The 2020 Players Championship takes place this week at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. All of the biggest names in golf are in the 144-man field, except for Tiger Woods. Woods withdrew over the weekend as he focuses on his final preparations for his defense of the Masters, which takes place in just four weeks at Augusta National (April 9-12). Below, we make our Players Championship betting picks based on the outright and prop odds at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook.
Rory McIlroy, ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, will defend his 2019 Players Championship title. He had a disappointing T-5 finish at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, but it still marked a seventh straight top-five finish for the reigning Player of the Year. This year’s Players Championship prize purse was increased to $15 million, with the winner taking home $2.7 million. The star-studded field sees inflated odds for many of the world’s top golfers. It’s a week when bettors must carefully balance statistical fit, course history, current form, and pedigree.
The course: TPC Sawgrass
Arguably the most famous course in professional golf outside of Augusta National, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass measures 7,189 yards and plays to a par of 72. Each of the past 11 winners finished 10-under par or below since Sergio Garcia won with a finishing score of minus-5 in 2008. Webb Simpson‘s 18-under score to win by four strokes in 2018 was the lowest mark since Greg Norman’s tournament-record minus-24 in 1994.
The signature hole is, of course, the 137-yard, par-3 17th with the famed island green. It’s the shortest of the four par 3s with the others checking in at 177, 237, and 181 yards. The par 4s range from 302 yards to 481; three are shorter than 400 yards. The four par 5s are between 523 and 583 yards in length. The easiest hole in 2019 was the 302-yard, par-4 12th. It saw eight eagles and 217 birdies carded against just 30 bogeys. The most difficult hole was the 471-yard, par-4 5th at a scoring average of 4.235. It saw 106 bogeys and 21 doubles against 43 birdies and a lone eagle. No. 17 played to a scoring average of 2.998 with one ace, 96 birdies, 31 bogeys, 24 doubles, and five others.
The greens are Bermuda grass and are commonly overseeded to run faster. Water is again a major concern for all competitors and not just on No. 17.
Key stats to consider for your Players Championship betting picks
The Players Championship may draw out the strongest field of the PGA Tour season year-over-year, but it hasn’t prevented longshots from winning. The No. 1 golfer in the world entering the week of the tournament has won just twice since 2010. Four of the last 10 champions began the week ranked outside of the top 40.
TPC Sawgrass, designed by the late Pete Dye, was carefully set up as to not favor any mold of golfer or shot preference. That can be seen clearly when looking at previous champions and their statistical trends. The key stats we’ll be focused on are Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, Strokes Gained: Around the Green, Opportunities Gained, Greens in Regulation Gained, and Proximity: 125-150 Yards.
My model at Fantasy National looks at the most recent 36 rounds for each golfer in the field on courses shorter than 7,200 yards.
Players Championship betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Betting W/O Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas: Patrick Reed +3100
Reed has made the cut each of the last four years (and four of the past five) at TPC Sawgrass but with a top finish of T-22 in 2017. The winner of the WGC-Mexico Championship skipped The Honda Classic and tied for 15th at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. At No. 8 in the OWGR, he’s the eighth-best golfer in attendance, but he has just the 18th-best odds to win outright at +3600 at FanDuel. Removing the top three players in the world and four of the top-five betting favorites, Reed remains an attractive bet at better than 30-1.
He ranks just 65th by the stat model with a top rank of 22nd in SG: Around the Green, but experience and pedigree matter most at TPC Sawgrass and Reed has plenty of both.
Straight forecast: 1. Rory McIlroy / 2. Tommy Fleetwood +20000
McIlroy choked away yet another win last week at Bay Hill for his third straight fifth-place finish. His putter cost him the most last week, as he gained 2.53 strokes per round from tee-to-green. Last year’s Players Championship marked his first win in six events to begin 2019, capping a stretch in which he finished T-4, T-5, T-4, 2, and T-6. He leads the stat model and ranks second in the field in SG: Ball Striking, third in Opportunities Gained and fourth in SG: Around the Green.
Fleetwood’s 2.34 strokes gained per round at TPC Sawgrass over 12 career rounds are more than anyone else in the field with a minimum of 10 rounds played. He finished T-7 in 2018 and T-5 last year. He missed the cut last week following a disappointing third-place finish at The Honda Classic and a T-18 result in Mexico.
Pair the two together in a straight forecast with McIlroy finishing first and Fleetwood as the runner-up. Both golfers are priced below 30-1 to win outright on their own.
Outright: Scottie Scheffler +11000
Scheffler, a PGA Tour rookie, enters the week ranked 47th in the world following his T-15 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The reigning Korn Ferry Tour Player of the Year has missed the cut in just two of 13 events since his graduation to open the 2019-20 season. He’s +8000 to win outright at DraftKings, signaling excellent value at FanDuel.
The 23-year-old ranks 22nd by the stat model entering his debut at TPC Sawgrass. He’s 18th in the field in Opportunities Gained, and he would have finished even higher last week if it wasn’t for an uncharacteristic putting performance where he lost 4.8 strokes on the greens.
Players Championship betting picks: Our winner
Webb Simpson +3300
The 2018 champion and seventh-ranked golfer in the world ranks just 11th by the odds to win. He’s notably part of the group of tournament favorites removed from the odds in FanDuel’s prop mentioned above. He tied for 16th in both 2017 and last year at TPC Sawgrass. Simpson has 15 top-10 finishes since his 2018 win, and he picked up his first victory of 2020 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February. He seeks his first multi-win calendar year since 2011.
He’s fifth by the stat model while ranking 16th in the field in SG: Ball Striking, Opportunities Gained and Proximity from the key distance.
This article was originally published on Monday evening. Odds subject to change.