PGA Expert Picks: The Players
The PGA Tour is set to host one of the most exciting tournaments of the season and the unofficial fifth major this week at The Players Championship. TPC Sawgrass is the host once again and you will see plenty of footage of the famous 17th Island Green and then the even more daunting 18th hole to close out each round. For as much attention as the island green at 17 is, the 18th hole is just as difficult. Nevertheless, both of these holes will be fun to watch this weekend.
TPC Sawgrass should play much softer than Bay Hill last week. Rory caught some heat for his comments after the last tournament but to be fair, the comments were taken somewhat out of context and he had a few fair points about how difficult the course was playing last week. TPC Sawgrass is going to have its own challenges even if it is playing softer and “easier” than Bay Hill last week. Sawgrass is Pete Dye’s most famous designs and can play difficult when the weather and conditions are subpar—the current weather forecast could yield some difficult playing conditions. The greens here are smaller and play fast. Approach and proximity to the hole this week will be important and ability to stay out of the water will be just as crucial. Water is present on all but one hole at Sawgrass and can lead to big numbers on the scorecard. There is plenty of incentive to play this week since it will be the largest purse of the year at $20 million and the winner will be taking home $3.6 million. Not a bad pay day for playing golf for four days.
Some courses that correlate to Sawgrass are Augusta National, Quail Hollow, and TPC Boston.
Course: TPC Sawgrass—Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Length: 7,245 yards
Defending Champion: Justin Thomas
Purse: $20 Million
FedEx Cup Points: 500 Points to the Winner
Key Stats: SG Approach, SG Pete Dye Courses, Good Drives Gained, Proximity, Strokes Gained ARG
Hideki Matsuyama | Outright +3000 (1 Unit), Top 10 +250 (1 Unit)
If you recall back in 2020 Hideki had tied the course record in his first round at Sawgrass before the Tour cancelled the tournament due to Covid. Hideki has been playing very well with a win at the Zozo and the Sony Open along with a T-8 at the Waste Management and a T-20 at the API. He didn’t make the cut here last year but set the course record the year before and had an 8th place finish in 2019. He also has four other Top 25 finishes here since 2014. Hidkei gained over 4.5 strokes on approach last week and ranks 11th in the field in strokes gained T2G. Don’t get thrown off by his one-handed finishes this week as he sets himself up for plenty of scoring opportunities.
Brooks Koepka | Outright +3500 (1 Unit), Top 10 +450 (1 Unit)
Brooks has been quiet lately—a little too quiet. Brooks has made it clear that he really only cares about the big tournaments and The Players easily checks that off. His odds started out as high as +5500 but have come back down since then. Koepka hasn’t been stellar here and he has been a little inconsistent so far this year but he is still one of the best players in the world and is capable of winning any time he tees it up. This bet is more for respect of Brooks showing up to the big events than it is looking at how he ranks out statistically. His best finish here is an 11th place finish but I think he can grind it out this weekend and make a legitimate run at the trophy and the big paycheck.
Corey Conners | Outright +5000 (1 Unit)
Corey Conners sets up well for this week and he should play well at Sawgrass. He is an elite ball striker and accurate off the tee which will benefit him greatly this week. After a rough start to the API last week he recovered nicely and actually found himself within a few shots of the lead on Sunday before settling for a T-11 finish. He had a 7th place finish here last year and can build on that this year. I like that he has experience at this course and has the game to win at Sawgrass.
Other Bets to Consider: Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa, Daniel Berger, Alex Noren