GOLF analyst Lewis Blain (@LewisBlainSport) shares his betting thoughts ahead of The Players Championship.
The Players Championship | 11th-14th March 2021 | Sky Sports
We move onto The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass this week in what is always an iconic and spectacular event on the PGA Tour.
This famous Pete Dye design is the perfect mix of aggression, patience, ball-striking and short-game and the move from May to March means conditions are a little softer as we saw last year when Hideki Matsuyama matched the course record in the first round before play – and eventually the world – was ground to a halt.
Bryson DeChambeau bombed his way to victory at Arnie's gaff last week but is just behind world number one Dustin Johnson in the betting, so here's our staking plan for the week (sorry, it's short and snappy).
Webb Simpson (22/1 William Hill)
I'll open the week with Webb Simpson – quite simply, I think if he had 22 goes at winning here, he would win at least one. Amongst my model, he's right behind DJ and Jon Rahm and it's easy to see why.
One of his seven PGA Tour titles has come here, back in 2018 when he won in a four-man playoff. He has since gone onto win twice again, both last year, once before this event and once when it all resumed – the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, which is a correlated course to Sawgrass. Simpson has also shown up at several other tracks, such as Sedgefield (Wyndham), River Highlands (Travelers) and more.
He has everything for this venue, perhaps why he's won here before. Straight off the tee, solid ball-striking and a neat short-game.
Patrick Cantlay (22/1 Betfair)
At similar odds, I cannot avoid Patrick Cantlay. He is going to win more, and he's going to win more events like this one – you know, when the big boys come to town. He too should, arguably, be way shorter in the betting. The American has the perfect mix of current form and history on Dye tracks.
PGA West (9th, 2nd); Harbour Town (7th, 3rd), River Highlands (3x top-15s).
He's in fine mettle too, gaining strokes around-the-green in 12 straight events (he ranks 7th over the last six events in this field), while also being consistent with the irons as we know, he's one of the finer players on approach despite his time management problems.
Tommy Fleetwood (45/1 Bet365)
I jumped on Tommy Fleetwood inplay at the API last week and he just fell short on Sunday, but I also leapt straight to this week and bet him before the odds took a chop – in the end, they didn't, so we're getting a nice number.
Simply put, the Englishman needs a PGA Tour victory to his name, and I think it could come at a venue like this. I think there are some comparisons to be made to Abu Dhabi, where he has become a bit of course horse.
He has led at the end of the round here before, had countless top-10 finishes in majors and as a result has the sort of patience to thrive at Sawgrass, especially given his quality off-the-tee and on approach. In his last three events, he has gained positive strokes on both approach and around-the-green, so it's just a case of keeping that up here.
Throw in his form in Florida – PGA National (4th, 3rd), Bay Hill (3rd, 10th), and even here (7th, 5th) – then he makes great appeal, If he's winning anywhere, then Florida looks likely.
Paul Casey (45/1 SkyBet)
Another Englishman makes the staking plan in Paul Casey. I think he's playing some of his best-ever golf right now – he has not finished outside the top 12 in his last four starts worldwide, and that includes a win in Dubai.
Indeed, Casey has never performed well here, but two of his three wins have come in Florida. And his ability both off-the-tee (very long and straight!) and on approach fits the mould of player we're looking for. His last three PGA Tour events have seen him gain at least two strokes around the green too, so that's further encouragement.
He's another who has done well at Dye tracks too.
Abraham Ancer (70/1 Betfair)
Another player who is of big interest is Abe Ancer. The Mexican has a mix of course form, current form and form at Dye venues too.
He's nabbed two top-5s at PGA West, a runner-up at Harbour Town, and a couple of top-10s at River Highlands, not to mention him contending last time out at the Concession (WGC ‘Mexico') and holding a 54-hole lead at none other than Augusta not too long ago.
His short-game and putting are probably the two main worries, which is perhaps why he finds himself so far down the betting but given there are ten places on offer, I think there is some value to be had.
Ancer will create enough opportunities to score here, it's just whether or not he manages to. He too deserves a PGA victory to his name.
Russell Henley (100/1 William Hill)
I'll end with a ball-striking wizard in Russell Henley. He rates out as my best option for those in triple figure digits, In the past year alone, he has top-10s at the Sedgefield, Muirfield Village and PGA National (somewhere he has also won at).
His off-the-tee game has been a little wayward in recent outings, but this course should allow him to change that up and that's reflected in the fact that he's only ever lost strokes at Sawgrass in one of seven attempts – even when missing the cut, surprisingly, it's his irons that have let him down but if they are on number here, then I truly believe he can outplay 100/1, and with nine places on offer here, he could sneak us a return.
The Players Championship – Webb Simpson (22/1 each-way William Hill)
The Players Championship – Patrick Cantlay (22/1 each-way Betfair)
The Players Championship – Tommy Fleetwood (45/1 each-way Bet365)
The Players Championship – Paul Casey (45/1 each-way SkyBet)
The Players Championship – Abraham Ancer (70/1 each-way Betfair)
The Players Championship – Russell Henley (100/1 each-way William Hill)