PGA Picks: The Players Championship Predictions and Golf Odds
It wasn't pretty, but Tyrrell Hatton managed to hold on for dear life after shooting a two-over 74 in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to claim his fifth professional victory but first PGA Tour win of his career. Hatton led the tournament by two strokes heading into Sunday after shooting a 1-over 74 during one of the toughest rounds that Bay Hill has offered up in the tournament's long history. The conditions were so tough, that the average score for Saturday was 75.4 and guys like Rickie Fowler came out and said he wouldn't wish playing this course in these conditions on an average golfer because the result would be terrible.
Somewhat lost in the mix of the terrible conditions is the fact that Rory McIlroy had a chance to win yet another tournament but blew it thanks to a 4-over 76, which included a bogey and two double bogeys on the front nine when the leaders were faltering as well. If McIlroy found a way to win half (maybe even a third) of the tournament he lost while in contention (leading or close to the lead) heading into Sunday, he'd be talked about as being one of the greatest golfers of all time. Instead, while his career has been great (four majors, 18 PGA wins (27 total), three-time player of the year), he'll likely always be remembered for not being able to win at Augusta (until he does) and not closing out the tournaments he's supposed to win.
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If McIlroy has any intentions of shutting up talking heads like me saying he should be better, this week may be a perfect week to back him on a course that suits his style of play and where he has enjoyed success as recently as last year. Before we get to the picks, let's take a look at some history of the tournament.
THE PLAYERS Championship Rundown
THE PLAYERS Championship, previously known as the Tournament Players Championship, has been ongoing since 1974 and it currently offers the highest prize fund of any golf tournament, including the majors, at a whopping $12.5 million dollars. The field typically includes the top 50 players in the world rankings. And with such a star-studded field, it's often referred to as the PGA Tour's fifth Major tournament. This year, 144 players will tee it up, and the top 65 and ties after 36 holes will live to play the weekend. An interesting stat I came across this weekend is that 110 of the 144 players have at least one PGA win in their career, which just goes to show you how deep the field is.
THE PLAYERS is held at TPC at Sawgrass course in Ponte Verde Beach, Florida, and has been held at this famous course with the iconic par-3 17th with the island green since 1982. The layout 7,189 yards and the winning score is often double digits. In fact, the last time a winning score was below 10-under was in 2008 when Sergio Garcia won the tournament by shooting a 5-under 283. Greg Norman holds the course record after shooting a 24-under 264 in 1994.
Golf Odds: THE PLAYERS Championship Favorites
This is an extremely deep field, and as such the top of the leaderboard is filled with high-quality players at enticing odds. Rory McIlroy is the favorite at +750 to capture his second PLAYERS Championship in as many years. Behind him, you have the likes of Jon Rahm +1200, Justin Thomas +1400, Bryson DeChambeau +2000, Tommy Fleetwood +2200, Dustin Johnson +2500, and Brooks Koepka +3300. You'll likely notice one key name missing from this list, and that's Tiger Woods, who is dealing with a bad back once again. Tiger was expected to tee it up at the API last week but withdrew and now with consecutive tournaments missed, many are wondering just how bad the back is once again. If Tiger is just taking precautions and tuning his game for the Masters, I'm okay with that. I'd much rather have him prowling around Augusta than missing through injury.
Golf Odds: THE PLAYERS Championship Picks
Golf is a mental sport as much as anything, and part of me thinks McIlroy is too erratic to back at such low odds (+750). However, I do think McIlroy will be in contention, which is why I'm backing him at -135 to finish inside the Top 10. Another bomber I'm taking for a top-10 finish is Dustin Johnson. He's been relatively quiet so far this season with just a T-10 in the Genesis prior to a T-48 at the WGC Mexico. He finished fifth last year at this tournament, and I expect him to make some noise once again this week. He can be had at +240 for a Top-10 finish.
However, the winner of the tournament is going to be "The Scientist", Bryson DeChambeau +2000. DeChambeau comes into this tournament in great form, posting three straight top-5 finishes including a fourth last week, a second at the WGC-Mexico and a fifth at the Genesis. If you take DeChambeau's form on arrival to TPC Sawgrass, you'd see that his driver and iron play make him a perfect fit for this challenging course. He's ranked 13th in Driving Accuracy, 1st for SG Off the Tee, 12th for SG Tee to green and 6th for SG Total. He's the play this week, and we are getting tremendous value at this number.