THE PLAYERS Championship is the PGA TOUR’s crown jewel, and boy is it a spectacle. The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is a par 72, measuring just under 7,200 yards.
Pigeonholing yourself into betting one type of golfer may be a fool’s errand this week when looking at the kind of golfers who’ve won here. Webb Simpson (+2200) mentioned back in 2018 how he loves this course because it doesn’t give a clear advantage to any one-type of golfer. Phil Mickelson (+35000) has talked about how challenging it is around these small greens — placing a premium on ball-strikers — and Rory McIlroy (+1600) talked about how much distance can be an advantage now that the tournament is in March.
Since 2015, the winner’s average odds were about +12100, with McIlroy the shortest at +1400 in 2019 and Si Woo Kim as the longest at +50000 in 2017. One trend we should be focusing on is course experience, which is different than course history. Golfers who’ve played TPC Sawgrass a lot have tended to prevail in the outright markets, even if they’ve missed the cut here multiple times. Webb and Rory had four missed cuts before winning, while both Jason Day (+5000) and Rickie Fowler (+15000) missed the weekend three times before their wins. There are always exceptions to the rule. In this case, there are a few golfers who’ve bucked this trend. Hal Sutton and Craig Perks (2002) are the only two golfers to win in their debut since 1983, Si Woo Kim (+12500) was able to win in his second start and Adam Scott (+8000) was able to win in his third attempt here.
From an outright market perspective, the mid-range has been profitable so far this calendar year. The average winning odds over the last 10 tournaments is +3920, with the shortest coming from Bryson Dechambeau (+1500) last week at +1200 and the longest coming from Kevin Na (+10000) at the Sony Open at +8000.
The last couple of tournaments have been uncharacteristically bad for the world No. 3, but it may be time to buy the dip. Even after a poor first round at Concession a couple of weeks ago, Thomas was still able to gain a total of 9.5 strokes with his approach, which ranked second to Collin Morikawa (+2200) — the eventual winner. His irons were a little off here in 2019, but he’s gained with his ball-striking in every start except for 2017. This week will be Thomas’s sixth appearance at this tournament, not counting last year.
Since his win at ZOZO in a strong field, he’s finished no worse than 17th with a third-place and a runner-up finish in two of his last three starts. Cantlay’s ball-striking has always been solid, but his chipping has progressed as well as his distance off-the-tee. Over his previous 100 rounds, he ranked 33rd in driving distance and has moved up to sixth over his last eight rounds. Cantlay is second to only Dustin Johnson (+1200) in SG: Total on Dye courses over the previous 36 rounds and he’s first in birdies or better gained across the same timeframe. Sungjae Im (+5500) should also be in consideration to make your betting card this week. We know how well he plays in Florida, and how well he’s done with limited exposure at other courses where course experience matters. A fifth at Tournament of Champions in Kapalua and a runner-up at the Masters in his first starts proves he can navigate a course like TPC Sawgrass, even though he missed the cut back in 2019. His irons have been off over the previous three tournaments, but he’s racking up solid finishes to start the year.
Before his 26th at the AT&T Pro-Am, Moore missed four-straight cuts to start the year. The good news? He was still able to gain a total of 4.6 strokes ball-striking and had lost strokes with his irons in just one round (measured) since January of this year. Moore hasn’t played since Pebble Beach, which isn’t ideal, but a few golfers have more experience here than Moore, making his 14th start.
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