. Furthermore, the 30-year-old shot under par in six of these eight rounds, including a season-low 66 during the third round of the Honda Classic. In this type of form, Hickock has a great chance to make the cut this week, which would be an immense return at his bare minimum salary.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.