TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., once again welcomes the PGA Tour’s best for The Players Championship. An expanded field of 154 is in attendance and is fronted by 18 of the top-20 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Below, we’ll shop the odds at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook for the best sleepers and values in our 2021 Players Championship betting picks.
The most notable absence this week is world No. 12 Brooks Koepka. He withdrew Sunday afternoon due to a knee injury. Matthew Wolff (No. 20) and Tiger Woods (No. 57) are also off this week. Rory McIlroy defends his 2019 title two years later after the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic following Round 1.
Bryson DeChambeau is coming off victory at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. He held off surprise challengers Lee Westwood and Corey Conners in tough Sunday conditions for his eighth career PGA Tour win. He has at least a share of this week’s second-best odds behind pre-tournament betting favorite and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
The course: TPC Sawgrass
Home to the PGA Tour headquarters, the Pete and Alice Dye-designed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass hosts The Players Championship for the 39th consecutive year. It measures 7,189 yards and plays to a par of 72. Water is in play on up to 15 holes, most-notably on the prized 137-yard, par-3 “Island Green” 17th.
Sergio Garcia in 2008 was the last champion to finish with a score worse than 10-under par at minus-5. The low scores shouldn’t understate the difficulty and challenges posed by TPC Sawgrass.
The Tour’s prized jewel was carefully crafted in order to not favor any particular brand of golf. Many of the game’s longest hitters will lose their advantage with tee shots needing to be carefully placed to set up the best angles into the greens. Iron and wedge play is more strongly tied to quality finishes. This is the third straight course on the Florida Swing to feature Bermudagrass greens.
Seven holes played below par in 2019. All four par 5s had a sub-par scoring average, as did one of four par 3s, and just two of 10 pars 4s. The easiest hole two years ago was the 302-yard, par-4 12th at 0.462 strokes under par. The most difficult was the 471-yard, par-4 5th at a scoring average of 4.235.
Key stats to consider for your 2021 Players Championship betting picks
As noted above, Strokes Gained: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green are our two most important stats for this week. SG: Around-the-Green should be considered and SG: Putting stats from the last two weeks on Bermuda greens carry a little more weight than usual. We should also look at Par 5 Scoring Average, Bogey Avoidance, and Driving Accuracy to lesser degrees.
No one has ever won The Players Championship in back-to-back years. There hasn’t been a repeat winner since Woods won in 2013 in addition to 2001. Four of the last eight and eight of the last 12 champions of TPC Sawgrass have been from outside of the United States.
Si Woo Kim in 2017 is among the biggest longshot winners in recent Players Championship history. He did so at then-No. 73 in the OWGR.
2021 Players Championship betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Jason Kokrak +9500
Kokrak’s coming off a quality T-8 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He was fourth in the field with 2.51 SG: Tee-to-Green for the week but lost 0.46 SG: Putting per round. He’s still averaging 0.80 strokes gained per round with the flat stick for the season and his victory last fall at The CJ Cup came on Bermuda greens at Shadow Creek.
Kokrak tied for ninth at the WGC-Workday Championship two weeks ago against most of this week’s top contenders. He has an unimpressive history at TPC Sawgrass, but made the cut each of the last two years and his career has continued on an upward climb following his first PGA Tour win.
He’s +6600 at DraftKings and represents strong value at FanDuel.
Cameron Smith +7500
Smith is just +5500 at DraftKings as another strong value bet highlighting the importance of shopping around. He followed a fourth-place finish against a strong field at The Genesis Invitational with a T-11 showing at the WGC event. He was off last week but returns to TPC Sawgrass for his fourth appearance at The Players Championship.
Smith is tied with DeChambeau for the PGA Tour lead in Par 5 scoring average through 38 rounds this season. He’s also 29th in Bogey Avoidance and is gaining strokes on approach, around-the-green, and with the putter.
Tommy Fleetwood +4500
Fleetwood earned a T-10 finish last week despite losing 0.60 strokes per round off-the-tee. One of golf’s premier ball-strikers, he’ll have an easier time at the considerably shorter TPC Sawgrass with less emphasis on the driver. He was eighth among those who made the cut with 1.18 SG: Approach per round.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational was Fleetwood’s second PGA Tour event of 2021 following a T-44 finish at the WGC-Workday Championship. He’s still searching for his first North American win, but he’s getting more familiar with these marquee tournaments and top courses.
He has gained an average of 1.78 strokes per round on the field over 13 career rounds at TPC Sawgrass. Fleetwood tied for seventh in 2018 and for fifth in 2019 at The Players Championship.
2021 Players Championship betting picks: Our winner
Webb Simpson +2200
Simpson, the 2018 Players champion by four strokes, enters the week as the 10th-best player in the field. Due to his course history, he shares the sixth-best odds to win with Collin Morikawa at FanDuel. A two-time winner last year, he has slipped from No. 6 to No. 10 in the OWGR since the end of 2020 despite earning two top-10 finishes in four events to start this year.
The seven-time PGA Tour winner is fourth this season in driving accuracy, T-9 in Par 5 scoring average, and third in bogey avoidance. He’s averaging 1.23 SG: Tee-to-Green with 0.52 SG: Around-the-Green, and 0.72 SG: Putting per round. Three of his PGA Tour victories have followed at least one week off from tournament play.
This article was originally published Monday, March 8. Odds subject to change.
Best golf betting sites
The PGA Tour is one of the major focuses of online and mobile sportsbooks such as DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, and BetMGM. All three online books, and their respective mobile apps, offer outright, placing, matchup and prop odds on weekly tournaments, as well as futures on majors and the Ryder and Presidents Cups. It’s also possible to live-bet a tournament mid-round or at the end of the first, second, or third rounds as odds adjust.
Once you have an account on your book of choice, select PGA Tour or Golf from the top menu alongside NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and the other sporting options. From there, choose the tournament for a given week, or look to the Masters, PGA Championship, US Open, or Open Championship among the available futures bets. Place your wagers for the outright winner, top 5 or top 10 finishers, or head-to-head round or tournament matchups.
How to bet on golf and win
Odds to win a tournament can range from as low as +500 for a favorite like world No. 1 Rory McIlroy in an event with a weaker field to upward of +250000 for a little known, low-ranked golfer. Outrights are also available to lead after each round, with odds rising slightly for the top of the field and dropping for the longshots. It’s best to spread out your wagers across several golfers with odds of +2000 or higher while steering clear of the heavy favorites.
All books will offer bets for a top 5, top 10, top 20 or even top 30 finish, either for the whole tournament or for each round. The odds drop significantly, especially for a top 30 showing, but it’s a good way to still get action on the longshot you like when backing a win is too much of a risk. These odds are released a little later than the outright odds.
Head-to-head or 3-ball
These bets pair golfers from the same tournament groupings or from similar Official World Golf Ranking positions for the best score in either a single round or the tournament. Compare world rankings of golfers from the same group, while adjusting for current form and course history. Odds will generally range from -150 to +150 for a much smaller return on your investment.
Like the above, books will also compose larger groups of comparable golfers based on their OWGR position, or nationality. Back a golfer to finish as the top American or top South African. Groups generally consist of between six and eight golfers with odds ranging from -110 to +1000.
These bets carry an incredible amount of risk but can be best way to find value in fields fronted by two of the world’s top golfers. You’ll need to predict the exact finishing position of the winner and runner-up, i.e. McIlroy to win and Jon Rahm to finish second. While they’d individually be carrying outright odds lower than +1000, the straight forecast can fetch a much greater return.
Each way bets combine an outright bet with a placing wager. Bettors make both bets and are paid out for both if their golfer wins, or just for the placing of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th.
The PGA Tour website (and other sites) track golfer scoring by round and by tee time, whether it be in the morning or afternoon. Look at these stats and recent form and back a longshot to get off to a hot start before falling off. Additionally, someone like McIlroy will often have higher odds to lead after just 18 holes than he would to win the tournament.
Weekly props ask for a hole-in-one to be scored, for the winner to birdie the 72nd hole, or for the event to go to a playoff. These are generally far less profitable than an outright ticket or other props. Like Super Bowl novelty props, there isn’t a whole lot of research required for most of these odds, and odds will be heavily skewed toward the most likely result.
Golf betting strategy
Having gone over where to bet on the PGA Tour and some of the available betting options, we’ll now look at some strategies for long-term golf betting success to keep you turning a consistent profit week-to-week.
Unlike in the NFL where bettors have up to 16 games on which to bet per week, or the NBA, MLB or NHL with 10-15 games per day, golf bettors have around 155 golfers they could back every week. It’s important to diversify and back several different golfers each week, all while focusing on longshots. Like Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm or Brooks Koepka? They likely won’t be worth your while at odds ranging from +500 to +1500. Focus the majority of your weekly bets on those priced at +2000 or higher, with a win going a lot further.
Separate your weekly allowance – approximately 10 percent of your bankroll – between outright, placing and matchup bets. While the large profits come from hitting an outright winner, hedge those bets on more conservative lines to give yourself a better chance of making at least a moderate return on your overall investment.
One of the most frustrating parts of sports betting, in general, is having a golfer withdraw from a tournament due to injury. Your bet is likely to be refunded if they withdrew before hitting their first tee shot. If it comes after the first shot or at any point thereafter, you’re likely to be out of luck. This is another reason to diversify your wagers.
There’s also little news circulating before events regarding which golfers may be dealing with injuries. There aren’t beat reporters tied to each golfer, like teams in other sports. It’s largely on bettors to monitor schedules, results, and news pertaining to surgeries or injury treatments. Always be wary of golfers coming off a withdrawal, missed cut or a particularly poor round which may have been the result of a minor injury.
Course history vs. recent form vs. stats
The three main areas of PGA Tour betting research focus on past success at a course and/or tournament, recent results and scores, and statistical rankings against the rest of the field. The latter has been a major area of growth in recent years, both on the PGA Tour website and third-party sites, with a focus on Strokes Gained. This measures a golfer’s performance in a statistical area against the rest of the field in events they’ve played.
Course history vs. recent form can be a point of contention in the golf betting community. All too often in golf we see someone come off a string of missed cuts only to put together the perfect four rounds for their first career win. We also see golfers win an event after never having cracked the top 10 of a field there or miss a cut after five-plus years of top finishes. It all goes into making golf one of the most exciting and sweat-inducing sports on which to bet.
The PGA Tour schedule is made up of 49 events over the course of the year, though some of these tournaments run in the same weeks. Golfers can be swayed to participate in events on the European Tour by sponsorships, prize money or appearance fees. Most top-ranked golfers will pick and choose their events throughout a season, focusing on majors and the most profitable tournaments. Others will play nearly every week while attempting to work their way up the OWGR or gain entry to other more exclusive events.
When looking to place a wager, it’s important to track a golfer’s travel, whether it be back-and-forth from the US and Europe, or bouncing between the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour. Other golfers may take prolonged breaks either to rest an injury, prepare for a particular event, or work on their game outside of a tournament format. It’s also common for more experienced and successful golfers to tailor their annual schedules around events and courses where they’ve previously won, or the majors.
Sportsbook line movement
Betting on golf is all about knowing how to spot value. Top-ranked golfers are nearly always worth a wager on the rare occasions when they carry odds higher than 20-1. Proven winners can put it together at any time on any course, regardless of their course history, recent form, or statistical rankings.
Lines can also adjust throughout a tournament week based on the public’s betting action. Someone regarded as a value when the odds are posted Monday afternoon may not be regarded as such by early Thursday morning.
All of this is especially important when looking to place futures bets on majors. Know a golfer’s worth and true abilities, and be prepared to place your futures bet amid a poor stretch of results in regular tournaments or following a minor injury. While their odds may rise several months out from a major, they’re likely to correct by the time of the tournament week.
While not as commonly discussed as weather pertaining to baseball or football games, forecasts are extremely important in golf betting. Whether a golfer is teeing off in the morning or afternoon waves can make a world of difference. Windier conditions on the west coast or in rainy locations are especially impactful. Always be sure to check daily and hourly forecasts, especially when looking to place a First-Round Leader bet or for any single-round bet.
Many golf fans and professionals alike often joke about the importance of the FedExCup. It has become more of an incentive for others, largely due to the significant financial bonus attached. Additionally, mid-tier golfers will load up their schedules around majors in hopes of gaining late entry to a field with a preceding win or a move up the world rankings. Be wary of a top-ranked golfer appearing in a weaker field at a lesser-known event. Just because sponsors want them there doesn’t mean the tournament will get their full effort.