Sports Betting Weekly

The Players Championship

When: Thursday, 07 May 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: TPC Sawgrass Ponte Vedra Beach
Recognised throughout the golfing world as the sport’s unofficial fifth major, the UPSGA’s Players Championship is renowned for its all-star field and eight-figure prize purse – and this year’s edition of the tournament is certainly no exception as every golfer currently residing in the top 50 ranking positions lines up for their chance to win a share of $10 million.

Hosted on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Florida, the Players Championship is yet another US tournament staged on a Pete Dye-designed Bermuda grass circuit and is world-renowned for having one of the most recognisable holes in professional golf in the shape of its par three 17th. Boasting a dramatic island green, the 17th hole was once one of the most feared on the USPGA circuit, but has fallen down the pecking order recently as golfers have got to grips with the terrain.

The 17th hole aside, TPC Sawgrass is generally seen as a balanced course with a series of doglegged holes that don’t tend to favour any one type of player. The running order is routed so that no two consecutive holes play in the same direction – meaning the course is a true test of a player’s versatility – and unlike most stops on the USPGA, TPC Sawgrass is designed so that hitting the ball miles off the tee doesn’t give you that much advantage, nor does driving accuracy figure that highly.

Instead, Greens In Regulation (GIR) is our go-to stat for the course, with the ten-year average ranking for previous winners sitting at just 7.5 and 11 of the past 15 winners finishing inside the top ten. Scrambling has proved important over the past decade, with only two of the last ten winners ranking outside the top ten for this stat, while experience is also vital given Henrik Stenson is the only champion in the past eight years to have won having played the course fewer than five times previously.

That being said, winners of the Players Championship have generally been quite spread out given that no one in the event’s 41-year history has defended the title and only six players have ever won multiple events. As such, you should not be afraid of backing an outsider at TPC Sawgrass – reigning champion Martin Kaymer went off at 100/1 at last year’s event – and placing your faith in a wily old veteran is often a shrewd move, especially given the course’s unique three-hole play-off format.


Given last Sunday’s win at the World Golf Championship Match Play, it is hardly a surprise to see Rory McIlory going off at the summit of the outright winner’s list at odds of 7/1. That victory reaffirmed his position atop the World Golf Rankings, but brand new major champion Jordan Spieth is currently hot on his heels in second and is also highly-fancied here at starting prices of 8/1.

The two players are really starting to dominate the sport at the moment, but at single-figure prices there are certainly strong cases for avoiding both here. McIlroy, for starters, is certainly likely to be burnt out after playing seven gruelling singles matches in the space of five days at the WGC Match Play, and the fact that tournament was on the West Coast won’t exactly help his preparation here.

The Northern Irishman is certainly improving at TPC Sawgrass, however, having missed the cut on his first three appearances before finishing 8th in 2013 and 6th last year. This in itself is hardly surprising given the Stadium Course takes some getting used to, but it does speak volumes about Spieth’s talent given that he finished T4 on his debut 12 months ago. If anything, then, he perhaps looks to be the more sensible option for those looking to back one of the two market leaders this weekend.

Below that big-hitting duo, there is a sharp drop-off in odds to third favourite, Justin Rose, at starting prices of 22/1. The Englishman has been playing very well of late, with a T2 second finish at the Masters followed by a win at the Zurich Classic soon after indicating that he is hitting his stride at just the right time in the season. Like the two favourites, Rose has never won the Players Championship, but having finished T4 with Spieth last year, he’ll be one to keep an eye out for here.

Also trading at prices of 22/1 before the event is 2009 champion Stenson, though with the Swede currently suffering from a lingering flu bug, his health will need to be monitored prior to this year’s tournament. True, Stenson hasn’t enjoyed a great deal of success at TPC Sawgrass since his debut win, but if he can get his putting game going on the course’s slick greens, there can be no doubt that the former title-holder can have a real say in the final reckoning at this year’s Players Championship.

Rounding out the top five favourites is Jim Furyk at 25/1, and if anyone fits our profile of seasoned pro, it’s him. Having endured a four-year title drought, the 44-year-old American golfer finally did the business at the RBC Heritage a few weeks ago and carried his form in the WGC Match Play, where he ultimately finished fourth. If he can keep up his recent hot streak, Furyk has every chance of again being in the mix at a course that he secured a runner-up finish at just 12 months previously.


Casting our eyes further down the outright winner’s list, there is no shortage of recognisable names trading at far longer prices than you’d normally expect. Perhaps leading the field in that particular respect is Dustin Johnson at 35/1, who, despite struggling at TPC Sawgrass in recent years, should have all the attributes to mount a challenge this time out. Johnson was centimetres away from making it into the round of 16 at last week’s WGC Match Play, but the extra couple of days off will probably serve him well going into an event that he really should be making more of an impact at.

Although the era of backing Tiger Woods with any degree of confidence has all-but passed, the two-time Players Championship winner is at least blinking on our radar this week at prices of 40/1. Now ranked a lowly 125th in the world, Woods will be making his first start since a solid showing in Augusta earned him a T17 last month and is something of a wildcard due to his ever-changing swing, but with course know-how on his side he could still be in the mix at TPC Sawgrass if he starts well.

Below Woods in the betting and gathering plenty of support at a starting price of 45/1 is Matt Kuchar. Kooch hasn’t been in particularly good form of late – with a stretch of six tournaments with no result better than a T15 putting something of a dampener on his early season optimism – but a fifth-place finish at the RBC Heritage did suggest that he may just be starting to get things going again and he’ll be well supported going into an event that he won by two clear strokes back in 2012.

Venturing even further down the list into each-way territory, Zach Johnson is another seasoned competitor who merits our attention at big prices of 60/1. Like his namesake Dustin, Zach also missed out on the round of 16 at last week’s WGC Match Play, but prior to that he turned in his best performance at Augusta since winning the Green Jacket in 2007 by finishing ninth while also ranking seventh overall for GIR – something that bodes very well for him ahead of a return to TPC Sawgrass.

Rounding out our list of outsiders at joint odds of 100/1 apiece are Brooks Koepka and Sean O’Hair. While neither player really fits the profile of battle-hardened veteran, the former has clearly recovered from the injury that blighted his start to the season and now looks poised to deliver on his undoubted potential, while the latter has had something of a career resurgence this year, posting three top 12s in his last five starts to rise up to 135th in the rankings ahead of his latest trip to Florida.