Last week saw Bryson DeChambeau hold off Lee Westwood down the stretch at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in a tight and entertaining battle in Orlando on this Florida swing. The PGA Tour moves to Ponte Vedra Beach and TPC Sawgrass for The PLAYERS this week. The Tour has now officially come full circle with this event being where golf came to stop a year ago with the Tour going on COVID-induced hiatus following the first round of this event last season.
Course Breakdown and Weather
TPC Sawgrass is a par-72 course that measures around 7,250 yards. Although it is above average distance-wise, the layout of the course features many tight fairways, water hazards and doglegs that can limit the advantage bombers typically have at longer courses.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 8, 2021
This event has seen many different types of players find success here in the past, so there is no one statistic to look at that can truly determine which golfers to pick for this week. The winner must excel at what he does best and limit the mistakes he may make in areas where he sometimes may struggle if he is to have any open of hoisting the trophy on Sunday evening. TPC Sawgrass is expected to see four days of sunshine and minimal wind throughout, which is good news for the field considering the course plays difficult enough even in the most favorable conditions.
The favorite this week is once again the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world, Dustin Johnson (+1100). Next on the odds board is last week’s winner Bryson DeChambeau and 2019 PLAYERS champion, Rory Mcllroy (both at +1400). Jon Rahm (+1600) follows the top three, along with the likes of Justin Thomas and Xander Scauffele (both at +2000).
The first play for the week is Schauffele (+2000) who has collected three top-5 finishes this season to go along with two runner-up finishes. TPC Sawgrass has not been kind to golfers who have not shown good recent form, which rules out Thomas and his otherwise tempting biggest number of the season.
Patrick Cantlay (+2200) withdrew from the WGC two weeks ago, and although there has been no indication that it was injury-related, it is enough to steer clear of him this week. Webb Simpson (+2200) won here back in 2018 and at a course that neutralizes the big hitters and rewards accuracy, he is always worth a bet because he ranks fourth on the Tour in percentage of fairways hit and he has been in good form of late, making few mistakes. While it is unlikely that Simpson would run away with this tournament like he did back in 2018, the shortest hitter in the top 10 of the world rankings is likely to at least be in contention on the weekend. The best bet to look at with Simpson is for him to finish inside the top five.
Best Value Plays
There are plenty of big-name golfers sitting at longer than 40-1 odds who deserve wagering consideration this week, including last year’s leader following a first round in which he tied the course record for a single-round score. That would be Hideki Matsuyama (+4000), who sank a 25-foot eagle putt on the final hole of the opening round to become just the ninth player in history to record a sizzling 63 at the TPC Sawgrass.
Patrick Reed and Daniel Berger each clock in at +4000 and both boast wins on the PGA Tour this season. They literally are a threat to win at any course where they tee it up these days. So they also deserve a look at those odds.
The next name down the odds board worth a wager is Joaquin Niemann (+5500). The 22 year-old picked up his first PGA Tour victory last season, and started this season with back-to-back runner-up finishes in strong fields. Niemann has been inconsistent with his putter at times this season, but if he can get hot with his putter, look out. His ball-striking is good enough to compete with the best in the world down the stretch.
Who can forget Si Woo Kim winning the 2017 PLAYERS Championship at 500-1? While Kim proved that longshots are more than capable of pulling off the seemingly impossible at TPC Sawgrass, this week is more about targeting longshots to finish inside the top 10.
The longshots to target need to have the ability to catch fire with their approach games, which leads us to the first top-10 play in Emiliano Grillo (+12500 to win the whole tournament). Grillo has shown decent form as of late with top-25 finishes in three of his past four starts on the PGA Tour. Grillo also boasts an 11th-place finish back in 2017, proving that he has what it takes to survive four days in contention at TPC Sawgrass.
The next name worth a top-10 play is Keegan Bradley (+15000 to win) who finished tied for 10th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Bradley has four PGA Tour victories, but he hasn’t won one since 2018 and his overall games seemed to be on a downward spiral until a recent resurgence. Bradley has made three straight cuts and appears to be gaining confidence and some consistency again. At 11-1, Bradley is a must-bet for a top-10 finish considering he just accomplished that at a similarly difficult course just last week.
Matchup Play of the Week
The best matchup play of the week is Schauffele over DeChambeau. This matchup would not be at these odds if DeChambeau did not win because books are now anticipating high public action on last week’s victor this week. Bryson bombed and gouged his way to victory at Bay Hill last week and, yes, it was impressive and somewhat unexpected because he had been struggling just a bit heading into that event.
But with Schauffele likely finishing inside the top 10 and potentially even winning the tournament outright, the best way to fade Bryson is by making the bold move of taking Xander in this head-to-head matchup.