I missed the final day action on Sunday but had quite a low lay order matched on Ryan Moore so I can only assume he was bang in it before a bogey blitz on 16-17-18 blew him out of the places, so it was a barren week in the end in terms of EW for the blog.
This week we move on to the Players Championship - one of the most eagerly anticipated events on tour as we hit the PGA HQ, with the world’s best teeing it up at the "fifth Major" from TPC Sawgrass. One of the best all-round tests on the season’s schedule, there has been a general theme towards the top end of the leaderboard down the years: this is one of quality and experience, with the cream and the game’s biggest names tending to rise to the top....
The Players Championship and TPC Sawgrass tests all aspects of your game and the wind generally blows around here. Shot shaping and ball-striking skills are required and the ability to move it both ways and keep it under the inevitable wind is crucial. Knowing the nuances of sub-air system greens that play fast and firm will give an added edge while scrambling will be a premium. Conditions may be a little softer this year after heavy rainfall in the area though and par fives must be taken advantage of at the Players Championship. Keep an eye out for the infamous island green par-3 17th and difficult finishing hole that can make or break a player’s tournament.
Phil Mickelson opened at a generous 30/1 (7 places) with SJ and after a week at Quail in which he ranked first in strokes gained putting and was 40 for 40 in putts from under 10' at one stage, I can't leave him out of the staking plan. Mickelson is a former Players Championship winner and has all the shots in the bag to go well here and warmed up nicley in the end with a third at the Wells Fargo.
Sergio Garcia is the standout name each year for me at the Players championship. The Spaniard has everything in his armoury needed to go well around this difficult track. A second place here in 2007 was followed up by a play-off win and his form is very consistent through the years at The Players. One of the finest ball strikers in the game who excels in windy conditions, keep an eye out for a resurgent Sergio here off the back of a top 20 in Quail despite a minor injury complaint.
Jason Day returned to top form at the Masters and it's only a matter of time before he bags a big one. After Scott's win at Augusta the Aussies have been in inspired form with the like of Wade Ormsby featuring in big tournaments and especially Brett Rumford - a man I never thought would win again on the European Tour - going back to back the last two events. Day ranks 10th in the all round, vital at Sawgrass and has the ability to play in the wind if it gets up.
Louis Oosthuizen may have missed two cuts from two here but not by a lot and now with the added experience, and off the back of a top five in Korea where he threatened to run away with it at times, looks to be about to hit top gear. Louis was 8th in the all round last year and looks good value 7 places at 60s.
Next up is Rickie Fowler who was defending last week and couldn't get anything going. Again another good ball striker with the ability to shape his shots, the colourful (and possibly underrated) American finished T2 at the Players Championship last year and has three top 6 finishes to his name in 2013. Rickie is 11th in approaches from 125-150 yards and top value seven places.
Players Championship sleeper watch: Five guys in particular at large odds catch the eye this week and all may be worth a small investment for back to lay plays on the exchanges or in sub markets such as first round leader. Ben Crane (who I've personally backed ew 7 places at triple figures) and Zach Johnson are two guys I mentioned with great course form in my antepost preview for NCG magazine, while Boo Weekly - one of the best ball strikers on tour is one I fancy could go well this year. I've opted for the back in form Ernie Els and course specialist David Toms at inflated prices for the official staking plan.
We generally see big value down the field in these types of events and Ernie mentioned his game was shaping up quite nicely before posting a second place last week. The big man is rounding into form at a nice time, as is David Toms (at triple figures) who posted a top 15 at Augusta and hit two rounds of 68 in Zurich. Course specialist Toms has three top tens at the Players Championship in the last four years including a playoff defeat to KJ Choi, and finished off last year with a final round of 65 (-7).
Players Championship staking plan (all prices from member's email)
Remember: Stanjames are places 1-7 this week when betting from your mobile.
Pick #1: 1u ew Phil Mickelson @ 30/1 (Stanjames 1-7)
Picks #2: 1u ew Sergio Garcia @ 33/1 (Stanjames 1-7)
Pick #2: 1u ew Jason Day @ 45/1 (Stanjames 1-7)
Picks #4: 0.75u ew Rickie Fowler @ 66/1 (Stanjames 1-7)
Pick #5: 0.75u ew Louis Oosthuizen @ 60/1 (Stanjames 1-7)
Picks #6: 0.5u ew Ernie Els @ 80/1 (Stanjames 1-7)
First round leader pick: 0.5u ew David Toms @ 100/1(general)
Fancy some free Players Championship bets? Up to £200 in with Bet365 here
As always you can follow me on twitter: @Nicspicks for in play thoughts or advice.
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