Friday, December 8, 2023

THE PLAYERS Championship 2023 Expert Picks: Back Will Zalatoris, Max Homa & Jason Day at TPC Sawgrass

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While THE PLAYERS Championship is still one of the biggest events of the year, it feels a little less like the “fifth major” now that we have all of these other designated events.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the event and love TPC Sawgrass, but we’ve already seen the best golfers in the world square off against each other at TPC Scottsdale, Riviera Country Club and Bay Hill. THE PLAYERS used to be the first event of the year when we would see all of the elites in the same place.

As far as the course goes, TPC Sawgrass (Stadium) is a par-72 that measures 7,275 yards. It was designed by Pete Dye, and like most of his courses, this one can’t be overpowered off the tee. It’s better to be in the fairway than it is to be a bomber here, and that’s for a few reasons — the rough is thick, there aren’t great angles into the green if you miss the fairway, and there are water hazards lurking everywhere. In fact, water comes into play on 17 of the 18 holes.

As far as difficulty, that hinges on the weather. When the wind is up, this can be a very difficult test of golf. When the wind isn’t extreme, this typically plays as the easiest of the four Florida courses that are in the rotation each year. With moderate wind in the forecast for the week, we should see some good scoring. With all of that said, this doesn’t mean we won’t see golfers have awful weeks. More than other any venue, we will see a lot of elite golfers miss the cut.

The greens at TPC Sawgrass are small (5,500 square feet on average) and are lightning fast. We’ve seen the greens get baked out here on the weekend, and that could be the case this week without any rain in the forecast. The small greens place an emphasis on approach play and on around the green play. It’s no coincidence that the last two winners here have been Cameron Smith and Justin Thomas, two of the best when it comes to approach play and scrambling.

There are plenty of decent options on the betting board this week. I have my eye on three outrights and a top-40 parlay.

Outright Bets

Max Homa (+2200 Caesars)

Homa was an average short game week away from winning last week at Bay Hill. He led the field in approach and gained 11.1 strokes ball striking. Typically, he’s one of the best on and around the greens.

He’s one of those players who seems to thrive under pressure, and while he has some nice wins on his resume, adding THE PLAYERS would be huge for his career. He doesn’t have a weakness in his game, he’s not going to back down when he’s in contention (see: The Genesis Invitational against Jon Rahm), and he finished T13 here last season.

Jason Day (+2900 FanDuel)

I snagged +3600 right when the odds came out, but that is no longer available. For the record, I still love the +2900 available on FanDuel. Day has recorded four straight top 10s, and he’s finished in the top 25 in 10 of his last 11 starts.

He doesn’t have a weakness in his game and is starting to putt like he did when he was the best player in the world. It’s only a matter of time before he’s back in the winner’s circle, and it could certainly come this week at TPC Sawgrass where he has a win and three more top-10 finishes in his career.

Will Zalatoris (+3500 DraftKings)

Isn’t it wild how quickly everyone overreacts in the golf betting world? Zalatoris was one of the most popular bets at Bay Hill last week, but now nobody wants to bet him at an even better number this week. Sure, his T53 finish was a disappointment, but he still gained 5.6 strokes ball striking.

We know he loves difficult golf courses, we know he has a great track record in Florida (and in the wind), and we know he can win on courses that have a lot of water (TPC Southwind). He’s played here twice and finished in the top 30 both times.

Top-40 Parlay

Keegan Bradley + Chris Kirk + Tom Kim (+651 FanDuel)

For the parlay, I went with three of the most consistent golfers on the PGA TOUR. Keegan Bradley has made six straight cuts at this event and already has four top-10 finishes on the season. He’s an excellent ball striker and an improving putter. Kirk seems to flourish in Florida, as evidenced by his win at The Honda Classic and a T39 finish last year. He doesn’t have a major weakness in his game and is very familiar with TPC Sawgrass.

While this is Tom Kim’s first appearance at THE PLAYERS, I can’t think of a better course for the young phenom. He’s one of the most accurate drivers, he’s one of the best in the world with his irons, and he’s very underrated on the greens. He also has Rickie Fowler’s old caddie, Joe Skovron, (they won this event together) on the bag.

Enjoy the golf, let’s hit an outright this week!

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