*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change
This week see’s the first really big event on the 2022 golfing calendar as the PGA Tour heads to TPC Sawgrass for its flagship tournament, The Players Championship.
One of the most iconic courses on the tour, the Pete Dye design never fails to deliver its share of drama, particularly on the signature par three 17th with its famous island green.
Over the years here the thing that has become most apparent is that experience and past course form is the key to unlocking the track.
It is, undoubtedly, a ‘horses for courses’ venue, where the winner has more often than not gained a bank of several years of experience and who also arrives in strong form. This last point is highlighted by the fact that the worst finish here of the last ten winners in their previous start to this event was 22nd.
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Collin Morikawa currently holds marginal favouritism over the one man above him in the world rankings, Jon Rahm. Of the two, the preference would be for the Spaniard Rahm, who has a far greater bank of experience here, placing ninth last year. He has, though, proved hard to follow of late with his cold putter a particular cause of frustration. Without a win since his US Open triumph last June, he is not for me at the odds.
Last year’s champion Justin Thomas, who follows this pair in the market, has the challenge of becoming the first player to defend the trophy at Sawgrass, while Rory McIlroy continues to throw in too many mistakes. Add in Morikawa, along with Victor Hovland and Patrick Cantlay, do not yet have a top 20 here between them and I am happy to overlook those at the top of the market.
I’m going to focus on the next tier of players in the betting to make up the bulk of our team and sticking with the mix of current form and good course history, that leads us to Thomas last year will start things off with Daniel Berger.
Berger looked for all the world the winner of the Honda Invitational last time out having played superbly over the first three days to open up a three shot lead. Inexplicably, though, the wheels came off on Sunday to open the door for Sepp Straka to bag the title.
There is no doubt that loss will have stung Berger. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact he played great golf over the first three days.
A four-time winner on tour, at his best Berger is renowned for his ball striking and he currently ranks fifth on tour from tee to green, the key attribute here, while as a Floridian he is most at home on the Bermuda greens.
A best of ninth last year on his sixth visit gives us exactly the sort of bank of form here we are looking for and I expect him to produce a big performance this week.
Next up is another player who was in the hunt at the Honda, Shane Lowry. The Irishman arrives in Jacksonville this week looking to end a winless period that stretches back to his Open Championship triumph at Portrush in 2019.
At the Honda, Lowry built on a solid start to his 2022 with his long game particularly impressive and but for an ill-timed rain deluge as he stood on the 18th tee he could easily have gone home with the trophy.
Like Berger, Lowry produced his best effort here last year when eighth and I am happy to jump onboard.
Two others who appeal at similar odds are Billy Horschel and Matt Fitzpatrick. Local man Horschel, who is currently on one of his ‘hot streaks’, which so often ends in a victory, has never managed better than 13th place here. However, having come really close at Bay Hill last week, I expect him to continue to fire.
Fitzpatrick, meanwhile, has posted three straight top 10s having finished ninth here last year, he appears to have got to grips with the track.
A four-time tour winner, Kirk’s accurate tee to green game is a perfect fit for TPC Sawgrass and I expect him to perform strongly again this week.
The Players’ Championship tips:
* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
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