This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
THE PLAYERS Championship Betting Preview
The Florida Swing enters its third week, and this time around we get the PGA Tour’s flagship event and golf’s “fifth major” — THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
With this event featuring the largest purse of the season at $25 million and a first-place prize of $4.5 million, a star-studded field is on hand, and it is headlined by tournament favorite Rory McIlroy, who checks in with 9-1 odds.
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Par 72, 7,275 yards
Average Strokes Gained Rankings: Winners Since 2017
- SG: Off-the-Tee: 20.2
- SG: Approach: 16.6
- SG: Around-the-Green: 13.6
- SG: Putting: 30.2
- SG: Tee-to-Green: 11.6
- Driving Distance: 36.6
- Driving Accuracy: 35.2
We’ve seen various types of players take down THE PLAYERS in recent years, including the short-hitting Webb Simpson, the long-hitting Rory McIlroy and a long shot in Si Woo Kim. While the course may not suit a specific type of golfer like many courses, TPC Sawgrass will certainly be a ball-striking test, as water is in play on all but a few holes and draws and fades off the tee are required. Iron play tends to be a key statistic, as the winner has ranked sixth or better in Strokes Gained: Approach in three straight tournaments. With many of the par-4s playing short and the rough being thicker this year, driving accuracy will be at more of a premium and players will look to play positional golf. Those with quality history on Florida tracks and Pete Dye designs will also get a bit of a boost.
The following players have the lowest scoring average at TPC Sawgrass over the last five tournaments.
As you can see, it’s tough to go low consistently here, with just four players averaging better than 1-under-par since 2017. After initially struggling at Sawgrass, Bradley has turned the corner, having made the cut six straight times. His solo fifth here last year was his beset result, and he was even in contention to win before closing bogey-double bogey. Bradley won’t jump off the board at 50-1 to win, but that might not be the worst thing. One of three former champions on the list is Day, who is listed at 28-1. Day won in 2016 and has posted a pair of top-10s since. While he has gone through his share of struggles over the last few years, you wouldn’t know it based on his recent results. In 11 starts this season, Day has a whopping nine top-25s. He appears to be on the brink of winning again soon.
The Correct Approach
These five golfers, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes on approach over their last 20 rounds.
With Sawgrass setting up as more of a second shot golf course, I’m eyeing iron play, and there’s nobody that’s done it better recently than Homa. He led the field in the category at Bay Hill and in his win at Torrey Pines. With two wins already this season, Homa is emerging as one of the best players in the world. He is tied for the sixth choice at 22-1. Meanwhile, Rahm is looking to bounce back from his worst finish since the Scottish Open last July. He struggled mightily in the driving accuracy department, which he’ll have to correct at Sawgrass. Assuming he does, the rest of his game is in excellent form. For the first time this year, he’s not the betting favorite, as he checks in behind McIlroy and even with Scottie Scheffler.
THE PLAYERS Championship Bets: Outright Picks
Scottie Scheffler (10-1)
With Rahm proving he is human, I think you can make a strong case that Scheffler is the man to beat this week. He won five times over the last 13 months and is coming off a T4 finish, which easily could have been his second win in three events had he not lost strokes on the greens.
Justin Thomas (20-1)
Thomas won here in 2021 despite an average putting week. He led the field in SG: Tee-to-Green that year, so we know he likes the course. He’s in solid form, having posted a top-25 in all five of his starts this year and finishing top-10 in ball striking at Bay Hill.
Will Zalatoris (35-1)
I’m going to continue to take the bait on Zalatoris if he remains above 30-1, as he put to rest any concerns about his health with his fourth-place finish at Riviera. He’s posted results of T26 and 21st in his two trips to Sawgras despite losing strokes with his short game both times.
THE PLAYERS Championship Bets: Top-10 Wagers
Keith Mitchell (5-1)
Mitchell is off to a hot start this year, posting four top-25s in his last five starts, including a pair of top-5s. He’s done it with dominant driving play, ranking top-10 in SG: Off-the-Tee in five straight tournaments and leading the field in that category last week. Mitchell notched his best PLAYERS result last year, finishing T13.
Chris Kirk (13-2)
Speaking of players in a groove, Kirk picked up his first win since 2015 two weeks ago for his third top-5 finish in five starts. He’s had some of his best results during the Florida Swing, including three top-15s here since 2014. I’m going to continue riding the hot hand.
Adam Scott (15-2)
Scott has historically played well over his 18 appearances at Sawgrass, with a win and nine top-20 finishes. As such, bettors will get plenty of value at this number. He’s had an uneventful start to the year with just one top-25, but he hasn’t missed a cut. I like him to round back into form here.
THE PLAYERS Championship Bets: Head-to-Head Matchups
This is an interesting matchup between two players who have struggled this year, but I prefer the Henley side. Horschel has just one top-25 in nine appearances at Sawgrass. Henley, meanwhile, has three such results and posted a career-best T13 here last year.
Detry will be making his first start at The PLAYERS, and while that comes with some risk, this is mainly a fade against Clark, who has missed the cut in both of his appearances. I like Detry at plus money in a format that favors consistency — he has failed to play the weekend just once in 11 starts this season.