One week after a jam-packed leaderboard at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, golf fans are hoping for another exciting weekend at TPC Sawgrass. WagerTalk golf handicapper Andy Lang shares his thoughts on this week’s Players Championship field and potential betting opportunities.
The Players Championship Field
The first thing to keep in mind this week is that last year’s Players were affected by wind more than in any other tournament I can think of in terms of tee times. One wave of guys played in impossible winds of over 40 mph, and pretty much all of them missed the cut. So be very careful looking at last year’s results. I almost throw them out because this year’s weather looks to be calm and nothing like last year’s.
This is one of the most iconic courses on tour with one of the most famous/infamous holes on tour, and it’s another star-studded field this week. There isn’t one skillset required for this course to be successful, as it’s been said many times at The Players….”The Best Player That Week Wins The Players.” The weather looks to be fine this week with no tee times with real advantages and to illustrate how difficult it is to be consistent at this course, and there is one player this week who has finished top 10 in two out of the last three years: Brian Harman. Rahm has one top 10 finish here, Rory has one top 10 finish in the last six years, Scheffler’s best finish is 55th, and Cantlay and Schauffele have missed the cut three years in a row. It’s a strange week to look at course history, so let’s take a look at who’s playing well now coming into this week. Here are the top 10 in total strokes gained in 2023:
1. Jon Rahm
2. Scottie Scheffler
3. Max Homa
4. Jason Day
5. Collin Morikawa
6. Patrick Cantlay
7. Chris Kirk
8. Rory McIlroy
9. Tony Finau
10. Xander Schauffele
Interesting names just outside the top 10: Keith Mitchell (12), Rickie Fowler (15), Cameron Young (18…despite him being -0.50 strokes gained putting)
The Players Championship Players to Avoid
Jordan Spieth – People are going to be impressed with his 4th-place finish last week, but don’t let that fool you. He was +1.47 strokes gained around the green, meaning he chipped shockingly well. His putting wasn’t that great, and neither was his driving or approach stats. In fact, his strokes gained approach was outside the top 70 last week. His only other decent finish this year was at the Waste Management, where he had incredible strokes and gained numbers on approach but was awful in putting and off the tee. His game isn’t consistent, it’s feast or famine, and this course requires all aspects of your game to be good. Spieth hasn’t finished inside the top 40 here seven years in a row and has five missed cuts in those seven years. He’s priced as a top 13 golfer this week; I don’t buy it.
Jon Rahm – Rahm had a terrible week last week and finished 39th, but that’s not what worries me. What worries me is that his driving numbers have been mediocre to bad the last few weeks, and putting has bailed him out. Not to say that can’t happen again, but with his price being so high this week, he has to finish in the top three to return any value, and he has to be Scheffler and McIlroy in head to heads. At the Phoenix Open, he was 20th off the tee; at the Genesis, he was 47th; last week, he was a shocking 9th worst off the tee. That’s right, and he only was better than eight golfers. His putting was actually good last week, but it wasn’t enough to overcome his play off the tee. Be careful investing in the most expensive golfer this week.
The Players Championship DFS Darlings
With there being a lot of big names who have struggled here, I’m focusing on players under $10,000 and only looking at current form. Such a bummer last week with Byeong Hun An withdrew after Thursday out of nowhere because the rest of the lineup performed really well.
Keith Mitchell ($7400) -He’s 12th in total strokes gained this year and has finished top 25 in four out of five tournaments, including a solid 24th place finish last week in a loaded field with tough conditions.
Chris Kirk ($7900) -I have to buy into Chris Kirk at this price as he won two tourneys ago and followed it up with 39th place last week in a letdown spot which impressed me. He has three top-three finishes in 2023.
Cameron Young ($8500) – I don’t know how he keeps finishing strong with how poor his putting number is, but he keeps doing it. No missed cuts in a while, and their 10th last week.
Jason Day ($8000) -I get Jason Day, who has four straight top 10 finishes in a row at $8000, I’ll take it. He’s 4th in total strokes gained this year, and this is the best value for DFS lineups.
Tyrell Hatton ($8300) – Hatton keeps getting it done, as he’s made the cut in every tourney in 2023, and thee out of five of those are top seven finishes, including 4th last week.
Max Homa ($9900) -He’s an elite golfer, and we have to think of him that way this year as he’s 3rd in total strokes gained and has three top-three finishes in five tournaments this year.
The Players Championship Best Bet
Sahith Theegala over Tommy Fleetwood (-102) – Fleetwood is a guy who has been a decent fade on the PGA Tour outside of the majors and a solid bet on when he’s playing the European Tour, and I like this matchup against him this week. Fleetwood doesn’t have any finishes better than 20th this year, while Theegala has three top-15 finishes in the last four tournaments he’s played in. They’ve played in five tournaments together this year, and Theegala is 4-1 head-to-head. For the season, Theegala is 19th in total strokes gained, while Fleetwood is 73rd. His putting has been really bad at -0.24 strokes gained, and his driving distance is really short this year, leaving him much longer approach shots.