|The Players Championship 2016 preview|
Our golf scribe takes a look at the 2016 Players Championship being hosted by TPC Sawgrass Golf Club.
The PGA Tour hits TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, for one of the most popular tournaments of the year: The Players Championship.
Despite the gripes I have regarding the “fifth major” of the year and it’s sense of self-importance, it really is a great tournament to watch. The course is one of the most challenging on tour, with a series of doglegs going both ways, lingering troubles just off the fairway and endless amounts of water. It’s everywhere, most notably on the Par-3 17th, which is perhaps the most iconic hole in golf.
Last season ,The Players Championship provided one of the best finishes of the year, with Rickie Fowler going birdie and eagle crazy down the stretch, before finally sealing victory in a play-off.
However, the list of past champions contains plenty of shock winners so I’m certainly going to include an outsider or two in my selections. There are some question marks over the big three – Speith, McIlroy, and Day – at present, so I’ll be looking elsewhere. After just missing out on a 28/1 place shot with Lucas Glover last week, I’m determined to go one better this week.
Last Five Winners
2015 Rickie Fowler -7 (playoff) | 2014 Martin Kaymer -13 | 2013 Tiger Woods -13 | 2012 Matt Kuchar -13 | 2011 K.J Choi -13 (playoff)
To Win Outright
Rory McIlroy 8/1 | Jordan Speith 10/1 | Jason Day 12/1 | Rickie Fowler 20/1 | Adam Scott 28/1
Branden Grace (50/1 Win & 11/1 Place)
What would a week’s golf be without backing a South African? Grace has been playing some great golf over the last few months and is just another great performance away from breaking into the world’s Top 10. He won at a Pete Dye-track less than a month ago and followed it up with another T10 the next week. Statistically, he looks a great fit for the course. He ranks 34th in scrambling, 23rd in GIR, 11th in SGTTG and second in par 4 scoring. He has the form, the game, and my money. Go on Branden, do us proud.
Emiliano Grillo (160/1 Win & 35/1 Place)
Grillo has already won this season and while the field that week may not have shone a light on this one, it is clear the young Argentinian has the talent and skillset to enjoy success here. He currently ranks 8th in driving accuracy and 33rd in GIR, although he’ll need to improve his short game if he’s to place here. As a junior, he finished T2 along with Jordan Speith at the 2009 Junior Players. For a player ranked 40th in the world, 160/1 is a ludicrous price. Feel free to get involved with an each-way bet.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (140/1 Win & 30/1 Place)
Another middling player that comes into the tournament somewhat under the radar is Cabrera-Bello. He may not have made me money at the Masters, but a T17 only enhanced his reputation. He’s fared well in some pretty loaded fields this year: 11th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, third at the WGC-Dell Match Play, fourth at the Shell Houston Open and second at the Dubai Desert Classic. He’s improving all the time and at 140/1, you really can’t get hurt backing him each-way here, with 14/1 available for a Top 10 finish.
Kevin Na (80/1 Win & 17/1 Place)
This one really is a flyer. The former child prodigy with the mental stability of a young Happy Gilmore, Na could blow up the first day and put us out of pocket. However, there is some method to my madness. He has three top-10s at TPC Sawgrass, including two in the past three years, while he also enters at No 8 in the FedExCup standings. He’s finished in the top 5 on four occasions already this season – in just 14 starts. While he’s not going to win the damn thing, at 17/1 a place and 8/1 for a Top 10 finish, he must surely offer some value.
Sergio Garcia (28/1 Win & 6/1 Place)
Backing two Spaniards in the field has me considering my own sanity, especially considering one of those is Garcia. However, Garcia is clearly made for this course. He’s won here before (2008), has two second-place finishes (2007, 2015), a third-place finish (2014) and six Top-10’s. He currently ranks fourth on TOUR in GIR percentage and sixth in strokes gained tee to green – two keys statistics for TPC Sawgrass. I won’t be involving myself in wins, but I’ll be lumping on 6/1 for a place and doubling down on the 28/10 for a top 10 finish. His record suggests this is as close to a dead cert as you’re going to get.