US Tour specialist Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) shares his expert opinion on the Players Championship from Florida.
Players Championship | 11th-14th May 2017 | Sky Sports
Early May – a time of year when tradition states that its Liverpool’s time next year, Arsenal let the press know about Arsene Wenger's summer ‘warchest' (just in time for season ticket renewals) and golf fans attention turns to Sawgrass and ‘the fifth major'.
The golfing year really begins at Augusta but it is the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass where a proper tournament is played amongst the world’s elite and everybody, regardless of playing style has a chance.
The Masters, for all its beauty, can only be won by a particular type of player – length is key. Of course, there are an awful lot more qualities in the game of a Masters champion but essentially unless you bomb it 300+ yards off the tee, you have little hope.
The Masters is the pinnacle as an event. The Players, as a contest, is usually on a different level. Anyone can win here.
Dustin Johnson (yes I am 100% certain he would have won) is currently the best golfer on the planet. He can overpower most golf courses. Sawgrass, with its 93 bunkers and 24 water hazards in-play, cannot be taken apart in the same way as your average PGA track.
Par-72 on a relatively short 7,200 yardS may seem a gift for some of the bombers on show this week. However, 19 of the last 20 winners have ranked outside the top 10 for driving distance over 72 holes.
Fairways are narrow and the rough is that sticky Bermudagrass. For those who have played in Florida, you will be aware of how hard that stuff is to get out from.
A lot of course work has been undertaken since Jason Day won here 12 months ago. Seven holes now have bigger green complexes whilst the 12th is now a driveable risk and reward par-4. You will probably see as many 6s here as you do birdies.
What’s on offer?
The Players is held in high regard by all within the game – 48 of the world’s top 50 are amongst the field of 147 and the winner will receive a five-year playing exemption on the PGA Tour – something worth millions on its own. Victory will also ensure entry into the Masters, Open and US Open through to 2020.
All very interesting, I am sure you will agree. If you survived that, well done. If you scrolled down just for the tips, go back to the stop and start again…
There is a lively betting market for First Round Leader but the draw and weather will all play their part. The morning starters normally have an advantage but please check my Twitter feed for FRL picks on Wednesday morning.
My golf betting year really did revolve around DJ winning The Masters. From the moment I heard the news of his back injury, I was focussed on backing him when he reappeared.
He was far too short for the Wells Fargo at around 5/1 but his first tournament in four weeks was very nearly a winning one anyway – 12/1 in-play was much more to my taste. Johnson was short by just one shot.
Funnily enough, I do not see him winning here though – a best finish of 28th from eight starts, you are a brave man if you take him on at 8/1.
I can’t really have any of the four from the world’s top-five at the moment. Defending champion Jason Day is totally out of form, Rory McIlroy has done nothing in 2017 to attract my cash, Hideki Matsuyama has fallen off a cliff whilst 2015 champion Rickie Fowler has not shown any consistency.
Jordan Speith (14/1 Stan James)
First pick goes to Jordan Spieth. Fourth on debut back in 2014 when he led after 54 holes, Spieth has missed the cut here on his subsequent two attempts.
Both of those were understandable though. In 2015, he had just won The Masters at a ridiculously young age and last year was just weeks after his Augusta meltdown.
There were really encouraging signs when he teamed up with Ryan Palmer to finish fourth at The Zurich a fortnight ago and four wins on the Bermuda greens he will find here are plenty enough reasons for me to get involved.
Sergio Garcia (20/1 Betfred)
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon after a big win but Sergio Garcia has always followed up wins with really good performances.
Sergio loves Sawgrass – a win and six top-10 finishes here prove that. A four-week break since his titanic last round battle with Justin Rose is plentiful and with most bookmakers paying six places, the Spaniard is a solid each-way bet.
Kevin Chappell (66/1 Bet365)
26th – Missed Cut – 2nd represent the last three attempts for Kevin Chappell. Finally a first time winner on the PGA Tour last month, this could be the start of a really good year for Chappell.
A shade below the real top level, Chappell nonetheless is exactly the kind of player that does well here. For a player in such good form and one that went so well here last year, 66/1 is way too big.
In fact, I am not sure when you will be able to back him at this kind of price again. He’s rapidly improving.
Cameron Smith (100/1 Stan James)
Finally a couple of triple-digit prices with genuine potential. Cameron Smith looked like he was the next big thing when finishing fourth at the 2015 US Open.
A first Tour win only arrived 10 days ago in New Orleans but the young man has plenty of potential and his confidence can never have been higher.
Tommy Fleetwood (100/1 Stan James)
Driving accuracy rather than length is all-important this week. Over the last 10 tournaments, Tommy Fleetwood ranks number one in the field in this particular statistic.
Fleetwood has done so well since trying his hand on the PGA Tour. In fact of all the young English players who are doing so well at the moment, he is the one I see as a potential superstar.
Stan James are paying seven places this week and this young man will give you a real run for your money.
Players Championship – Jordan Spieth to win (14/1 Stan James)
Players Championship – Sergio Garcia each-way (20/1 Betfred)
Players Championship – Kevin Chappell each-way (66/1 Bet365)
Players Championship – Cameron Smith each-way (100/1 Stan James)
Players Championship – Tommy Fleetwood each-way (100/1 Stan James)
*Stan James are paying seven each-way places