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THE PLAYERS Championship: Odds, tips and predictions

Following the fourth Signature Event of the season, THE PLAYERS Championship celebrates its 50th edition this week at the THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

THE PLAYERS Championship Tips

To Win – Justin Thomas (18/1)
Top 10 – Hideki Matsuyama (10/3)
Top 20 – Tom Hoge (11/4)

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THE PLAYERS - The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass guide

The third stop of four on the Florida Swing brings Pete Dye’s genius to the forefront for the 42nd consecutive edition. Stretching to 7,275 yards, the Par-72 matches the scorecard from the 2023 tournament.

Testing the full range of clubs, shots, and mental toughness, the course, while not ranking as overly difficult is far from overly easy. Since returning to March for the 2019 edition, the average winning score is 15-under-par - but only 15 players have posted 10-under or better in the last three editions.

Providing multiple dog legs, tree canopies, waste bunkers, and water penalty areas, there’s no way to fake it tee to green. Narrow fairways and cramped putting surfaces require concentration on every shot. The last four winners have ranked in the top six in SG: Approach.

Water is plentiful and in play on almost every field shot. Over 90 bunkers, including waste sand areas, plus three and a half inches of overseeded ryegrass force the pros to pick their poison. Getting it close requires a sturdy decision-making process when faced with the mounds, swales, and closely mown areas around the greens.

Hole locations on humps, bumps, or lying in bowls will test short-game acumen and the flat stick. Running at 13 feet on the Stimpmeter, the overseeded Poa Trivialis will provide a slick putting surface.

Pushing shot shapes to the edge will result in fantastic opportunities to score, or the most direct path to pitching out. Or finding the drop zone. Bailout areas don’t exist for power players this week.

Taking advantage of the short Par-4 holes and the three short Par-5 holes (out of four) will help the scoring and the mood of the world’s best players.

THE PLAYERS Championship preview

The event, established in 1974, moved to TPC Sawgrass and the Pete Dye Stadium Course in 1982.

The field of 144 players includes 47 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings. No amateurs or club pros are eligible.

Only four players who have qualified are not playing this week (Tiger Woods, Will Gordon, David Lingmerth and Danny Willett). 

Scottie Scheffler won on his third attempt last year. Only 2017 champion Si Woo Kim, the youngest winner in history, needed fewer attempts. Craig Perks, the 2002 champion, was only the second winner on debut after Hal Sutton in 1983, the second year of the event at TPC Sawgrass.

After 2006, the event was moved from March to May. Following the 2018 edition, won easily by Webb Simpson, the event returned to its March roots. The 2020 edition was abandoned after Round 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was declared null and void.

The four March winners have all ranked inside the top 10 of the OWGR at the time of victory.

Over the previous 41 editions at TPC Sawgrass only five players have won the event twice. None are playing this week.

Fred Funk, 48 in the 2005 edition, became the oldest winner.

Led by World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, nine previous champions are in the field. Justin Thomas (2021), Rory McIlroy (2019), Webb Simpson (2018), Si Woo Kim (2017), Jason Day (2016), Rickie Fowler (2015), Matt Kuchar (2012), and Adam Scott (2004).

All four March winners were 29 or younger at the time of victory.

Scottie Scheffler posted 17-under last year, the lowest winning total since returning to March.

Tom Hoge set the course record in Round 3 last year. Posting 62, the North Dakotan highlighted the easiest scoring round (any round) in the history of the event (69.573).

The field of 144 includes players representing 22 countries and 23 debutants. The field will be cut to the top 65 and ties after two rounds.

On the line is a purse of $25 million, with the winner taking home $4.5 million. THE PLAYERS Championship is the first of five events this season that will award 750 FedExCup points to the winner.

Top of the Board  

Entering the week as World No. 1 and FedExCup No. 1, Scottie Scheffler (11/2) has already made history. His next chapter, becoming the first player to defend the title successfully, would not surprise many. Hitting it great, as usual, last week, his putter showed up on Sunday. Leading the field in SG: Putting in Round 4, the Texan blew away the field by five shots at a blustery Bay Hill. Not many win back-to-back weeks against fields of this magnitude. Not many have the game Scheffler has. Investors do not receive any premium to overcome these hurdles.

Rory McIlroy (12/1): As the season rolls on, I’m buying in more and more than the Masters is the ultimate goal. Playing Captial One’s The Match and participating in the Seminole Pro-Member, I’m not surprised he wasn’t dialed in last week at Bay Hill. I am surprised he hasn’t cracked the top 10 in four events in the U.S. this season.

The 2021 winner, Justin Thomas (18/1), will have to break the trend of the last four champions ranking in the OWGR top 10. Cashing T12 or better in eight of his last nine starts worldwide, I don’t have to rely on a massive change in form this week. He’s a proven commodity in Florida and on tough, ball-striking courses. Add him.

Xander Schauffele (22/1) flashed his best on debut in 2018. Sharing second miles behind Simpson, he made his second cut from five tries last year (T19). There’s no questioning the depth of his bag and the big-time results he’s posted in large events. The only winners from California this century are Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Phil Mickelson.

Like Scheffler, Viktor Hovland (22/1) has not needed many reps to draw attention to his play at this quirky set-up. After missing the cut on his first visit, he rebounded with T3 and T9 in the last two seasons. Admittedly struggling to put all the pieces together in 2024, his best finish of the new season is T19. There are always exceptions to rules, but I find it unrealistic to put it all together or “find it” on a layout like this one.

Patrick Cantlay (22/1) has played three weekends from six visits to Ponte Vedra Beach. Cashing T19 last year, he ended a streak of three consecutive missed cuts in March. Like most in the top 10, his full bag allows him to contend weekly. Like most in the top 10, his record here is less than inspiring.

Max Homa (22/1) is the Californian I will turn my attention to again this week after banging a top-10 winner last week at Bay Hill. After missing at the WM Phoenix Open, he didn’t fire at Riviera (T16) but added to his recent run of solid play at Bay Hill with T8. Riding that momentum up the coast, the Californian will look to build on T6 and T13 the last two seasons at TPC Sawgrass.

Will Zalatoris (25/1) is on a three-event bender, and I’m here for it to continue. Dropping him in here a week early, he led late on Saturday at Bay Hill before dropping to T4 after Sunday. He led the field in Fairways, was second in Scrambling, and posted his third consecutive T13 or better across three difficult courses.

Lighting up the stat board this season, Jordan Spieth (25/1) ranks fourth in SG: Total. The three-time major champion wouldn’t mind being handed the trophy from his buddy from Dallas, but he’ll need to translate his recent form to a course that has not fit his eye. Missing the cut in five of his last seven before T19 last year, the former Longhorn has been “Sawgrassed” too many times for his liking. Relying on creativity and feel, he’ll need to dial in his tee-to-green game this week.

Making his fourth start, Collin Morikawa (28/1) should have the clues to unlocking Dye’s puzzle. A superior approach player, the two-time major winner enters the week missing two of his last four cuts. Slick Poa Trivialis greens will determine even more concentration with his flat stick. Posting just two rounds in the 60s from his previous 10 loops, he will need to double that total this week to contend and win.

Players to consider for Top 10, Top 20, or Top 40 action:

Hideki Matsuyama (30/1): When he gets going, he can get going. The winner at The Riviera Country Club was lingering in the top 5 last week at Bay Hill before fading to T12. With top 10 visits in two of his last three to TPC Sawgrass, he’s lined up and ready to go. So am I.

Wyndham Clark (35/1): I’ve ignored him too long. His last 10 months have been fantastic. The winner at Pebble Beach ran second last week at Bay Hill, extending his run of big finishes in big events.

Jason Day (45/1): Ending a run of top-10 paydays at Bay Hill with T36, he should have knocked off the rust after missing two weeks. Adding another top 10 to his ledger this season and at THE PLAYERS would not surprise me.

Tom Hoge (66/1): When course history intersects with current form, I’m in. The course record holder rolls into town with T28 or better in six of his last seven, including a pair of top-10 paydays. Never missing the cut in five tries, it’s clear this layout fits his eye.

Adam Hadwin (90/1): I can’t overlook T4 at Riviera plus he’s hit the top 10 two more times in his last eight starts. Cheekily, he’s run off T13-T9-T29 in the last seasons. Quiet, please.

Chris Kirk (100/1): The Bermuda ball-striking test for The Sentry winner should fit nicely. Absolutely no pressure.

Erik van Rooyen (110/1): Cashing T25 or better from six of eight starts, the South African has won and collected T2 in his last nine on TOUR. Time to take the next step.

Doug Ghim (110/1): T16 or better in his last four starts on TOUR, he has blown incredibly hot and cold at TPC Sawgrass. His 80-74 MC from last year might scare a few off.

Taylor Pendrith (200/1): Each year, a player from left field runs to the top of the leaderboard. Consider the Canadian who secured T13 on debut in 2022 and T69 last year. Top 40.

PGA TOUR

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