The PGA Tour heads back to Florida for the "Fifth Major", THE PLAYERS Championship.
"THE PLAYERS" is capitalized for a reason since this is THE Championship for the PLAYERS and a lot of them covet this tournament more than any of the four real majors. That may sound narcissistic but this game is about the players and this is exactly what this tournament is about.
While a lot of the regular stops on the tour value experience, TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National are arguably the two biggest venues where experience matters the most. The average number of starts before a victory here is just over seven so just like Augusta, it takes a few years to win here, not including the 2002 win by Craig Perks.
It is a course that rewards accuracy but at the same time, scramblers can have success as long as their misses are in the right spots. Knowing where these spots are comes from experience and as mentioned, that is the biggest factor is success here.
When you think of TPC Sawgrass, you think of the 17th island Par 3, arguably the scariest 130-something shot in golf. It is definitely a risk-reward hole and getting out of there with a par is huge going into No. 18. Why? The 18th at Sawgrass is the second-toughest closing hole on tour going back to 1983. We have seen many PLAYERS won and lost on these final two holes and that’s what it should all be about.
With this being such a prestigious tournament, the field is full of big names with the Top 10 in each of the OWGR and the FedEx Cup Standings in the field. Additionally, nine past PLAYERS champions are here along with 25 major winners and 20 World Golf Championship winners. This makes for an exciting event that should again come down to the final holes Sunday.
Trying to defend his title will be Matt Kuchar (+3,000) and these odds are pretty tasty. He has not missed a cut this year, he has three medal play Top 10s and, prior to his win here last year, he placed in the Top 20 three times. But all is not perfect. Since his win at the Accenture Match Play, he has only one Top 10.
Lee Westwood (+2,500) has not won a major but this would get him back into the talks of being the best player in the world without one. He’s hot right now with three Top 10s in his last three starts and all have gotten better, from a T10 to a T8 to a T4. He has fared well at Sawgrass with three Top 10s, including a T4 in 2010.
Phil Mickelson (+2,500) is a former champion, winning here in 2007 and he has not missed a cut in his last 11 starts at Sawgrass. He has missed just one cut this year and he let his second win of the season get away at Quail Hollow last week as he bogeyed two of the last three holes to miss the playoff by just one shot.
Jason Day (+4,000) has had a lot of time to reflect on his Masters meltdown and he should be fresh and ready to go, having not played since the RBC Heritage. He has three Top 10s this season in medal play events and, while he missed the cut here last year battling injuries, he had a T6 here in 2011.
Bo Van Pelt (+4,000) has some inconsistent numbers at the PLAYERS but when he is on, he is really on. He’s made the cut just three times in eight starts but all three resulted in a top ten including a T7 last year. He’s coming off a great week at Quail Hollow where he finished T6 and can carry that into this week.
Ian Poulter (+6,000) is getting long-shot money here but he doesn’t fit into that category. He’s coming off a disappointing Masters where he missed the cut, so he should be fired up to make up for it. He has finished in the Top 25 here in two of the last four years, including a solo second in 2009 the year Henrik Stenson ran away with it Sunday.
Recommended tournament win five pack at The PLAYERS Championship (all for one unit)
Lee Westwood (+2,500)
Phil Mickelson (+2,500)
Jason Day (+4,000)
Bo Van Pelt (+4,000)
Ian Poulter (+6,000)
2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date after 17 events: +10.6 Units
Hyundai Tournament of Champions -5 Units
Sony Open in Hawaii -5 Units
Humana Challenge - 5 Units
Farmer Insurance Open +3.5 Units
Waste Management Phoenix Open +19 Units
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am -5 Units
Northern Trust Open -5 Units
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship +25.66 units
The Honda Classic -5 Units
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Tampa Bay Championship -5 Units
Arnold Palmer Invitational -1.5 Units
Shell Houston Open -5 Units
The Masters -8 Units
RBC Heritage +27 Units
Zurich Classic of New Orleans -5 Units
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