LOUIS Ross (@LouisRoss67) can’t wait for The Players Championship this week. His best bets are here.
The Players Championship | Thursday – Sunday
Outside of The Masters, this is the tournament I look forward to more than any other. The cliché is that The Players is ‘The 5th Major’. It may well be an over used phrase but accurately describes the way that most fans and players think of this brilliantly entertaining week. Everything about Augusta makes it a stand out on the calendar, but as a golfing contest, this is better.
TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Verdre Beach, Florida is a stand out venue. The Stadium Course is one of the most iconic in world golf. Most will know it for the signature hole, the 17th. Just a Par 3 but surrounded on all sides by water. There is no other hole I know of worldwide that provokes tension, joy and pain quite like it.
There will be around 70 players attempting to hit that green on Sunday. Amazingly, somewhere between 20 and 30 will feel that pain as they realize their ball is getting wet.
This Par 72 is somewhat short by modern standards at 7215 yards but with 93 testing bunkers and 23 water hazards in play is very well protected.
Fairways are reasonably narrow and the rough is that sticky Bermudagrass. With the Greens relatively small and as quick as they are at the aforementioned Augusta, finding the short stuff with your drive is essential. Length is not a huge factor. 19 of the last 20 winners have been outside the Top 10 for driving distances.
Sawgrass is all about accuracy. There are some odd stats about the place as well. Course form is nowhere near as important as elsewhere. Rickie Fowler has three missed cuts and a 77th from five starts before his fantastic come from behind win last year. However, all winners had had a few attempts at the place before victory.
As usual we have some very short prices at the top of the market. I cannot find any particular reason to get involved with any of them. Rory still has a bad round in him (his opening 74 was costly at Quail Hollow last week), Jason Day has gone a little cold and Jordan Spieth has been on a three week jolly since his Masters collapse.
The champion, Fowler, is a little short in the market and did not inspire confidence last Sunday blowing a lead when as short as Evens.
Branden Grace was the first name on my list and I am sticking with him. I had bits and pieces of 50/1 earlier in the week, that price has gone but 40/1 is still very much a value bet.
Scrambling is a very important stat at Sawgrass and the South African has improved that side of his game massively in the last 12 months. He is usually a very accurate driver of the ball. 48th and 42nd from his two starts here seems to fit the model of previous winners and he has been in great form in the last six weeks or so.
Henrik Stenson is it seems a serial runner up but look more closely at a lot of his results since his last win in 2014 and he has not really thrown anything away. Like a lot of players, he has just beaten by someone who has been better on Sunday.
Stenson has a cracking record on this track. Six top 20 finishes (including a win and three Top 5s) from just 10 attempts. 33/1 is always going to tempt me to get involved with the big Swede. he loves Bermudagrass Greens and sits 4th in the strokes gained Tee to Green category for 2016 and usually goes well in Florida.
Billy Horschel will do for me as a final pick in the outright markets as the World number 44 has been playing really well of late. Billy has a best of 13th from three starts at The Players. He likes a tough test and is potentially overpriced at 66/1.
I like the 60/1 odds offered by Paddy Power paying seven places this week. The Florida native is a momentum player and if he gets off to a good start, watch out for him.
Finally a dip into the 1st Round Leader markets. I mentioned Roberto Castro here at 175/1 last week at Quail Hollow. He went on to finish 2nd to a 500/1 winner.
Early starters may well have an advantage on Thursday as the wind is due to pick up a little later in the day. Marc Leishmans last four starts at Sawgrass read 45-8-23-24. More than enough for me to get involved at odds of 100/1.
Russell Knox was a big winner for us a few weeks back, finishing 2nd at 60/1. Just two starts here read very well at 34th and 17th. I am very tempted on the outright but as another early starter, I will chuck a little 80/1 into the mix.
The Players Championship – Branden Grace each way (40/1 Bet365)
The Players Championship – Henrik Stenson each way (33/1 Bet365)
The Players Championship – Billy Horschel each way (66/1 Paddy Power)
The Players Championship – Mark Leishman 1st Round Leader each way (100/1 Paddy Power)
The Players Championship – Russell Knox 1st Round Leader each way (80/1 Paddy Power)