UG Tips: The Players Championship
This week the PGA Tour gets to roll out all of the “5th Major” and “best field in golf” lines as the players assemble at TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship. This event has proven notoriously difficult to pick over the years with both short and long hitters claiming the title. There are plenty of players to have won here and also had terrible results in other years and there are very few “course specialists” it would seem.
Since the event was moved to May (soon to be reverted) the course has played much firmer and the emphasis has been very much on positioning the ball well off the tee. This year we come into the tournament with plenty of players on form and really broad choice of potential winners to pick from.
By now most of us are familiar with the course and in particular the notorious last three holes. Though there have been a few changes to the course this year, the most significant (aside from it actually being made shorter) being to the 12th hole that they have made into a sneaky little risk/reward driveable par 4. Expect plenty of action on this hole with balls in the water, eagles and some great par saves from the drop zones.
As ever the emphasis will be on getting the ball in position off the tee, which is has certainly guided our selections.
Sergio Garcia 20/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £270
He’s finally got the monkey off his back and should be feeling like a million dollars. It’s not uncommon for a first-time major winner to suffer a hangover of sorts, and at the moment it’s impossible to say how Sergio will back it up. Given that he has been playing nicely and this win was so long overdue there is always the chance that his game will be elevated to the next level with a surge of confidence. Of all the players in the field, Sergio has the best record and comes closest to being a course specialist. Aside from his one victory at The Players he has a slew of top tens.
The ball-striking he displayed at Augusta will be perfectly suited to Sawgrass and I fully expect him to be right back in the mix once again – and this time with a little more support from the galleries. This could be a very special year for Sergio ……..
John Rahm 22/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £295
Another Spaniard, but not just ANOTHER Spaniard. Rahm has been utterly ridiculous since turning pro, as he’s consistently defied logic with some great finishes. Many tipsters will suggest that course knowledge is key at Sawgrass, but Rahm has been playing most tracks for the first time all season and has been regularly in the mix. He’s got everything required to win here and now that all the top dogs are back in play, these are odds that should be enjoyed on the young superstar.
Justin Rose 28/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £370
So unlucky not to claim the green jacket last month, Rose should be full of confidence this week. He and Sergio were head and shoulders ahead of the field in terms of ball-striking at The Masters and you would think that Rose’s game is perfect for Sawgrass. A master of plotting his way around the course, don’t be surprised to see him going toe-to-toe with Sergio once again.
Matt Kuchar 66/1 – Stake £10 e/w Potential return £845
This man is like a walking cash machine. He’s closing in on 100 top ten finishes on the PGA Tour, several of which have been at The Players. He loves a big event and has regularly been a high finisher in majors and WGC events. He’s not the biggest of hitters, but he knows how to get around a golf course and this week the emphasis will be more on management than power.
Francesco Molinari 66/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £422.50
Molinari has been quietly putting together an impressive run of form this season on the PGA Tour. Of all the statistics to give a bit of a steer for this week, Driving Accuracy probably gives the best indicator. With Molinari ranked 2nd on the Tour in this category this term and an impressive T6 here last year (out of the blue it has to be said) don’t be surprised to see him quietly creeping up the leaderboard this week. If the course firms up and scoring becomes tough, then it will play into the Italian’s hands.
Branden Grace 100/1 – Stake £5 e/w Potential return £635
It’s been a little while since Grace was seemingly contending in every major, but he’s been bubbling under nicely. He really stands out at 100/1, and with a stellar record on Pete Dye designs he’ll relish the challenge this week. He looked to be on decent form playing alongside Louis Oosthuizen a couple of weeks back in the Zurich and I really fancy him to return to the winners circle very soon – why not pick the next best event to a major?