The Players Championship Betting Guide: Big Names in the Mid-Tier

The Players Championship Betting Guide: Big Names in the Mid-Tier article feature image
Credit:

Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Xander Schauffele

  • Dustin Johnson (+1200) and Rory McIlroy (+1200) are the betting favorites for the 2019 Players Championship.
  • TPC Sawgrass is the type of course that negates the driver, and with such a strong field, this tournament figures to be unpredictable.
  • All that volatility has created value on terrific golfers in the Mid-Tier Range.

By the time the final group was on the 11th hole at Bay Hill, Francesco Molinari had wrapped up the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

A final round 64 was too much for the field to handle and the Italian was able to top the podium. I had pegged Molinari to finish in the top 20 as my favorite bet of the week, so that cruised home, but unfortunately we didn’t have him on the outright card.

Now our attention turns to the biggest tournament to date in 2019.

The Player Championship always boast the strongest field, top-to-bottom of the PGA Tour season. It is important to keep in mind that some things will change this year with the tournament taking place two months earlier than normal.

TPC Sawgrass is already one of the toughest courses to find a winner so the change im date just adds even more uncertainty to an already unpredictable tournament.

The Course

TPC Sawgrass measures at 7,250 yards for a par 72. It’s tough to overpower because doglegs and water tend to cut down on where players can drive it, so we see a lot of players hitting iron shots from similar places in the fairway.

This course seems to have the ability to expose everyone’s weakness. So it really just comes down to whoever can hide their flaws the best while having the best part of their game firing on all cylinders.

It’s very difficult to string together consistent results. Usually, every course has a handful of players who will grind out a top-10 finish the majority of the time. But since 2011, no player in this field has more than three Top 10 finishes at Sawgrass.

The Field

For the first time all year, literally everyone is in the field. It’s a stronger group than any of the majors due to the lack of amateurs or PGA club pros that make up the back end of those fields.

If you add together a terrific field to a course that takes away the driver like Sawgrass does, it becomes plain to see why we’ll get winners here that seemingly come out of nowhere.

Since 2010, three winners were 100-1 or higher, including Webb Simpson last year. Only two in that same time frame were under +2000.

We’re able to find a lot of talent in that Mid-Tier range here so that’s where I tend to focus the card.

The Favorites

The books basically throw up their hands with the top of this board.

Only three guys are under +2000 this week. Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are co-favorites at +1200 and Justin Thomas sits right behind them at +1600.

Nine more players are between the +2000 and +3000 range, including Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler. It’s probably the only time all year barring an injury or a major slump that we’ll see these guys with this type of number.

I’m not playing anyone from this high up on the board, but Xander Schauffele was the guy I looked at the longest. He’s +2800 and finished second here a year ago. Ultimately though, I can play a couple Mid-Tier golfers and it will cost the same as just playing Xander. For the Players, I’m trying to get as deep of card as possible.

The Mid-Tier

This is where the major of my plays will come from this week.

It’s a group of five that I’m playing from here, so I’ll jump right in with Sergio Garcia at +3772. The Spaniard has won at Sawgrass to go along with a couple of runner-up finishes. He also hasn’t missed a cut here since 2003. Most of the younger stars haven’t seen the course conditions in March, but Sergio has and that experience may be of some benefit this week.

Next up, I’m going with Patrick Cantlay at +4500. Cantlay is one of the talents that the golf world is waiting to breakthrough in a big event. He’s been in the top 25 in both his starts here, so that should serve as a good learning experience for him. He’s also been in the top 15 in three of his last four starts so the form is good as well.

Patrick Cantlay
Will Patrick Cantlay put it all together at TPC Sawgrass? Credit: Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports.

I’m also adding Paul Casey at +5025. Casey doesn’t have the best results here, but seems to have figured the course out a little bit. He’s finished in the top 25 in his last two appearances. He’s also got a second at Pebble Beach and a third at WGC Mexico, so he’s been playing well in the past couple months.

I’m also adding Henrik Stenson at +6650. Stenson seemed to find his game at Bay Hill last week. He played the last three rounds at 10-under after opening with a 77. There’s been some health concerns with him recently, but he appears to be back in form after shaking off some rust early at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Lastly, we’ll go with Matt Kuchar at +7075. Kuchar has won twice this season and also owns a victory at Sawgrass. He’s slumped a bit recently, but that usually happens to Kuchar on the West Coast where his putter takes a bit of a hit on Poa Annua. Back in Florida on the Bermuda greens, he should be back to his usual short game.

Longshots

In such a strong field, we’d figure that a strong name would be the one taking it down, but the last two winners have been triple digits.

We were able to hit Simpson at 100-1 here a year ago, so we’ll fire out a few more darts in this range and see if lightning can strike twice.

Starting off, we’ll go with Sung-Jae Im at 110-1. Im has been in great form. He held the 36-hole lead at the Honda Classic and finished third last week at Bay Hill. Florida seems to fit his game and there’s also been a bit of a Korean connection to this course with Si Woo Kim and K.J. Choi winning here in the last decade.

Next, we’ll go back to Kevin Kisner again at 125-1. Kisner made a playoff here in 2015 before losing to Rickie Fowler. He also had a great ball-striking week at Bay Hill but the putter failed him. I’d expect the short game to turnaround a bit since he’s usually at his best in the Southeast.

We’ll also go back to the well one more time with Chesson Hadley at 200-1. Hadley led the field at Bay Hill in Strokes Gained: Approach, picking up over nine shots on the field. The iron game will be key again this week, so if that keeps up and he can hit some putts, he’s could be a surprise contender.

Lastly, we’ll back Bud Cauley at 225-1. Cauley is really just a shot in the dark here. He’s never made a cut, but does have some decent results recently. He finished 12th at Honda and is usually a better putter on Bermuda greens. His weakness recently has been the driver, so having that negated a bit might help him this week.

Final Thoughts

This has been a tough event for me. Outside of the Simpson win a year ago, I’ve never really had anyone contend, so I’ll steer clear of any place-bets and instead take those extra outright shots in the Mid-Tier.

If the opportunity pops up on Sunday to hedge, I’ll probably look to lock in a win rather than just letting it ride like normal.

The Card

  • Garcia +3772 (.88 units)
  • Cantlay +4500 (.73 units)
  • Casey +5025 (.66 units)
  • Stenson +6625 (.5 units)
  • Kuchar +7075 (.47 units)
  • Im +11000 (.3 units)
  • Kisner +12500 (.27 units)
  • Hadley +20000 (.17 units)
  • Cauley +22500 (.15 units)

Total stake: 4.13 units

Season: -4.88 units

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