The Players Championship 2017 Preview

Wells Fargo Championship 2017 Preview

The PGA Tour rolls into Florida this week for the 2017 Players Championship.

The unofficial fifth Major of the year sees the players tee it up at the infamous Pete Dye creation: TPC Sawgrass. A fixture on the tour, it is perhaps most famous for containing the one pitching wedge par 3 in world golf that can emasculate anyone. The 17th saw Russell Knox take a nine last year, and you can fully expect more hijinks this season as the tournament goes down to the wire. There have been tweaks to the course this season, with added hazards and alterations to greens. However, the most notable change comes in the redesign of the 12th. It will now be a highly drivable par 4 that will have the old risk/reward factor. This may be an attempt to curtail the type of scoring that saw Jason Day shoot a 63 last year.
Dustin Johnson ended his run of consecutive victories last week, but he finished ominously with back-to-back 67’s that saw him finish in a tie for second. This course has not been kind to DJ in the past. Well, length off the tee is helpful anywhere, there is a consensus that TPC Sawgrass favours those who can ameliorate distance with strategic placement. Dustin has yet to crack a top 25 here and will face some stiff opposition this week.  Rory will be hoping that matrimonial bliss translates into some form on a course that he has yet to truly find form on. He shot a 64 last season during the Jason Day exhibition and will probably feel less pressure than usual with all the media attention diverted to Dustin.

48 of the world’s top 50 golfers will be in attendance for what is traditionally one of the most competitive tournaments in world golf. There are such a litany of potential subplots here. Sergio Garcia, a former champion here, returns for the first time after his Major breakthrough at Augusta. So we can expect an action packed week, at one of the most casually iconic courses on the PGA Tour.

The Players Championship | Thursday 11 May  - Sunday 14 May |  TPC Sawgrass, Florida

Past Winners
2016: Jason Day (-15) | 2015: Ricky Fowler (-12)*playoff | 2014: Martin Kaymer (-13) | 2013: Tiger Woods (-13) | 2012: Matt Kuchar (-13)

To Win Outright

Dustin Johnson 6/1 | Rory McIlroy 8/1 | Jordan Spieth 9/1 | Jason Day 14/1 | Justin Rose 20/1 | Sergio Garcia 22/1

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Value Bets
Sergio Garcia - To Win 22/1 & To Place 44/10 (6 Places)
Sergio would be my pick in the upper echelons of the betting markets. Clearly, his victory at Augusta would have exorcised a smorgasbord of demons that have plagued the baby-faced Spaniard for years. This will be his first start since Augusta, which is always a pro/con type scenario. But it’s his record here that really speaks volumes. He is the all-time leading money maker at this event, having won the tournament in 2008. He also has runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2015, as well as another third placed finish. His brand of power and accuracy seems perfectly suited to tackling the vagaries of Sawgrass.

Brooks Koepka - To Win 50/1 & To Place 10/1 (6 Places)
Koepka is still a very young guy at the age of 27. He has only played this tournament twice, with a best finish last season of 35th. But he has improved since then and seems to have coupled his enormous length off the tee with a more tactically sound approach. He arrives in great form too. He finished in a tie for 11th at the Masters, while narrowly missing out on victory at the Valero Texas Open, ultimately finishing in a tie for second. He also finished in a tie for fifth at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans playing alongside his brother Chase. He seems extremely overpriced and could be a real dark horse this week.

Martin Kaymer - To Win 66/1 & To Place 13/1 (6 Places)
Talk about horribly overpriced. The 2014 champions memorably went wire-to-wire after an opening round 63 to claim this prestigious crown. He has never missed the cut in eight appearances, which is fairly remarkable when you consider the quality of fields assembled for this event. He also won the 2010 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straights - another Pete Dye-designed course. He is also coming off his best finish at Augusta. While a tie for 16th may not appear too motivating to most, his previous best finish of T31st accentuates the troubles that he has had on the hallowed fairways in Georgia. He has finished in a tie for fourth at both Abu Dhabi and the Honda Classic and the German has only finished outside the top 25 in one of his last seven worldwide starts.

The Man to Beat
Justin Thomas - To Win 30/1 & To Place 13/2 (6 Places)
Playing alongside Rory and Dustin for the first two rounds, it’s easy to forget just how dangerous Thomas could be this week. A resident in Florida, Thomas has shot two 65’s in his only two starts here. He ultimately finished in a tie for 3rd last season. Perhaps his greatest strength on this course is his penchant for the Par 4’s.  6 of the past 10 champions here have been inside the top two for Par 4 scoring. Thomas leads that category this year. His back-to-back wins in Hawaii featured that outrageous 59 and his recent form has been outstanding. In his last 26 starts, he has three victories and a further seven top 10 finishes. I think that Thomas is the man to watch this week.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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