The opening round of The Players Championship takes place around the TPC Sawgrass on Thursday as the stellar field encounter the golf course for the first time as they jostle for their early lead in the hope of bagging a huge title come Sunday.
The groups for this tournament are handpicked and a number of beauties have come out for us to enjoy on the excellent coverage throughout the day where the famous 17th hole will no doubt be a serious focus.
First Round Leader
As ever in these big tournaments we have a very competitive first round leader market where depending on where you shop you can get 33/1 the field. Usually I try and whittle this down by using the weather forecast for an area of the draw to focus in but the weather is expected to remain fair all day so I’ll target the morning starters as the greens can get a little cut up later on in the day.
I’m looking for a couple of decent ball strikers who are out early enough in the day. Given that we are after a strong 18 holes I’m looking for players who can putt well too as that can be the difference.
Ryan Moore is out in the fourth group of the day which might just be the perfect position to launch his campaign from. He has been third after the opening round here before and has begun with 67 and 69 in previous outings here. Moore is in good form with the putter which is important because he rarely strays from the fairways or the greens. At 66/1 I’ll have a bang on him to lead after the opening day.
Alex Noren was third at the end of 18 holes here last year and that doesn’t surprise me because he is perfectly suited to this course. That was his debut in the event too so you would imagine he will be even better around it this year with some experience of it under his belt. He’s another who has the game that ticks every box here and given that he’s out fairly early I’ll take the Swede to be high up on the leaderboard at the end of the first day.
Thursday 3 Balls
Once again all the groups onto the golf course have been priced up for this opening round. There are a number of them which will attract decent attention from the crowds but I would expect the bulk of the fans to be watching the Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler group. They go off at 6.52pm UK time. Another popular group will be the one involving Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. They set off at 1.27pm. There are loads of other great groups to enjoy but from a betting point of view three catch my eye.
Adam Scott/Si Woo Kim/Martin Kaymer
Match tees off at 1.16 BST
The defending champion Si Woo Kim is out with two former champions in Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer in one of the more attractive groups on the opening morning of the tournament.
In terms of leading the group after the opening round I think Si Woo Kim has drawn himself a nice pairing here. Scott has shown little in the way of form all year and is yet to break 70 in the opening round this season while Kaymer hasn’t fared much better in America this year with no top 40 finish.
Kim has played this tournament twice in the past and he has opened up with 68 and 69. Just two starts ago he fired in a 68 to begin The Heritage so his form and starts are beginning to return. If he breaks 70 here it may well be enough to land this group.
Matt Kuchar/Billy Horschel/Brandt Snedeker
Match tees off at 18.19 BST
The group containing Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel and Brandt Snedeker might get lost in the afternoon session of play with some of the attractive groups that are on show but in theory three consummate ball strikers should go very well.
If Kuchar was on top form you would make him an incredibly worthy favourite here but he is in no real form at all while Brandt Snedeker continues to blow a little too hot and cold for my liking so it is the form man Horschel who gets my eye here.
He is striking the ball magnificently as ever and has found a little form with the short stick in recent times. Away from The Masters his last three opening solo rounds have been 68, 66 and 68. He’s twice opened up here with rounds of 68. If he finds another here he should take this group down.
Francesco Molinari/Martin Laird/Sean O’Hair
Match tees off at 19.36 BST
The final group out onto the golf course is another ball striking stronghold as Francesco Molinari, Martin Laird and Sean O’Hair get their campaigns underway looking for glory.
Laird is very much all or nothing here. He has made the top five twice and then he’s either missed the cut or not made the top 65. The year he came second he started with a 65 but he has never broken 70 in the opening round in the other seven attempts. The only times O’Hair has broken 70 in the opening rounds since the turn of the year have been in the CareerBuilder and the Pebble Beach pro-ams where the course are set up to play easier and he’s only once broken 70 in the first 18 here.
To be fair Molinari hasn’t got off to many fast starts recently although there haven’t been many tracks that have suited him unlike this one. He loves it around here having opened with 66 and 69 in the last two years and the chances are if he breaks 70 again today he’ll have enough to get the job done.
Back R.Moore First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 111.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-7)
WON – Back A.Noren First Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 67.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
WON – Back S-W.Kim to beat A.Scott & M.Kaymer for a 3/10 stake at 2.80 with Unibet
Back him here:
Back B.Horschel to beat M.Kuchar & B.Snedeker for a 3/10 stake at 2.75 with Boylesports
Back him here:
Back F.Molinari to beat M.Laird & S.O’Hair for a 3/10 stake at 2.30 with William Hill