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THE PLAYERS Championship: Scottie Scheffler storms to victory

The first golf Major of the year, the US Masters, is only a few weeks away and THE PLAYERS Championship gave a chance to the leading players from the PGA Tour to demonstrate how sharp their game was before the Augusta showdown.

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was in prime Sawgrass form as he stormed to a five-shot victory and others will also be feeling confident with the battle for the Green Jacket on the horizon.

Others prominent in the market, meanwhile, will know they have some work to do in the next few weeks, either on the course or the range.

WhatUS Masters
WhereAugusta National, Augusta, Georgia, USA
WhenThursday 6th April - Sunday 9th April
How to WatchSky Sports Main Event & Golf
OddsJon Rahm 15/2, Scottie Scheffler 15/2, Rory McIlroy 8/1

Perfect preparation for champion Scheffler

Scheffler was firmly in control in the closing rounds at Sawgrass this week and that could be ominous for the defence of his US Masters title next month.

It was the second time that he has enjoyed a tournament victory in 2023 - he also triumphed at another high-profile event, the Phoenix Open - and he is proving that the string of victories he accumulated early in 2022 was no fluke.

Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods are the only players to have won at Augusta in consecutive years, so Scheffler would be joining an elite group should he grab glory next month.

His closing 69 meant he was not in danger of letting his lead slip in Florida and it is worth noting that he finished in the top 20 at the Masters in both of his appearances before he claimed the Green Jacket.

Scheffler, who went to the top of the world rankings after his victory, is 15/2 to triumph again and many will fancy him with the wind in his sails.

Hatton and Hovland could be Europeans to watch

While there will be plenty of eyes on Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy as they attempt to win their first Green Jacket, the European challenge is not just about the big two as others showed their games are in fine shape at Sawgrass.

England’s Tyrrell Hatton was Scheffler’s nearest challenger and he would have got a lot closer had he not carded two rounds in the 70s before the weekend.

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His closing 65 was three shots better than anyone else mustered on Sunday and while 18th is his best Augusta finish in six attempts - he has missed the cut twice - some eyebrows may be raised by a price of 45/1 about him winning his first Major next month.

Viktor Hovland was third and that was his sixth top-10 finish in his last seven tournaments, a run that started with success at the Hero World Challenge.

Augusta has not been a happy hunting ground for the Norwegian as he has failed to make the top 20 in three attempts, but he may be of interest at 28/1.

Matsuyama starting to come good while favourites struggled

It usually pays to keep an eye on Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama around this time of year and the 2021 Masters champion recovered well from an opening 74 to finish fifth.

The first Japanese Major winner had missed his previous two cuts, but he loves Augusta, having missed one cut in 11 appearances and posted two other top-10 finishes, so those looking at a price of 40/1 may be encouraged.

For other stars, though, it was a week to forget.

Rahm, who is 15/2 for Augusta glory, was forced to pull out after the first round at Sawgrass with a stomach complaint, while McIlroy, who is 8/1, missed the cut by three shots.

Both have strong Augusta records despite having not won there. Rahm has four top-10 finishes from six appearances while McIlroy has seven in 14, including second spot behind Scheffler last year.

Justin Thomas, who is 20/1 next month, and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth (18/1), are due to tee up at this week’s Valspar Championship in an attempt to get back in the groove following Sawgrass finishes of 60th and 19th.

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