Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023 Players Championship picks, odds: Expert predictions, favorites to win from betting field at TPC Sawgrass

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With the 2023 Players Championship fast approaching, the key question everyone’s asking is the same across the golf world: Who are you picking to win at TPC Sawgrass coming off the PGA Tour’s hottest stretch in quite some time? With a tremendous field featuring 44 of the top 50 golfers in the world, we are in for an epic ride beginning with Thursday’s first round.

No matter how you want to categorize The Players, it’s a big-time event. Just look at the aforementioned field. Players storylines are plentiful, and the star power is no joke. Justin Thomas will be looking for his second win in the last three events, while world No. 1 Jon Rahm is looking to get right after a tough outing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy are attempting to continue their hot play, while Viktor Hovland seeks to break through with a significant victory on a big-time stage.

Plus, with the 2023 Masters fast approaching, the entire field is either seeking momentum ahead of the year’s first major or an opportunity to play their way into golf’s most prestigious tournament.

So what is going to happen this week in Florida? Let’s take a look at a full set of predictions and picks from our CBS Sports experts. Check out a full set of 2023 Players Championship odds via Caesars Sportsbook.

2023 Players Championship expert picks, predictions

Kyle Porter, senior golf writer

Winner — Scottie Scheffler (10-1): I’m not sure we have appreciated Scheffler’s current tear. He has been by far the best ball-striker in the world so far in 2023 and more accurate off the tee than his footwork would suggest. That accuracy comes in handy this week as he makes amends for his late bogey at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and grabs the second monstrous victory of his already-great season.

Sleeper — Keith Mitchell (55-1): Mitchell is driving the hell out of the ball and played great at Riviera in February. It will depend whether his iron play is up for the challenge, but he’s a fun bet at 55-1. If you can contend at Riv, you can definitely do so at TPC Sawgrass. If you want to dive even deeper, Jhonattan Vegas at 180-1 should get a look. He’s been a great ball-striker this year and finished T3 here in 2019.

Top 10 lock — Viktor Hovland: I love the way Hovland is playing. He finished T9 here a year ago and said he recently solved some of his ball-striking woes, which netted him a top-10 finish at Bay Hill. I don’t believe he’s going to win this week, but I do envision him playing well for the second straight year and being in the mix on Sunday.

Star who definitely won’t win — Jon Rahm: Let’s get crazy and say Rahm. I’m partly playing the percentages — is Rahm really going to win four times in the first 70 days of the year?! — but I do think his wayward driver catches up with him a bit at TPC Sawgrass and he cedes his throne going into the Masters to last year’s green jacket winner.

Surprise prediction — This will be an all-time Players: Why would that be a surprise? Well, we’re coming off a Kurt Kitayama win week, which (no offense to Kitayama) was not the most compelling ending to a large audience. Also, The Players is not necessarily known — at least in recent memory — for its star-studded leaderboards. I think that changes this year. The board will look like the OWGR top 10 come Saturday afternoon and only get better from there. So many big names are playing such great golf right now and everything this year, it seems, has led us to this.

Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 275 (-13)
Winner’s Sunday score: 68 (-4)


Patrick McDonald, golf writer

Winner — Viktor Hovland (25-1): The young Norwegian sunk his chances to claim the API with a water ball on the par-5 16th but looks keen on entering the winner’s circle soon. Hovland finished T9 at this championship a season ago gaining roughly 14 strokes through his ball striking, and a similar output isn’t out of the realm of possibilities. The short-game concerns are real, but his ball-striking metrics are too tantalizing to pass up.

Sleeper — Keith Mitchell (55-1): Over the last three months, Mitchell ranks first in strokes gained off the tee and eighth in strokes gained tee to green. He is slowly commanding respect in the betting markets, but this still feels too cheap for a top-25 talent. He sat one stroke off the lead after 18 in last year’s championship before ultimately finishing T13 and surprisingly does some of his best work on shorter golf courses like TPC Sawgrass.

Top 10 lock — Will Zalatoris: The signs of a Zalatoris breakthrough are there. He has driven the ball brilliantly in his last two outings, and soon enough, the iron play will come around. In his two appearances at TPC Sawgrass, he has nabbed a solo 21st and a T26 finish. If he putts well, he could win.

Star who definitely won’t win — Jon Rahm: He will go down as one of the best drivers of the golf ball to ever play, but right now, that’s not the case. The trouble at Bay Hill exposed his relative struggles with the big stick, and the test won’t get much easier this week at TPC Sawgrass. The world No. 1 has rode a red-hot putter during his historical stretch and conventional wisdom suggests it should begin cooling soon.

Surprise prediction — Five of the top 15 players in the OWGR miss the cut: Weird things happen at TPC Sawgrass. The volatility is real and we have no choice but to embrace it. With this in mind, don’t be shocked if a number of big names miss out on the weekend. Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa have less-than-stellar histories here, and world No. 15 Sam Burns looks more like the world No. 100 at the moment. Between these six and one or two more surprises, there’s a scenario where five of the best players in the world are sent packing early.

Lowest round: 64 (-8)
Winning score: 273 (-15)
Winner’s Sunday score: 68 (-4)


Adam Silverstein, managing editor

Winner — Max Homa (16-1): It’s been quite a run for Homa since the end of 2022 with four top-five finishes, including a victory and solo second, in his last six events. He finished T13 at TPC Sawgrass last year with his score decreasing over each of the final three rounds (66 on Sunday). Homa has plenty of momentum at his back entering this Players, and he’s been one of the hottest golfers in the sport ranking third in total strokes gained and first in strokes gained approach over the last three months. His putting has been nearly as strong as his iron play, and given the way some of the game’s (bigger) stars faltered last week, perhaps he breaks through with the biggest victory of his career to date.

Sleeper — Rickie Fowler (55-1): OK, so, perhaps this is more of a longshot than a sleeper, but Fowler has been playing much better of late. He has four top-11 finishes already this season and ranks both 15th in total strokes gained and sixth in strokes gained approach since December. Fowler has also improved his tee-to-green game significantly, and he knows this course having won a playoff here in 2015. At these odds, there’s much worse wagers.

Top 10 lock — Jon Rahm: Sorry, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of doubting arguably the game’s best player because he had an off week. Outside of last week’s strange faltering, he went 7-0 in top-10 finishes to start the season with three wins and two other top fives. This is not some foreign course, and TPC Sawgrass rewards experience.

Star who definitely won’t win — Justin Thomas: Sure, J.T. is the last Players champion still eligible to play the event, but his game is just off right now. His strokes gained numbers are actually solid, but he’s finished T20 or worse in six of eight events since the Presidents Cup and didn’t show signs of a turnaround last week when his score increased over the final three days of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Maybe Thomas will get everything turned around for major season, but right now, asking him to win another Players is a tall task.

Surprise prediction — Keegan Bradley makes a run: At 40-1, Bradley could have easily fallen into the sleeper category, but there seems to be a lot of belief in his game this season. Bradley had one of the best ball-striking weeks of anyone at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and has two top-10 finishes in his last four starts. If not for an awful Round 1 at the Genesis Invitational that led to a missed cut, he would be considered one of the hottest players on Tour over the last month. Whether he wins is another question, but look for Bradley to be near the top of the leaderboard on Moving Day.

Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 274 (-14)
Winner’s Sunday score: 69 (-3)


Joshua Mullenix, producer

Winner — Jason Day (25-1):  It’s time for the Aussie to return to the winner’s circle. He’s finally healthy again, and the results back it up. Day already has six top-11 finishes this season, including a current stretch of four straight top 10s. Last week, he finished in a tie for 10th, and it didn’t feel like he played that well. The putter gives him such a high floor even when he doesn’t have the best of ball striking weeks, and I think he’ll regroup and strike it like he was leading up to the API. In the best form since spring of 2019, J-Day gets his second Players Championship.

Sleeper — Keegan Bradley (40-1): Lean and mean, Keegan is playing some high quality golf right now. He got a win at the Zozo Championship back in October and three more top 20s to his name, including a second at the Farmers Insurance Open and a T10 last week. He’s coming off his best ball-striking week of the season, and the putter was much better than it was in his missed cut at the Genesis Invitational. He finished fifth here last year and has recorded four top-29 finishes in his last four starts at Sawgrass. 

Top 10 lock — Viktor Hovland: Last year, Hovland contended at the API and parlayed it into a top 10 at The Players. It should’ve been a better finish as he stumbled down the stretch. The struggles with his swing are well documented by the man himself, but the ball striking categories suggest he’s getting more and more comfortable. He finished second in strokes gained off the tee and 4th in strokes gained approach at Bay Hill. If the trajectory continues upwards, he should be in the mix on Sunday.

Star who definitely won’t win — Jon Rahm:  I’ve never seen a player go from seemingly unstoppable to lost in two days the way Rahm did last week. It’s all in the issues with the driver. He put on an approach clinic at Riviera, but the driver was sneaky mediocre. Then, he lost strokes off the tee at Bay Hill — something he hadn’t done since last year’s Tour Championship — and finished dead last in strokes gained off the tee among those who made the cut. This is widely considered one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the world, and he completely lost it last week. Sawgrass isn’t the best place to try and find it. 

Surprise prediction — Tom Kim nets a top-10 finish: This despite three finishes outside the top 34 in each of his his last three starts. Kim’s major issue is length off the tee. He’s so solid everywhere else, and overwhelming length is less of a factor at Sawgrass. The fairways this week are not very wide and avoiding big numbers on the back nine is the name of the game when it comes to contending at The Players. Kim is fourth on Tour in both bogey avoidance and accuracy off the tee. Not a bad combination for the budding star. 

Lowest round: 65 (-7)
Winning score: 273 (-15)
Winner’s Sunday score: 68 (-4)

Who will win the Players Championship, and which longshots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard and best bets, all from the model that’s nailed eight golf majors and is up over $8,400 since June 2020.

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