PGA Tour Odds and Predictions: The Players Championship
by Alan Matthews - 5/11/2011
To most casual golf bettors, the Players Championship marks the halfway point between the Masters and the U.S. Open – and most books unveil about as many props for this tournament, golf’s unofficial fifth major, as you would find for a Grand Slam tournament.
If you go simply by total purse, no event beats the Players, which has a total purse of $9.5 million, more than any event on TOUR – the majors and WGC tournaments included. Yet it doesn’t always draw the best fields, for whatever reason. All the top Americans who qualify certainly show up, but some Europeans decide to stay overseas and save their limited number of U.S. Tour spots for the majors, WGC events, FedEx Cup playoff tournaments and one or two others.
Last year, only 40 of the Top-50 ranked players were in the field. This year the only Top-50 players not here are Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Kim Kyung-Tae, Anders Hansen and Ryo Ishikawa. Westwood and McIlroy certainly will be missed, but they made it clear months ago they weren’t going to play. Westwood said it was due to the PGA Tour’s restrictions on non-members, while McIlroy said he didn’t want to play six out of seven weeks once the U.S. Open rolled around and that he wasn’t super comfortable at TPC Sawgrass yet in his career.
So enough about who isn’t here. All of golf’s other big names are. Tiger Woods tees it up for the first time since the Masters. Woods reportedly suffered an Achilles’ tendon strain near the end of the third round at Augusta and has been in a walking boot. The only tournament he missed that he would have played was Quail Hollow last week in Charlotte. Despite that layoff and injury and the fact he still hasn’t won since November 2009, Tiger is the +1100 favorite this week on WagerWeb PGA Tour odds -- yet only the co-+700 favorite with Phil Mickelson as top American finisher.
Tiger has the best average career finish at this tournament of any player who has played more than once, but he hasn’t won this since 2001 (his only win here). Woods has only one Top-10 finish since then and withdrew in the final round last year with a neck problem. He’s not good value at all, according to my Players Championship predictions.
Luke Donald is the second-favorite on WagerWeb at +1200 with Lefty. The Englishman has been Mr. Consistent on the PGA Tour this year as he hasn’t finished worse than 10th in his past six tournaments, which includes a win at the Match Play. Thus Donald is the +330 favorite to finish as the top European this week. However, his history here isn’t good: One Top-10 finish in eight starts (runner-up in 2005). He was T26 last year.
Mickelson struggled a bit at the Masters but played well last week in Charlotte with three rounds in the 60s and a T9 finish. He has yet another shot to get to No. 1 with a win, as do a few players this week. Lefty won here in 2007 but that was his only Top 10 in the past six Players Championships.
The Players tends to have winners who come out of nowhere – sort of like Tim Clark last year or a 48-year-old Fred Funk in 2005. There have been 18 different winners in the past 18 years and no one has ever gone back-to-back.
With that said, I like two longer-shots in various props this week, including to win. Ben Crane (+2000 to win, +220 to finish in Top 10) obviously loves the Stadium Course. He hasn’t finished worse than sixth in the past three years at this event.
And a sentimental favorite has to be Sergio Garcia at +4500 to win (+450 to finish in Top 10). Garcia got the biggest win of his career at this tournament in 2008 and has two other Top-5 finishes at the Players. And you just know the Spaniard wants to play well this week to honor his friend and idol, the late Seve Ballesteros.
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