A quite brilliant Florida Swing continues with the biggest event of them all this week when the stars of the world head to the Sunshine State for The Players Championship, the flagship tournament on the PGA Tour, played at the famous TPC Sawgrass.
Rory McIlroy won this tournament a year ago and he’ll be looking to consolidate his world number one status by retaining the title, but some of the very best in the game right now will be out to deny him that opportunity.
2019 – Rory McIlroy
2018 – Webb Simpson
2017 – Si Woo Kim
2016 – Jason Day
2015 – Rickie Fowler
2014 – Martin Kaymer
2013 – Tiger Woods
2012 – Matt Kuchar
2011 – KJ Choi
2010 – Tim Clark
The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is the venue for this wonderful tournament this week. Golf fans will not need any description of this famous track, famous for the 17th hole which is a short par 3 island hole. This is one of the toughest tests of golf on tour where the pressure is on over almost every shot. Only the bravest golfers win around this track.
It goes without saying that with all the water around this course accuracy is paramount. This is a very tough course so scrambling is a key requirement as well which makes the bogey avoidance statistic another key one. Both tracks used in the Florida Swing to date have been firm and fast and if that is the combination this week then we are in for one heck of a tournament around this par 72 course which only measures 7,189 yards.
This tournament is dubbed the fifth major on the golfing landscape so even though the countdown to The Masters is firmly on we have a stellar field teeing it up this week, headed by the defending champion and world number one Rory McIlroy. Fellow class acts Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka are all in the field for this tournament.
There is one big absentee this week is Tiger Woods. He is resting his back ahead of his defence at Augusta next month. There are standout players from Europe and further afield though. Tommy Fleetwood heads up the European charge behind Rory McIlroy while last week’s winner at Bay Hill, Tyrrell Hatton, is in the field, as is the man who came out on top at The Honda Classic in Sungjae Im. Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland are just some of the major champions teeing it up here.
Rory McIlroy goes into the week as the 7/1 favourite to make a successful defence of the title. Regular readers will know that I’m no fan at all of taking defending champions and I’m not much more of a fan of backing short prices in these big events either. There is too much trouble on this course to be getting involved at single figure prices no matter how good a player is. Rory’s poor Sundays aren’t exactly inspiring me to get involved either so he’s easy to swerve this week.
Jon Rahm is a 12/1 shot to win the tournament but he hasn’t cracked the top 10 yet in three spins around here. I wouldn’t say I’m surprised at that because this track does not bring out the best elements of his game. He is better when he can utilise his power and that is largely contained at this course. That doesn’t mean Rahm can’t win but on a track which doesn’t play to his strengths I’m happy to pass him over.
Justin Thomas surprisingly hasn’t won around here yet and is 16/1 to put that right this weekend. He was third here in 2016 but hasn’t threatened the frame since then and that is a concern. He hasn’t been in tip top form this season although he is nicely rested which might help. I just wonder if he’ll need a spin after a couple of weeks off. If you are not sharp around here this place will catch you out in no time so he isn’t really for me either.
Bryson DeChambeau ran home past beaten opponents in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week and he is 22/1 to translate that into a victory here. He has played here on two occasions and hasn’t fared any better than 20th. That is a concern but he is in pretty decent form and if he was a few points bigger I would have given him a lot of consideration. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenge here but you usually have to have had a decent spin here before you win so he isn’t for me. It is 25/1 bar the quartet.
I mentioned last week that I liked Tommy Fleetwood but was going to pass him over because of the nonsense surrounding him after the Paul Azinger comments but that will settle down now and he can get back to playing the sort of golf that got him talked about at The Honda Classic in the first place. He hit the ball very well there aside from the final hole and that is a hallmark of his game. Another plus point is his scrambling which will come into play a lot this week. Fleetwood has been in the top seven here for the last two years and we know he is hitting the ball well. His missed cut last week can be excused and I think he’s a leading chance here.
Webb Simpson might have an even better chance to win this tournament, and if he does so it will be the second time he will have won it in three seasons. Simpson comes here having won in Phoenix last month which is very much a positive. He was way down the field in his only outing since then which came in the WGC in Mexico but you either like those conditions at altitude or you don’t, and it would appear Simpson doesn’t. He does like it here though. He has four top 20s in six starts including the win here in 2018. He sits seventh in approach to the green and leads the tour in bogey avoidance. Those are statistics that go well round here and if it is a tougher set up that should play right into the hands of the former US Open champion.
I’ll sling a few darts at this as it is the only tournament we have this week. To be fair outsiders don’t have a bad record around here and I’m hoping Abraham Ancer can improve on his 12th placed finish last year which was his debut. There should be more to come from the Mexican given that he has had a spin round the track and knows how to handle it. He has been in decent enough form himself and is threatening a big week. This course really plays to his ball striking abilities and that makes me think he is overpriced at 80/1.
Joel Dahmen is having a good season both in terms of results and statistically as well. Results wise he has had four top 10 finishes this season including at Riviera and Bay Hill on his last two starts and they are immediately results which catch the eye. Tee to green he is very strong and sits just outside the top 20 in strokes gained on approach. He is by no means the worst putter going around either and the way he is hitting it makes him a chance at 100/1.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout is becoming a feature every time he tees it up and with a win, a runner-up and a top 20, the latter coming last week at Bay Hill, in 2020 he is clearly a man in good form. I’ve had the South African on my radar for a while. If you win at Valderrama like he has done then you can be sure you can win anywhere. The negative is this is his debut here but it was his debut at Bay Hill last week and he went pretty well. The South African just hits the ball so well that he is almost destined to be involved here. At 160/1 I’ll ignore the debutant tag in the hope he takes to the track.
I took Danny Lee at The Honda Classic recently but clearly I chose the wrong week to back him because it was last week in the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he landed a place and I fancy he can build on that here. Lee is in decent nick at the minute and when that is the case we know he hits the ball well and we also know he is a decent scrambler. He showed all those traits in tough conditions last week and while this course is tough, the atmospheric conditions are not expected to be quite as difficult. He is another who could go strongly at a big price.
VOID – Back T.Fleetwood to win The Players Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-7)
VOID – Back J.Dahmen to win The Players Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-7)
VOID – Back C.Bezuidenhout to win The Players Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 161.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-7)
VOID – Back W.Simpson to win The Players Championship (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 31.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-7)
VOID – Back A.Ancer to win The Players Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-10)
Back him here:
VOID – Back D.Lee to win The Players Championship (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 176.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)