Rory McIlroy might be a good bet on a number of different fronts this week.
The PGA Tour’s has one huge tournament to anchor each month in the heart of the golf season from March-September. There’s the WGC-Match Play in March and the Masters in April. June is the month of the U.S. Open, July has the British Open, August the PGA Championship and September the FedEx Cup playoffs and season-ending Tour Championship.
The anchor tournament for May is the Players Championship, sometimes referred to as the “fifth major.” It tees off Thursday in northeast Florida and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson is the betting favourite on Sports Interaction’s golf odds.
Players Championship Odds Favourites
The Players Championship is held at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., which is near Jacksonville. That course has one of the more iconic holes in golf, the par-3 17th island hole. There have been some renovations done since last year. The biggest change is on No. 12, which remains a par 4 but is now drivable at 303 yards – if the golfers try that and aren’t accurate they are looking at a potential crooked number with water and pot bunkers as penalties. The course will play at par 72 measuring around 7,189 yards.
It’s easily the best field of the year thus far with 48 of the world’s Top 50 entered. The ones not are Belgium’s Thomas Pieters and American Brandt Snedeker, who is injured. Only Tiger Woods’ back injury is keeping this tournament from getting every winner of the last 28 Players and major championships. The players who have combined to win the last 45 PGA Tour events will be teeing off. The purse is the biggest for a non-major on Tour ($10.5 million U.S.) and the winner gets a five-year PGA Tour exemption, among other goodies.
Johnson is the +800 favourite, which make sense and also doesn’t. Johnson nearly won his fourth straight tournament last week at the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina, finishing tied for second a shot behind Brian Harman, who made a 30-foot birdie putt on his 72nd hole to avoid a playoff with Johnson and Pat Perez. Johnson has not fared well in this tournament without a single Top 25 in eight trips. He was 28th a year ago.
Rory McIlroy, who recently got married, is +1200 along with Jordan Spieth. McIlroy hasn’t finished worse than 12th the past four years at the Players. Spieth was T4 in his 2014 debut and has missed the cut the past two years.
Reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia is +1800. He’s the all-time leading money-winner at the tournament, won in 2008 and was second in 2007 & ’15. Defending champion Jason Day of Australia is +2200; no player has repeated in this event. Just six guys have won it at least twice. Day tied the course record with a 63 in his 2016 opening round and led wire-to-wire, prevailing by four shots over Kevin Chappell.
Canadian Golfer Odds
A Canadian has won this tournament: in 2006, Stephen Ames got the biggest victory of his life – one of his four career PGA Tour wins – by finishing at 14-under 274, a whopping six shots ahead of South African Retief Goosen.
Adam Hadwin is +8000 to win and +130 as the highest-finishing Canadian. Hadwin was most recently 72nd at the Texas Open and was 39th here in 2016 after missing the cut in his 2015 debut. Graham DeLaet (+14800 & +210) had a sixth-place finish the week after the Masters at the RBC Heritage in his last start. He has missed the cut the Players two of the past here years.
David Hearn (+41700 & +400) Mackenzie Hughes (+52600 & +550) round out the options. Hearn, who missed the cut last week, was sixth at the 2014 Players and 28th last year. Hughes, T31 last week, is playing this tournament for the first time.
Players Championship Betting Picks
If there’s a playoff, it’s a three-hole aggregate played in order over the final three holes. That format change was put into place three years ago and Rickie Fowler won in 2015 over Garcia and Kevin Kisner in the lone playoff since.
Sports Interaction has some golf group betting among its props. I lean McIlroy in Group A at +333 and Justin Thomas at +275 in Group C. I like Hearn among the Canadian players. For Top 10s, go with McIlroy, Thomas and 2012 champion Matt Kuchar. I hate to bet against Garcia at this course, but he might still be celebrating his Masters win.
Thomas is my winning pick at +3000. He was T3 here last year after a final-round 65. He will play the first two rounds with Johnson and McIlroy.