Picking winners of a golf tournament is hard. Doing it consistently is downright impossible. However, finding value is something all bettors must practice in order to give themselves the best chance to make hay when the day finally comes that they select a champion.
Below, we will cover the best bets for THE PLAYERS Championship based on current form, course fit, and — of course — the value of their odds.
After yet another runner-up finish last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, we return to the original #elevatedevent and still the biggest single-event payday on the PGA Tour: THE PLAYERS Championship. Hosted annually at the diabolical TPC Sawgrass, THE PLAYERS boasts a winner history as complete as the history of golf itself. Perhaps not surprisingly given the tenor of the 2021-22 season, defending champion Cameron Smith is among the LIV defectors not in the field this week.
A rain-soaked weekend last year turned what is usually one of the most fun weeks of the season into a bit of a slog. Early forecasts indicate some showers Friday but mostly sunny conditions, and a return to Sunday drama at Pete Dye’s masterpiece is in order. Strokes gained: approach is the name of the game here, though the effects from hole to hole are more drastic.
A poor shot will be swallowed up by the water hazards in play on almost every hole; a good shot might end up wet, as well, and only a great shot puts not just birdie but sometimes par in play. Our card will be highlighted by golfers capable of those great approaches.
At The Top
Justin Thomas (+1900) – Don’t let this year’s stats fool you. Just 74th as of this week in strokes gained: approach, Thomas is digging himself out of a massive hole and will no doubt climb back toward the top 10 to 15, if not higher, where he’s finished each of the last six seasons. He hit every green in regulation on his Sunday round when winning in 2021, and he’s been on the cusp of a breakthrough week all season. Since the calendar turned to 2023, he’s played all the elevated events plus the Farmers Insurance Open and has finished top 25 each and every week. His only “close” finish was a fourth at the WM Phoenix Open that wasn’t close at all. Thomas fired a Sunday 65 to climb up the leaderboard but still finished six shots back of Scottie Scheffler (+1000).
Thomas is primed for a week where he puts it all together, and he’s the rare golfer to make the weekend consistently at Sawgrass. Since 2015, he has just one finish here worse than 35th. Besides his win, his best finishes are T3 in 2016 and T11 in 2018.
Collin Morikawa (+2800) – The golden boy has two major championships to his name and convincingly was the best young golfer in the world just 18 months ago, but a winless 2022 has relegated Morikawa to the middle-class betting range, where we’ll continue to hammer him. He began his career as a model of consistency, but Morikawa has become the ultimate feast-or-famine golfer. Despite the winless stretch last season, he managed eight top-10 finishes, and he’s back at it again this year with 2023 finishes of 2nd, 3rd, MC, T6, and MC. Nowhere is variance on the table quite like TPC Sawgrass. At a course that does not require massive distance and demands elite iron play, Morikawa looks like a perfect fit.
Sungjae Im (+3700) – One of the few in the field playing his fifth straight event, Sungjae found his touch on the bermuda greens last week after a poor weekend at PGA National. Fatigue is not a concern for the Tour’s ironman, and Im’s birdie-making ability is what catches the eye at 37/1. His T17 finish in good conditions in 2021 is weighted far more heavily than his T55 in the downpour last year, and consecutive top 10s a few events ago speak to how close Sungjae is. He is a winner who is still looking for that marquee championship, and THE PLAYERS would cement him among the game’s elite.
Shane Lowry (+4800) – Like Im, Lowry opted not to skip the Honda Classic and is on his fifth consecutive week of tournament golf. He’s on the cusp of putting it all together. Lowry was one of the best iron players on Tour in the 2021-22 season, full stop. He was solid enough to stretch from January to July with just two stroke play finishes outside the top 25 but unlucky enough that he failed to find a win over that stretch of consistency. He picked up a nice one overseas at the BMW PGA Championship, but his closing ability is the main reason he’s available at such a big number this week. He’s been 13th and 8th the past two years, and if he can shake off the poor weekend at Bay Hill, there’s no reason he can’t hang around the leaderboard again this week.
Hideki Matsuyama (+8500) – Hideki stormed out to the lead at TPC Sawgrass in 2020 only to see the tournament canceled before the second round. He missed 2022 with an injury and missed the cut in 2021 thanks to a disastrous putting performance. Before that, his history at TPC Sawgrass was rock solid. Throw out the first-round lead in 2020, he was 8th in 2019, missed cut in 2018, T22 in 2017, T7 in 2016, T17 in 2015, and T23 in 2014. The current form is a bit dicey, with a T9 at the Farmers Insurance Open the lone bright spot on his recent record. Consecutive missed cuts at The Genesis Invitational and Arnold Palmer Invitational spell trouble, but Matsuyama has never missed three straight cuts as a pro. At this price, we will gladly ride the course form and buy the Hideki variance pendulum swinging all the way the other way.