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  • Writer's pictureTom Ford

The Players Championship preview and betting tips 2023


Patrick Cantlay
Patrick to turn around TCP Sawgrass woes

The Players Championship Golf Tips

Patrick Cantlay - 19/1 2pts win

Matt Fitzpatrick - 45/1 1pt win

Keegan Bradley - 48/1 2pts ew 8 places

Shane Lowry - 55/1 1pt ew 8 places

Tommy Fleetwood - 80/1 .5 ew 8 places

Matt Kuchar - 130/1 1pt ew 12 places


Purr Kitty Purr….

10 holes into Jon Rahm’s round on Thursday last week and most of us had our hands in our heads again with what looked to be an onslaught by the big Spaniard.


What happened thereafter none of us could have predicted, and Bayhill knocked up a great weekend again, the event really is underrated and should be elevated every year in my opinion, better yet, let’s take a US Open there it delivers time and time again.


What a brilliant display by Kurt Kitayama, one for the longshots but I wasn’t shocked to see him thereabouts. He has shown in big events in the past he can compete and I don’t think you’ll see bookmakers risking a price around 250/1 on him again for a long time.


What was brilliant to see was him holding off the big hitters, punches from all kinds of angles, Sheffler, Rory, even Speith had a go but Kitty held them off again and again. Shout out to Kitty’s Army, you know who you are, a live add was inevitable, especially when the books were offering 30/1, at a time when he was leading at the weekend, hope everyone had a piece.


I was really disappointed with my 3 main picks last week. Xander had himself in prime position after the cut and he just kept finding the water, that has really put me off him when I thought I was jumping on him at just the right time. Fitzy doesn’t seem to have a big issue with his neck that he was complaining about, which is encouraging but his putter was just cold all weekend, annoying. Lastly I’ve got to mention Zalatoris, I was sure from what I’ve seen of him this year he was back to some of his form he found last season. But worryingly he just doesn’t seem able to put 4 rounds together, he might be one to just sit back and watch for a few months and see what entails, shame because he is one of those likeable guys I love backing.

Does The Players need much introduction…

It almost seems silly trying to set up such a well known event like this one. The 5th Major, the Island Green, tough ball striking test, water, Florida’s finest. What else do you need reminding of.


For those of you maybe that are not as familiar I’ll give some background with maybe a twist for those of you who might get bored.


The Players, is played at TPC Sawgrass, it’s a Par 72 and is one of the most iconic courses in the world. Pete Dye re-design, and Pete Dye used Goats, yes Goats those furry four legged herd animals to scope the course back in the 80’s, free labour, ey. The stadium course at Sawgrass is not huge in length; 7,256 yards; the course is really about how you plot your way around it, and delivers something different every year. This course was designed for the spectators, which is crazy when you think about it, how did a course designed for the people watching become such a tough event for the players playing on it. Well the water that’s how, this course delivers risk and reward on nearly every hole, and yes there is a water hazard on 17 of the 18 holes here.


Experience mixed with lack of fear is what is needed to plan out your route to victory. This event seems to provide a completely different leaderboard every year so looking back at the history is not really worth it. Whether that has been down to the wind or whether is takes the best of the best ball strikers to win, who knows, but this provides a different story every year without fail.


Fairways and Rough are that mixture we see many times in Florida, Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass; Greens are fairly average in size at around 5,500 sq.ft. and are Bermuda overseeded with Poa Trivialis; running a regular 12 on the stimp but don’t let that fool you, you need to be able two putt basically 90% of the time to win here. Not only does that correlate on the Bogey Avoidance heavy weight but also making advantage of the par 5’s where eagles and birdies are so important to gain shots on the rest of the field.

The Players Winners: 2022: Cameron Smith (-13); 2021: Justin Thomas (-14); 2019: Rory McIlroy (-16); 2018: Webb Simpson (-18); 2017: Si Woo Kim (-10); 2016: Jason Day (-15); 2015: Rickie Fowler (-12); 2014: Martin Kaymer (-15); 2013: Tiger Woods (-13); 2012: Matt Kuchar (-13); 2011: K.J. Choi (-13);

This week’s model…

So, where are we with my model for this week. I already briefly mentioned Bogey avoidance and scoring on the par 5’s, but no more than that is what I believe to be most important and the no1 weighted stat to look at is; Strokes Gained Approach.


It’s really that simple, this course is a 2nd shot golf course, and yes you need to be in position A off the tee to have a better chance of gaining close proximity to the hole, however, bombing the golf ball is not important, nor is a complete game in driving accuracy. We’ve seen winners here hit it in the rough now and again but still gain because their short game and wedges are just so good resulting in minimizing those bogeys. The absolute red flag, however if you doing one of those things off the tee above is just avoiding the water. There are realistically 8 possible chances of you finding the water off the tee and that’s before we even get to the risk and reward from the 2nd shot.


To add to our approach with the irons and another huge weighted element for me this week is around the green. The last 6 of 10 winners here have been in the top 10 for Strokes Gained Around the Green and that has to be a factor when weighing my model. We’ve seen elite players not been in great form coming to this event; the likes of Justin Thomas, Si Woo Kim, Keegan Bradley, Shane Lowry, but turn up at The Players and absolutely revel in the prospect of showing us how good they are chipping and pitching the ball, almost igniting their season.


The putting is as important as ever, but you can have spike rounds here with the putter and get away with it, there are examples of this with players like Doug Ghim who has only had 8 rounds here but is 2nd for putting stats and I don’t remember the Ghim reaper being an elite putter, correct me if I’m wrong. So in short, putting on Bermuda may be a soft weight on my model this week, but I’m certainly not looking into elite putters as an individual part of the model.


I’m expecting the winning score this week to be around -15, a mid score and that aspect will also be seen in my model and I would like to see some mid score positive players who can really get at this course but also choosing the right time to attack flags rather than just shooting from the hip every 2nd shot.


So, I hope that helps you gain some insight into the types of players to win The Players, quality ball strikers, knowing when it’s the right time to attack, soft touch around the green and working out how to plot your way around this iconic Florida golf course.

How I’ve made up the model this week;

SG Approach

Par 5 Performance

Bermuda Positive

SG Tee to Green

SG Around the Green

Bogey Avoidance

Prox. To the hole

Wind positive

Dye positive

Florida positive

Top 25 players based on that model;

1 Jon Rahm 17/2

2 Rory McIlroy 9/1

3 Justin Thomas 20/1

4 Scottie Scheffler 11/1

5 Patrick Cantlay 18/1

6 Tony Finau 25/1

7 Tyrrell Hatton 30/1

8 Jason Day 28/1

9 Xander Schauffele 22/1

10 Keith Mitchell 60/1

11 Viktor Hovland 25/1

12 Sungjae Im 35/1

13 Collin Morikawa 25/1

15 Tommy Fleetwood 75/1

16 Jhonattan Vegas 175/1

17 Max Homa 20/1

18 Shane Lowry 45/1

19 Justin Rose 100/1

20 Seamus Power 90/1

21 Rickie Fowler 55/1

22 Matthew Fitzpatrick 35/1

23 Brian Harman 125/1

24 Cameron Young 35/1

25 Tom Hoge 110/1

I’ve gone with some home favourites this week, mainly because this is the type of event you can do that, there is a good chance you will see some new names at the top of the leaderboard that you may not have seen in previous weeks. You of course want guys that suit this course and appear on your model but you also need a lot of luck to get this right, you just hope your player balances sensible play with quality attacking play. Let’s beat those books. Lets go.


If you want to play my new weekly fantasy competition, look out for my updates on my twitter @tomford9931 and my site www.drawshankgolf.com .

Patrick Cantlay - 19/1 2pts win

This bet is just because it makes sense, and you won’t be lost on write ups about Patty ice this week. I hate betting him I gotta be honest, but he’s playing so well right now and he’s not short of good form round Sawgrass either. Great for avoiding trouble, sensible middle of the green type player and we know how simple he makes it look with his irons. Let’s just hope for a sloshy Saturday, keep licking those lips Patty.

Matt Fitzpatrick - 45/1 1pt win

This number on Fitz has just crept to one that will remain on my card as long as it stays there. I am going to be completely honest every part of me wanted this pick to be Homa here, but he’s been cursed by so many and I just prefer the way Fitzy putts on this surface, he’s much more of a Florida guy than some of those around him that’s for sure. Gaining lots of strokes last week on approach and doesn’t seem to be effected by the neck pain he has been talking about, the question you should be asking, why can’t he?

Keegan Bradley - 48/1 2pts ew 8 places

I’m going back to my man Keegan, he just creeps in under the radar and what we seen from him on Sunday again for the 4th time already this season just an onslaught of birdies, a putting masterclass you could say, he just needs to put himself close enough for that to turn into a big win. People forget he has 11 professional wins and can get it done when he just brings some consistency in. 5th here last year, top 10’s everywhere, I expect a popular pick this week and Keegan is going to deliver.

Shane Lowry - 55/1 1pt ew 8 places

Yes he’s back, I’m not sure I can bare this week without Shane on my card, a bit of fear of missing out, but it doesn’t come without some cold hard evidence. Gaining strokes approach again week after week, exactly what’s needed here and we know how good those Irish hands are around the greens. I have been particularly impressed how well he’s been taking chances on the par 5’s, something that he’s just starting to capitalise on rather than relying on just his short game. Shaner, start the car please.

Tommy Fleetwood - 80/1 .5 ew 8 places

Another reappearance on the card from last week, and another I just can’t avoid, going with the trend. Tommy is up and down like a YOYO but looking at the data it’s actually only the flat stick causing those dips and spikes. Consistently every round gaining strokes approach, and 3rd on the PGA tour for strokes gained around the green, in the small number of events he’s played anyway and that made me hit the big green button this week. Another one we just need to get hot with the putter and we could be in a great position.

Matt Kuchar - 130/1 1pt ew 12 places

This spot could have been filled by a few, you’ll see that evidence probably in my props below. But I plugged with Kuch because he stands out in this event. Horse for the course, loads of experience and amazingly is no1 in the world for scrambling this year, that is enough for a huge plug at 130/1, kuchhhhh.

Props/Futures

Sepp Straka (Top 10) 18/1

Min Woo Lee (Top 10) 18/1

Ben Griffin (Top 20) 9/1

Tom Kim (Previous Future) 40/1

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