For many of us The Players Championship will now always be synonymous with COVID19, The Players marked the start of isolation and no sport for many of us around the world. I am sure many of the players will recall that Thursday when the tournament was cancelled as they arrive here this week and like many of us never believed that COVID would still be with us two years later.
The Players is always a great event and Pete Dye’s Stadium course is a fitting venue that doesn’t disappoint. Every year this course throws up drama and none more so than the 17th, plenty has been said about this hole, but there is a true replica at Eagles Eye golf club in Michigan that you can play if you can’t make it to Sawgrass.
The Players now offers the highest prize fund in golf at a staggering $10.5 million with the winner taking a $1.8 million cut of that. The tournament used to be a warm up to the Masters and played in March, but with the move to May as a lead up to the US Open, the course now plays very differently and is much dryer, harder and faster.
In 2006 the course implemented massive changes, they tore up the old course and then brought in 26,600 tons of sand, 2.6 million square feet of Bermuda grass, 116,600 feet of pipe for irrigation, 19 acres of sod for landscaping, 200 new trees made up of oaks, pines and palms, new natural waste areas, lower-level bunkers, greenside chipping areas and water hazards. From a spectators point of view it makes great viewing, the changes are seen as a positive move by both the players and the tour.
This weeks defending champion is Justin Thomas 14/1 – with BetFred – who has only been outside the Top 25 twice in his six starts over the TPC Sawgrass course. Justin also comes into this week having not been outside the Top 20 in his six starts on this wraparound season and has four Top 6s in that run. No one in the history of this event has defended the Players Championship title that may just change this year.
As I said last week it is hard not to tip Viktor Hovland 20/1 – with UniBet – each week at the moment, if he is not winning then he is challenging and he added a runner-up finish to his tally again at the weekend. In the last two years Viktor has won twice on the PGA Tour, twice on the European Tour, won an unofficial PGA Tour event and had three runners-up and seven Top 5s on the PGA Tour and I expect him to be in the thick of it again this week.
With two wins already on this years wraparound season Hideki Matsuyama 30/1 – with WilliamHill – will be looking to make it three this week after being knocked off the top of the FedEx Cup table. Hideki has five Top 25 finishes from his seven starts here and two of those have been Top 10 finishes and in his current form I expect him to be challenging this week.
I did tip Shane Lowry 45/1 – with 888Sport – at The Honda Classic the other week, which was his first start of the year on the PGA Tour and I am sure he was more than happy with his runner-up finish, but it did come on the back of two solid Top 25 finishes on the desert swing of the European Tour. What is surprising is Shane’s record in this event having played here six times he has missed the cut in four of them, but he had a Top 10 finish here last year and now living in Florida and the confidence he would have got from that finish in The Honda Classic, I think Lowry may better that finish this week.
After a bit of reflection I am sure Talor Gooch 66/1 – with UniBet – will realise that his final round 77 at the weekends Arnold Palmer Invitational wasn’t that bad in the scheme of things, any normal weekend that would have seen him plummet down the leaderboard, yet he still managed a Top 10 finish, which just shows how tough the course was playing. Talor has only played in this event twice and has a missed cut and last years Top 5, but having won earlier in the year and had five other Top 15s, two of which were Top 5s I think he will be challenging again this week.
I am going to stick with Chris Kirk 90/1 – with Bet365 – again this week after his Top 5 finish at the weekends Arnold Palmer Invitational, which made it his third Top 15 in his last three starts. Chris has three Top 15 finishes in this event and in his current form and at these odds I think he is worth an each-way punt.
Longer odds tip:
As always good luck