Despite the fact that it’s not acutally a major championship, THE PLAYERS generally marks the start of major season in the PGA Tour, so strap yourself in for a fantastic few months in golf as the Tour starts to ramp up!
The best players in the world will descend on TPC Sawgrass this weekend for THE PLAYERS Championship, which boasts a monster $15,000,000 prize pool, the largest single tournament purse of the year!
Reigning champion and No.1 player in the world, Rory McIlroy, will be back to defend his title at TPC Sawgrass this season, and as you’d expect with a $15,000,000 purse, the field is absolutely jam-packed full of top flight talent.
The top two means of qualifications were players who won on the PGA Tour last season and the top 125 on last year’s FedExCup points list, meaning only the best of the best will be in action this weekend.
It would be easier to name who isnt playing this weekend then run through the star studded list of names that are teeing it up. Just two of the top 30 players in the official world golf rankings will miss the tournament in Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood. Woods hasn’t played a PGA Tour event since the Genesis Invitational back in February and will no doubt be taking every precaution in his preparation for his title defence at the Masters.
Apart from Woods, every big name will be in action this weekend, with some of the top contenders being McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambaeu, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantley and Patrick Reed. World No.3 Brooks Koepka has been in some horror form on his comeback from injury but will no doubt be taking THE PLAYERS much more seriously than some of the smaller comeback tournaments he has competed in over the last few weeks.
THE PLAYERS field for this season has no shortage of debutants, including exciting youngsters in the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa, Sebastian Munoz and Joaquin Niemann.
The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most famous courses on the PGA Tour and this year at THE PLAYERS has a special significance as the first time the tournament has been held since the passing of course designer Pete Dye. The course plays as a 7,189, Par 72 and in 2006 all of the tees, fairways and greens were stripped and replaced with new drainage, irrigation and sub-air systems, meaning the officials have much better control of the firmness of the greens regardless of weather conditions.
The course offers a tough test in all areas of golf, but arguably the most important over the last few seasons has been strong play from tee-to-green. The firmness of the smaller than average greens makes them tough to hit, meaning strong approach players and high GIR percentage will be our focus this week.
The course is most famous for the Par 3, 17th, which features a picturesque island green home to some of the most memorable moments on the PGA Tour. The 17th can be where the title is won or lost, as in Tiger Woods’ case last season.
With such a talented field this week, it’s always going to be hard to find a winner. However, we have narrowed it down to a few guys that we like and that most importantly, have a solid record at TPC Sawgrass.
At the top of the list is obviously Rory McIlroy. The No.1 player in the world has barely put a foot wrong in the PGA Tour this season and if not for some problems down the stretch on Sundays, could have easily racked up three or four wins already. The Northern Irishman has played in six events this season, has one win at the WGC-HSBC Champions and has top five finishes in all six tournaments.
He is ranked 6th in shots gained off the tee, 3rd in shots gained on approach, 19th in shots gained around the green, 2nd in shots gained from tee-to-green and 2nd in total shots gained. It seems weird to say because he hasn’t won a major in quite some time, but McIlroy is arguably in the best form of his career at the moment and has to be at the top of any betting list this weekend.
Not only is he in great form, but McIlroy has a great record at TPC Sawgrass. He is the defending champion and had three straight top 10 finishes from 2013-2015.
Next on the list is Englishman Tommy Fleetwood. The No.10 ranked player in the world has come close to his first PGA Tour victory this season with a third place finish at he Honda Classic a few weeks ago. Despite missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer on the weekend, we trust the form he is in, ranking highly in shots gained off the tee, on approach and from tee-to-green.
Fleetwood has a solid record at TPC Sawgrass too. He finished 41st in his first trip there in 2017 and in his next two he finished 7th and 5th. At around $26 this week, we think he is great value.
The last player we are targeting this weekend is Patrick Reed. Outside of McIlroy, Reed is arguably the most in-form golfer in the world at the moment and comes into THE PLAYERS on the back of a win at the WGC-Mexico and a T15 at the Arnold Palmer on the weekend.
The No.8 ranked player in the world has competed in eight PGA Tour events this season, making the top 10 on four occasions and was fantastic against strong fields in both WGC events so far. Reed doesn’t quite have the pedigree at TPC Sawgrass of his peers, but hasn’t missed a cut in his last three trips there, including a T22 back in 2017.
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