The first round of The Players Championship takes place at TPC Sawgrass on Thursday as the biggest tournament of the PGA Tour season so far gets underway down in Florida. A seriously good field tees it up this week with everyone in the field looking to get themselves in a good early position.
This course sees drama and excitement like no other and that begins as early as the opening round. All eyes will be on the course to see how it plays in March compared to May as the field get to tackle it for the first time.
First Round Leader
As ever in these big tournaments we have a comprehensive and competitive first round leader market which we’re going to tackle. As ever when we bet on this market we need to look at the conditions and there is no clear bias between the morning wave and the afternoon ones. With the course soft though the natural instinct is to take players from the morning wave as the traffic on the greens will make putting harder late on.
I’m going with a couple of players in this market. Xander Schauffele was the last man off my shortlist for the outright market but given that he is out at 08.32 local time I can’t ignore him in the first round leader betting at 40/1. Schauffele ran hot in this tournament last year and is out in a featured group where I expect him to be inspired to go well. He has been in excellent form this term with a couple of wins and he is good enough to lead after the opening day.
Lucas Glover sits in tenth in round one scoring on the PGA Tour season and he has the credentials to play this course exceptionally well. He is out in the second group off the first tee so he should get the optimum conditions with which to score in. Glover missed the cut in the Phoenix Open but he has not been outside the top 20 in the other eight events he has teed it up in this season. He has shot in the 60s in seven of his nine first rounds this term. Another here could have him in the mix.
Thursday 3 Balls
The field go out in threes in the opening round and with this being one of the biggest tournaments of the year every group out onto the golf course has been priced up for the first 18 holes, which gives us plenty to get stuck into. The draw has been determined with good groups in the morning and the afternoon which should make for good opportunities.
The pick of the morning groups is the 12.32 GMT group of Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele while 21 minutes later Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia go onto the golf course. Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar go off at 13.04. The leading group in the second wave of matches sees Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson on the course while Francesco Molinari, Jason Day and Tony Finau should get a good following too. I’ve got two bets but both are in lesser groups.
Bryson DeChambeau/Bubba Watson/Billy Horschel
Match tees off at 12.43 GMT
The first group I’m focusing on betting wise contains the American trio of Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson and Billy Horschel who go off the tenth tee midway through the morning wave of matches and should get a decent following.
I’m going to rule Watson out here. This isn’t a course to be getting creative on so I don’t see him going especially well. DeChambeau and Horschel both have the credentials to go very well around here but on price and experience grounds I’m going to take Horschel to come through here. Horschel sits high up in the first round scoring whereas DeChambeau is outside the top 100 in that statistic. Horschel has opened events with a 63, 66 and 67 this year and if he has one of them up his locker he should take this group down.
Bud Cauley/Sam Saunders/Matthew Fitzpatrick
Match tees off at 18.09 GMT
The second bet I’m interested in comes fairly late in the day when the American pair of Bud Cauley and Sam Saunders go out with the Englishman who finished runner up to Francesco Molinari in Bay Hill last week in Matthew Fitzpatrick.
You wouldn’t say any of the trio are particularly experienced around here but Fitzpatrick’s bag carrier Billy Foster certainly is so it might be that he has gameplans worked out better than the other two for his man. Fitzpatrick is clearly hitting the ball nicely. We saw that last week and although the Englishman is the favourite here I still think there is decent value on him.
Back X.Schauffele First Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back L.Glover First Round Leader (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
WON – Back B.Horschel to beat B.DeChambeau & B.Watson for a 3/10 stake at 3.25 with Coral
Back M.Fitzpatrick to beat B.Cauley & S.Saunders for a 3/10 stake at 2.20 with 888sport