PGA Tour: The Players Championship Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

Our golf writer looks at the Players Championship set to get underway on 10 May at TPC Sawgrass. 

The unofficial fifth Major on the men’s calendar assembles possibly the highest quality field in golf, with every single player in the world’s top 50 in attendance this week. And there are so many enticing sub-plots at play: Tiger Woods returns to the sight of two Players victories; Rory McIlroy looks to avenge that damp squib of a Masters final round; Dustin Johnson aims to secure his World Number One spot with a host of potential usurpers in his wake.

Travelling 400 miles from Charlottesville to Jacksonville, Florida, the tour travels to the picturesque Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

The Players Championship | 10 May - 13 May | TPC Sawgrass, Jacksonville 

The Players dates back to 1974, while it only settled in Ponte Vedra in 1982, at the TPC Sawgrass. The Stadium Course was designed by Pete Dye in 1980 and is typical of his design. It features characteristically narrow fairways and punitive rough, while the greens are smaller than average. It will require postage stamp iron-play and exquisite touch. Renovations by Pete Dye himself and others have seen various changes, most notably with the move to TifEagle Bermuda on the greens. This has made the greens fast and fiery, making scrambling critical this week. You also have to watch for the winds that can wreak havoc on this exacting test of golf.

Last year’s unlikely champion- the youngest in the history of this event- Si Woo Kim- will be aiming to become the first man to defend this most prestigious title. But one look at the potential champions this week makes Kim’s task look tantamount to impossible. 2015 Champ Rory McIlroy and 2016 Champ Jason Day both arrive in excellent from this season, while Masters Champion Patrick Reed and World Number One Dustin Johnson will also look to contend. Not to mention the likes of Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and former champion Ricky Fowler. And there’s a whole host of less fancied candidates that have been in excellent form. So this one is really up for grabs this week.

Past Winners
2017: Si Woo Kim (-10)
2016: Jason Day (-15)
2015: Ricky Fowler (-13)
2014: Martin Kaymer (-15)
2013: Tiger Woods (-13)

To Win Outright:
Rory McIlroy 14/1, Jason Day 14/1, Jordan Spieth 16/1, Dustin Johnson 18/1, Ricky Fowler 20/1

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Value Bets

Patrick Cantlay- To Win 66/1, To Place 13/1
Si Woo Kim’s victory here last season overshadowed what was an almost equally impressive accomplishment by the young Cantlay. He finished 22nd- on his professional debut- at the Players. Since then he has won his first PGA Tour event and also secured his Masters return. He has finished seventh in both events since Augusta and has exactly the type of quality, precision based long game that should help him thrive this week.

Emiliano Grillo- To Win 75/1, To Place 15/1
Grillo’s T9 finish in Wells Fargo last week was his fourth top 10 finish of the season, which further cemented the fact that the formerly erratic Grillo has become far more consistent. Grillo has also got some course credentials, having finished 11th here in last season’s event. His driving had improved immeasurably, which should bode well for this treacherous Sawgrass layout.

Branden Grace- To Win 90/1, To Place 18/1
South African Grace has had an extended break in the aftermath of the Masters, adjusting to the challenges of fatherhood in the process. Grace is one of those players who loves to mix it in elite fields, as evidenced by nearly winning the US Open after a similarly lengthy break. He won his first PGA Tour title last year in Harbour Town, which indicates that he has an affinity for Pete Dye designed courses. He has made the cut here four out of four times and had an encouraging top 25 finish at Augusta.

The Man to Beat- Bryson DeChambeau- To Win 50/1, To Place 10/1
The Dallas resident has been exceptional thus far this year, without quite picking up that victory which would have shortened his price markedly. Last year’s John Deere Classic winner has been in terrific form this season. He finished fifth at TPC Scottsdale and second to Rory at Bay Hill. He also finished fourth last week in Quail Hollow, another exacting test of driving accuracy. His third at Harbour Town also shows his proficiency for Pete Dye courses- he also finished fourth at Harbour Town in 2015. 50/1 looks a great price for those stats, in a week when I’m generally trying to think outside the box.

Written by Damien Kayat for

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