Golf’s unofficial fifth major, The Players Championship, gets underway today and the tournament is brimming with quality with all of the world’s top-50 doing battle at the historic TPC Sawgrass.
Our golf expert is here to offer his thoughts ahead of the action.
Hot-shot Speith looks a great price
As the market indicates (14/1 the field), this is a wide-open contest and there are plenty who are in decent form, but of the market principles, Jordan Speith is definitely the one that sticks out most.
On the face of it, his Sawgrass form isn’t great having missed the cut for the last three years, however he’s currently available at 16/1 with Grosvenorsport.com and that’s a price too big to pass up.
This season, he has really struggled with his putter, which for so long was the club which set him apart from his rivals. You could almost bank on him to hole a 15-footer in previous years when needed under pressure, however this year he has looked a shadow of his former self on the greens, continually missing short putts which have really halted his progress.
The flat stick, did however, look to beginning to behave itself at The Masters and his own evaluation of “it very well could be a spark for a really solid year” was very ominous indeed for his competitors.
The sight of holing putts would have instilled plenty of confidence into the Texan and with him being the leader in scrambling this year, Spieth has all the tools required to contend this week.
More comfort for Speith backers could be the fact that many of his market rivals either don’t seem to play well at Sawgrass or aren’t in any form. Dustin Johnson (14/1) has very poor Sawgrass form of MC-79-34-57-WD-59-69-28-12 and hasn’t really looked himself for a while.
Rory McIlroy (16/1) could manage only 16th on one of his self-professed favourite course last week at the Wells Fargo and seems to be lacking in self-confidence, while Justin Thomas (16/1) is going through a torrid time on the greens.
ZJ on form at TPC
Speith should go very well as should two-time major winner Zach Johnson at 60/1.
He is a big fan of TPC Sawgrass and his record here is very good, with 12 cuts made in 13 visits and a best of second place in 2012.
He showed signs at the Valero Texas Open last time, where he led through 54 holes, that he was getting back to somewhere near his best and it was patricianly encouraging to see the putter warm up.
Since winning the Open three years ago, Johnson’s performance on the greens has dropped significantly and that’s going to prove costly when you sacrifice the length off the tee that he does.
Johnson tends to perform at all Pete Dye designs, largely in part to his scrambling which is key to success around Sawgrass. 2017 champion Si-Woo Kim led, while Ian Poulter ranked second as he finished runner-up, and Jason Day also led the field when he won in 2016.
Missing in the right place is a requirement at all Dye designs, and Johnson has always been an expert in it. He managed to finish third at Whistling Straits in 2010 despite the course suiting those bombers in the field. He’s also finished third at TPC River Highlands, second at Harbour Town and 12th at Crooked Stick, all of which were created by Dye.