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The Players Championship: Odds, Players to Watch and Course Overview

David Caraviello for Bookies.com

David Caraviello  | 7 mins

The Players Championship: Odds, Players to Watch and Course Overview

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The Players Championship Picks

Scottie Scheffler To Win Outright +1000 (10/1)
Justin Thomas Top 5 Finish +400 (4/1)
Jason Day Top 10 Finish +280 (14/5)

While it’s referred to as the “fifth major,” The Players Championship typically has a stronger field than any of those other four events—there are no aging past champions, no club pros, and no amateurs. This week, that means 43 of the top 50 players in the world and six FedEx Cup champions teeing it up on a challenging TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course layout loaded with water hazards.

Indeed, while The Players Championship may not have the cache of a major, it comes close with its elite list of former winners, well-known venue and $25 million purse. And there’s certainly star power at the top of the field: world No. 3 Rory McIlroy is the +850 (17/2) favorite at golf betting sites, followed by No. 1 Jon Rahm at +900 (9/1) and No. 2 Scottie Scheffler at +1000 (10/1). McIlroy tied for second last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Scheffler finished T4 and Rahm T39.

Defending Players champion Cam Smith is not in the field this year, having defected to LIV Golf—also the case with runner-up Anirban Lahiri and Paul Casey, Harold Varner III and Dustin Johnson, who all finished in the top 10 in 2022. In fact, LIV expats are the only top-50 players not in Ponte Vedra, Fla., this week. But we will see Kurt Kitayama, who earned a place in the field via his first career PGA Tour victory last weekend at Bay Hill—though he’s a +9000 (90/1) longshot on sports betting apps to pull another shocker this week. 

The Players Championship Odds

The Players Championship Course Overview

The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was the brainchild of former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beaman, who wanted a permanent home for The Players Championship that did not favor any particular style of play. Designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1980, it’s best known among viewers for its par-3 17th hole with the island green. But the entire par-72, 7,275-yard layout is taxing: water is featured on each of the final nine holes, and the par-5 ninth can now be lengthened to 600 yards.

Although Beaman envisioned Sawgrass as a course that would reward well-rounded players, the water features on the final few holes clearly favor those with exceptional control over their iron shots. And the length now demands power off the tee—in a 2016 renovation, the par-4 12th was cut to 304 yards and designed to be drivable, something much of the field is capable of doing. And while the signature 17th is just 130 yards, it’s a bear of a mental test for the leaders on Sunday. 

All that said, Sawgrass is clearly a place where players can go low—Johnson in the final round last year became the ninth player to equal the layout’s 18-hole record of 63. Smith birdied five holes on the back nine last year en route to a finishing 66, which would have been lower if not for a ball in the water on No. 18. Justin Thomas’ 2021 victory was powered by a 64 on Saturday. With near-ideal conditions expected for this week in Ponte Vedra, it’s almost certainly going to take a low round like that to come out on top.

The Players Championship Previous Winners

2022: Cameron Smith

2021: Justin Thomas

2019: Rory McIlroy

2018: Webb Simpson

2017: Si Woo Kim

2016: Jason Day

2015: Rickie Fowler

2014: Martin Kaymer

2013: Tiger Woods

2012: Matt Kuchar

The Players Championship Betting Angles

McIlroy may be the favorite on golf betting apps, but his Players victory in 2019 is his lone top-10 result in a six-year span that’s also seen him twice miss the cut and twice finish in the 30s. In addition, 14 of his last 16 rounds at Sawgrass have been in the 70s. Rahm has been equally as Jekyll-and-Hyde in northern Florida, with a T9 and T12 sandwiched between a T55 and a T63. Even the otherwise steady Scheffler has found speed bumps at Sawgrass, where his two career results are a missed cut and a T55.

So who’s traditionally good there? Among the top players, +1800 (18/1) bet Thomas has the best Sawgrass track record with a victory, a T3 and a T11. He’s also never missed a cut there. Keegan Bradley, a +5000 (50/1) wager on USA sports betting sites , was solo fifth last year and T7 in 2018. Shane Lowry, also with +5000 (50/1) odds, has finished T13 and solo eighth in his past two appearances in Ponte Vedra. Viktor Hovland, a +2500 (25/1) bet, finished T9 last year in just his second Players start, while +2800 option Jason Day (28/1) owns a Sawgrass victory along with two other top-10 results.

Of course, backing members of the Big Three based on recent performance is completely understandable, given that McIlroy is coming off his best U.S. finish this season and Scheffler has been 12th or better in eight straight starts. Rahm is suddenly the head-scratcher of the group after shooting consecutive 76s on the weekend at the Arnold Palmer, and finishing outside of the top eight for the first time this season. It was such an anomaly for Rahm, you have to wonder if it’s even worth considering when making selections on betting sites this week.

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The Players Championship Predictions

Scottie Scheffler to Win, +1000 (10/1)

Give us the guy who always shows up for big events, his past Sawgrass record be damned. Two years ago, Scheffler was an unknown. Last spring, he was just beginning to emerge as the player he is now. Scheffler is exactly the kind of all-around great player that Beaman had in mind when he commissioned Sawgrass’ founding, and the world No. 2 is bound to break through at Ponte Vedra eventually. 

Justin Thomas Top 5, +400 (4/1)

Thomas this season has played well, made cuts, but struggled to put four great rounds together. At the Genesis he was doomed by a Friday 73 amid three other rounds in the 60s, at the Arnold Palmer he struggled to a closing 74. Phoenix, where he finished T4, showed what Thomas is capable of when it all comes together. That possibility also exists at Sawgrass, where just three other players with more than one Players start have a better career average finish.

Jason Day Top 10, +280 (14/5)

Day’s career comeback has been fantastic to witness, and it’s paid off for bettors in the form of top-10 finishes at Torrey Pines, the Genesis and the Arnold Palmer. Finally freed from years of back pain, the Australian has gone T18, T7, solo fifth, T9 and T10 over his last six starts. We’re not shy about backing Day again, especially in an event where he owns a victory and four career top-10s.

How to Watch The The Players Championship

Thursday and Friday, Golf Channel 12-6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, NBC 1-6 p.m.

About the Author

David Caraviello for Bookies.com
David Caraviello
Veteran sports journalist David Caraviello has covered college football, college basketball, motorsports and golf, covering all three US golf majors, the Daytona 500 and SEC football.