THE PLAYERS Championship, golf’s unofficial ‘fifth major’, gets underway at Sawgrass on Thursday.
This notoriously tricky course, famous for the iconic island green on hole 17, has undergone some interesting changes since last year – most notably the 12th hole which is now a driveable par four.
Accuracy, rather than power, is what’s needed, and plenty of famous names have struggled to get to grips with this course in the past. The huge prize money invariably attracts a top-class field and 24 of the world’s top 25 players join the battle this year.
World number one, Dustin Johnson, is in fine form going into this week’s tournament. He finished joint second and just one shot behind compatriot Brian Harman at Wells Fargo last weekend, on the back of three wins.
He heads the betting at 15/2 but has always struggled at Sawgrass, finishing 59th, 69th and 28th in the past three years.
Rory McIlroy has fared better here in recent years, finishing 12th best last year and recording top ten finishes in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
However, the world number two has recently returned from his honeymoon and this will be his first tournament since last month’s US Masters. It’s fair to expect him to be a shade rusty and he makes little appeal at odds of 10/1.
Jordan Spieth was an excellent fourth on his Sawgrass debut in 2014 but has missed the cut in both subsequent visits and looks short enough in the betting at 14/1.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia will be in a relaxed mood after finally breaking his Majors hoodoo and has performed well at Sawgrass in the past: he was tied second in 2015 and third the year before. He’s available at 18/1 and is the first to make the shortlist.
Jason Day led from start to finish 12 months ago after an opening round 63, but his five previous Sawgrass appearances include three missed cuts and he’s far from guaranteed to repeat last year’s heroics if he doesn’t get off to another flyer.
Hideki Matsuyama has got progressively closer with each appearance in this tournament, finishing 23rd, 17th and seventh. Priced at 22/1, he also enters calculations.
Kevin Chappell, runner-up last year, also recorded a top 30 finish in 2014 and recently tweeted that The Players Championship is one of his “favorite weeks of the year”.
He recorded his PGA Tour breakthrough win in the Texas Open last month and his confidence will be sky high. He’s no forlorn hope despite odds of 50/1.
Italian Francesco Molinari, priced at 60/1 outright and at 10/1 for a top-five finish, is another lively outsider. He tied seventh with Matsuyama last year and has been in good form in recent weeks.
The Players Championship, Sawgrass Odds
Sergio Garcia (18/1 to win)
Hideki Matsuyama (22/1 to win)
Kevin Chappell (50/1 to win)
Francesco Molinari (60/1 to win)
For more golf odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s golf betting.
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