Players Championship Preview and best bets

It's a new slot on the calendar for the Players Championship and TPC Sawgrass is looking pristine and lush. Snippets from around the course suggest conditions are softer than the norm in the May slot, and the track will be playing longer given the overseeded grasses and damper soil. Saying that, sub air systems under the greens, and a top drainage system on the Stadium course will keep the test up to scratch so don't expect target golf.

The expected conditioning and set up at TPC Sawgrass is always a huge variable in the betting. We have seen all sorts of leaderboards here in the past and that's mainly defined by the wind and conditioning over the four days of the tournament. In 2016 the difference in set up and the potential swift turnaround at Ponte Vedra beach was perhaps shown best, and this is key for potential bettors and daily fantasy golfers. Players out early on day 1 were welcomed with soft benign conditions, whereas those with the late-early draw saw the course really firm up throughout the day with the wind getting up. This led to 11 of the top 12 on the leaderboard coming from the early wave - Jason day shooting -9 and 5 others carding 65s. Scoring avg. between the late-early that year was circa 2 whole strokes.

By the time we got to day 3 in 2016 eventual winner Jason Day was calling the greens laughable. Only Kenny Duke managed to master them on the Saturday, shooting 65, and just 2 other players broke 70(somehow 1 of the others was MR. minus SGP Hideki (67)). They were the fastest greens I'd seen and players said they were running 14'-16' on the stimp. This is the power of the sub air, sun and wind.

Course - TPC Sawgrass stadium course - par 72, 7189 yards

KEY FEATURES Treelined with water lurking throughout. 2.5 inch lush rough. Doglegged fairways (right and left). Smallish greens, some with run offs. Grassy bunkers / mounding. Intense Risk reward finish. Winds forecast for a steady ~15mph throughout, with conditions drying out.

PREMIUM ON driving accuracy (less than driver course, usually) GIR, Shot shape/ ball flight, Scrambling. Bogey avoidance All round test.

Signature holes - par 3 17th island green. Par 4 drivable 12th.

The market looks a feast of value and even though there are juicier prices than the normal on the big boys, they can all be opposed with numerous place terms on offer. Sawgrass really does require all attributes (including mental) and this, along with the weather variable is mainly why we see all sorts of random course history figures here. The outlier is Jordan Spieth who I'd be more than happy to have onside at huge quotes of 60/1 plus.

My Best bets

Tommy Fleetwood's (28/1 ew) season prices thus far haven't yet caught up with his form of the last 2 years, despite a very encouraging performance last week at Bay Hill where he and Keegan Bradley led the field by 4 strokes at half way. Tommy was 2nd in strokes gained tee to green at Bay Hill en route to a T3 finish. He's 9th in strokes gained tee to green and 23rd in strokes gained around the green, for the season without doing too much so far. The Englishman owns progressive 41-7 finishes in 2 appearances at TPC Sawgrass.

I always side with the best ball strikers here, with secondary emphasis on scrambling ability and the one player that poo poos the TPC Sawgrass course history rule is token course specialist Sergio garcia 33/1 ew. Sergio is a winner at Sawgrass and has very close calls besides. He owns numerous top 10s at the Players and comes here off the back of 4/6 top 10s this year. The Spaniard is the go to man at Sawgrass.

Patrick Reed 66/1 ew is a short game specialist that finished the 2018 rankings 2nd in Strokes gained-Around the green and 18th in scrambling. Key for him will arguably be the big stick this week but he's showed signs of his best game having gotten into contention more in the earlier stages than latter this season. Paddy has been traveling across the tours and simmering form wise, a word that could arguably be used for his course form, comprising 2 top 25s in the last 5. He tees it up with Tiger Woods this week which comes into my thinking. Away from the pressure of the Ryder Cup and a course that couldn't have suited less in Le Golf National, I'd expect his personality type to thrive in Tiger's company.

First round leader

Another angle I'm looking at playing at Sawgrass is the first round leader card, trying to take advantage of some earlier tee times here and some big prices. All 4 players are out at the crack of dawn and have been rounding into form, and have the attributes required to tame Sawgrass. From the early forecast it looks like these very early starters may get the most benign and the softest conditions and maybe we can see a scoring average bias similar to the early - late in 2016

Ryan Palmer 100/1 ew - rounded out the Honda with a closing 63 to lead in the club house
Michael Thompson 125/1 ew - 5 top 16 finishes from 7 this year. Vastly improved his ball striking.
Chris Kirk 125/1 ew - owns some decent form at Sawgrass. Hit a 3rd round 66 at the API leading to a T15 finish
Beau Hossler - Strong course fit. Debuted here last year with t46. T15 at Genesis. Shot 2nd round 66 at Bay Hill last week.

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Recent Big Winners: Ross McGowan 400/80 to 1 (place), Tony Finau 50/1, Cam Champ 125/1, Cam Davis 125/1, Matt Jones 80/1 and FRL, Max Homa 60/1, Dean Burmester 55/1, Sam Burns 80/1, KH Lee 200/1, Sergio Garcia 70/1 (FRL), Thorbjorn Olesen 45/1 (FRL), Stewart Cink 150/1, Lucas Herbert 175/1
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