The Players Championship Preview and Picks

Preview and picks for the 44th Players' Championship from TPC Sawgrass.

The Best Field in Golf Compete in the Players Championship

The iconic stats of The PLAYERS Championship brings together the strongest and deepest field of the year as 144 top pros tee it up at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; home of the PGA Tour headquarters. The best players in the world will be challenged on the Stadium Course at Sawgrass that is one of the most mentally challenging in the world. So many superlatives are bestowed upon TPC Sawgrass, and the Pete Dye design challenges all players without favoring a single style of play. The course was redesigned last year and now features pure TifEagles Bermudagrass on the putting surfaces. Water hazards loom on numerous holes. Beyond watching the players perform on TV at Sawgrass, you can enjoy a captivating hole-by-hole overview of the course with player comments at

The big bombers hold little advantage at Sawgrass, where accuracy off the tee and precision iron play is required. Controlled power and placement is advantageous however, as a variety of shots are needed to navigate the 7,150 yard Par 72 layout. Small greens by PGA Tour standards require placement in approach and are now even more pure for putting. Course management is critical, as is precision iron and approach play (GIR) with the ability to chip, scramble and score.

The par 4 finishing hole at 18 is annually the most difficult with water lining the entire left side. But it’s the signature short par 3 at hole 17 that is one of the most recognized in the world with the putting surface and green sitting on an island less than 140 yards from the tee.   

While experience and course familiarity are often an advantage, 21-year-old South Korean Phenom Si Woo Kim proved last year that talent, precision and fearless play and scrambling without fear can propel you into contention. Kim was 10-for-10 in the final round getting up and down, and he won the 2017 PLAYERS Championship as a huge long shot as high as 500-1 at an Irish Bookmaker where a punter cashed in for more than $66,000 on Kim’s victory. In fact, going into Sunday’s final round, only one player ranked in the top-30 of the Official World Golf Rankings had a realistic shot at winning the title. The two players in the final group collapsed with rounds of 75 and 84.

Players ChampionshipSo with that in mind and a deep and talented player pool, we’ll chip-in some players of interest to consider for the 2018 PLAYERS Championship. You can get the latest odds to win The PLAYERS at leading online sportsbooks, and know that the top-ranked players are all bunched together with none lower than 12-1 – Day, Fowler, D. Johnson, McIllroy, Spieth, Thomas.   

The featured groups on Thursday and Friday will get plenty of media coverage and take tons of betting action. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler headline the PLAYERS and all three have won the prestigious event. Woods and Mickelson are a marquee head-to-head wagering match-up. The other glamorous group is the trio of most recent FedEx Cup Points Champions – Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIllroy – none of which have ever won the PLAYERS Championship.

Keys to past PLAYERS Championship winners and success at TPC Sawgrass

·       Greens in Regulation – 10 of the last 14 winners finished top-13 in the week

·       Accuracy – 3 of the last 14 winners finished 1st in driving accuracy, & 11 were in the top-21 for the week. Hitting Fairway’s and avoiding hazards is key to attacking greens

·       Par 4 scoring – Navigating the Par 4s and risk-reward shots go further this week than being able to bomb it and score on the par 5s.

The stadium course is built for golf on TV, and this is a fun and entertaining week of golf to watch with the best and deepest field of pro players to showcase their skills at Sawgrass.

After reviewing the stats, here are some players of interest at various price points if you’re wagering to win. Match-up betting is much preferred when handicapping tournaments and major events, and after providing a winner in our Masters preview and player profiles and having one of our best golf betting tournaments ever at the 2018 Masters, we’ll chip-in another match-up play below. Follow along on Twitter (@FairwayJay) over the weekend as I may chip-in some single-day match-ups and/or prop bets to consider.

Favorites less than 20-1

Day, Spieth

Contenders less than 50-1

Fleetwood, Stenson

Longshots greater than 50-1

Cantlay, DeChambeau, Hadley, Hadwin, Z. Johnson, C. Smith

Longshots greater than 100-1


Tournament Match-up

Henrik Stenson (-120) over Sergio Garcia

Garcia has missed 3 straight cuts in April entering the tournament and is not as strong this year in his accuracy, GIR and scoring stats. Plenty of newly-married pros have suffered and struggled more with their golf game after saying ‘I do’. Don’t see a recovery shot for Sergio on a tough track that requires precision and tough mental makeup to succeed. Stenson is in great form with a T5 at the Masters, a T6 and 4th the previous two tournaments and a 19th finish in his most recent event. He’s a premier ball striker and iron player who ranks first this year in driving accuracy and greens-in-regulation and is 3rd in scoring average on Tour. He’s had enough success at Sawgrass with a pair of top-20 finishes the last 3 years, and he’s playing great golf.   

Enjoy the PLAYERS Championship and your pursuit of profit on the green.

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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