Yet another week goes by on the PGA Tour, and yet again another surprise as 4th alternate Derek Ernst beat David Lynn in a play off to win last weeks Wells Fargo Championship. Derek Ernst was ready to tee it up in last weeks Web.Com event when he was called up late in order to fill the void left by withdrawing players, such as Dustin Johnson (wrist) and Ian Poulter (personal reasons). The 54 hole lead was shared by both Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney and whilst Mickelson was involved right up until his bogey on the 17th, Watney flattered to deceive all day as he shot a +4 76 to play his way out of contention. The win by Derek Ernst this past week just adds to the surprises we’ve had so far this season and the unpredictability of 2013 continues.
So moving on to the 2013 Players Championship, a tournament that has been played since 1974, the winner of that inaugural event was Jack Nicklaus and he just starts the list of such a high quality roll of honour. The Players is often known as “The 5th Major” and thus attracts the worlds top players, it also features one of golf’s most attractive and unique holes, the 17th known as “the Island Green”. There are 5 multiple winners of this event, and only two are still on tour, Davis Love III and Fred Couples, Davis Love who is just returning from injury and Couples who won’t be in the field. In the last 10 years, there have been 10 different winners, proving that in recent years this is no “one person tournament” A stat that is of high interest to me this week, was pointed out to me by @GolfBetting12* on Twitter which states that 7 of the last 8 winners have made 7 appearances or more at TPC Sawgrass, the exception being Henrik Stenson who had only made 4 before his win in 2009. One thing is for sure, experience of the course and a pedigree to win has often proved important and that is something that cannot be ignored when considering your picks this week. The winning share of the prize fund this week is $1,710,000 the highest purse on Tour, so motivation won’t be an issue. So on to the course and the defending champion for the Players Championship.
The Course: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) Par 72, 7,215 yards. The key part of this course will always be, the famous 17th hole, a place where fear can overcome a player in an instant. A 132 yard hole, that only requires a pitching wedge into a 78ft green sounds routine, but with the hole being surrounded by water it is a very different story. Of course this is not the only hole to worry about, the course itself requires accuracy off the tee and putting will be as important as ever. When Matt Kuchar shot a 70 on the last day he narrowly missed out on joining only 4 other players to shoot 4 rounds in the 60’s. Paul Azinger was the only player to birdie the 17th in all 4 rounds way back in 1987. Narrow fairways coupled with potential hazards (marshes and wasteland bunkers) will prove difficult to anyone inconsistent off the tee. Dozens of deep pot bunkers are placed all over the course to catch out even the slightly miss hit shots, so Driving Accuracy could play a part this week.
Defending Champion: Matt Kuchar was the 2012 Players Championship winner, thrusting him into major spotlight ever since. On his way to winning this event last year, Kuchar ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained-Putting, 3rd in Greens in Regulation and 37th in Driving Accuracy, so all fairly impressive. Hitting the greens and converting he putts were obviously a big part of Kuchar’s win but being in the top half of Driving Accuracy set him up with those chances and with over 62% Fairways hit, he proved what needs to be done here in order to grab the win. He held off huge charges from Ben Curtis, Rickie Fowler, Martin Laird and Zach Johnson all of who he beat by 2 strokes to grab the win. Kuchar would of made his final round easier, had it of not been for a bogey on the opening hole, followed by three putts on a further three greens. In the end Kuchar kept calm and got the job done, and someone similar stat wise and with his composure will certainly be in contention this week.
A lot of odds will take people by surprise this week, as some players will come in even higher than they were for the Masters and this only highlights the difficulty of this course. Apart from that, the prestige attached to this tournament is certainly the biggest outside of the four majors, and that combined with the other difficulties is why such odds are available. Before jumping the gun on some of the higher reputation players, check their record at this event as many players will surprise you. That’s all for the information outside of my picks and I hope it gave you an oversight of what to expect this week. All the bookies apart from Coral, Ladbrokes and William Hill are paying 6 places, and if your a mobile user StanJames are paying 7 when betting on your phone/tablet. Here’s my picks for the 2013 Players Championship.
Luke Donald 22/1 (Coral) 2pts e/w: Donald has not quite been at his best this season, his putting not where it normally is. Donald’s putting is key to his game, his short game considered one of the best on Tour and at the moment he isn’t living up to that. He currently sits 48th in Strokes-Gained Putting & 27th in Total Putting, however he does still rank 10th in Sand Save Percentage. Despite this, Donals still managed to come 3rd at the RBC Heritage on his last time out and 4th in the Tampa Bay Championship so he’s proving he can still grind on occasion and get it done. His form at this event is the main reason I’m going for Luke this week, with his last 5 outings at TPC Sawgrass being, 6th, T4, T26, T37 and T27. This consistency at such a course cannot be ignored and that is reflected in his price, 22/1 may seem short but it’s all relative to how well he performs here. I fully expect him to go well and hopefully his putter will be hot, if he can find his putting I cannot see any reason why he can’t win this week.
Sergio Garcia 33/1 (StanJames 1-6 (Website) 1-7 (Mobile)) 2pts e/w: Garcia is in superb form and is also a previous winner of this event. Sergio won the event in 2008, a year after coming 2nd, so he can certainly find his way around TPC Sawgrass. His 4 most recent results other than the win were, T56, T12, T47 and T22. He was again within reach of winning a major, starting the Masters of fast paced, and although he dropped to T8 in the end he followed that up coming T16 last week in the Wells Fargo. His form on the European Tour has been impressive as well, coming T2 in Qatar at the start of the year and T17 the week after in Dubai. Since then he has finished T17 in the WGC Match Play, T3 in the WGC Cadillac and T12 in the Open De Espana, so he certainly is in form. I didn’t want to leave him out this week and at 33/1 I’m happy to have him on board.
Henrik Stenson 66/1 (Bet365) 1pt e/w: Stenson has been in some very good form of late, and can be considered one of the better players in this event. So far this season Stenson has finished T8 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, T2 in the Shell Houston Open and just as importantly T18 in the Masters. Although he has played limited on the PGA Tour this season and therefore his stats might be slightly misleading, he does rank 1st in Greens in Regulation and 3rd in Driving Accuracy, two things that proved important in seasons gone by. He is 1st in Ball Striking thanks to being 1st in both Total Driving and Greens in Regulation and that just shows he is in control of his game so far. His last 5 finishes at TPC Sawgrass are T15, MC, MC, 1 and T10. Yes I did mention earlier that Stenson was one of the better players of this event and unlike Donald he has missed two cuts, but when he has made the weekend he has finished in the top 20 on all three occasions and got the win in 2009. He is playing well enough this season to be considered and with his fond memories of the course I certainly expect him to do just that. With the bookies paying 6 places this week I think he is great value, if you want that extra 7th place then bet on him on a mobile device with StanJames where he is 60/1.
Rickie Fowler 66/1 (StanJames, 1-6 (website) 1-7 (mobile)) 1pt e/w: Although I did mention earlier that big prices on high reputation players shouldn’t be jumped upon right away, I just couldn’t avoid this one. Rickie Fowler is in my opinion ready to win again. He had a very up and down Masters tournament and showed a great attitude after shooting 76 in round 2, following it up with a 70 in round 3. Of course he played his way out of the tournament in round 4, maybe guilty of being too aggressive on a course where that doesn’t pay off. His guts and determination to succeed is enough for me to bet him at this price, but there are a couple of figures that interest me when looking at betting him this week. He is currently 33rd in Driving Accuracy on tour as well as 8th in Sand Save Percentage, two things that should serve him well this week. He is also 2nd in Proximity to Hole from Sand and 4th in GIR pct.- Fairway Bunker so should he find himself in a bunker situation, he should be well equipped to get his way out of it. Fowler also came 2nd in 2012 so he should take confidence from that.
Total Points staked this week: 12
Profit/Loss for 2013: + 53.5
I have not gone for any big outsiders this week as the event is one that has proven to favour those with past experience as mentioned earlier. There is no European Tour event this week so I’m hoping to find success here at TPC Sawgrass. Last week was another disappointment on the PGA, but with Victor Dubuisson coming 3rd in the Volvo China Open limited overall loss to just -2.5 points meaning that profit is still well in tact for now. I hope this is useful for any of you and if you have any questions get in contact on Twitter @TomJacobs8.
*@GolfBetting12 blog can be found here http://golfbettingbrain.wordpress.com/, he is also backing Luke Donald this week!