Golf Expert Picks: Our Staff’s Favorite Bets for the 2019 Players Championship
Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Tiger Woods
The 2019 golf season is officially heating up and the best players in the world are in Florida for what has become known as “The Fifth Major.”
Dustin Johnson (+1200) and Rory McIlroy (+1200) are co-favorites to win the 2019 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, which tees off on Thursday morning at 7:40 a.m. ET.
Whether you want to call it The Players Championship, The Players or The Fifth Major, there’s no denying that this weekend’s golf tournament features the best field of the season.
Top Asian Player: Byeong Hun An (+600)
If you think about it, it’s a little strange that books offer odds based solely on a player’s homeland. I mean, there’s never an NFL prop which asks: “Which QB born in California will throw for the most passing yards this week?”
That said, if they’re gonna offer it, we should take advantage of it.
I really like An as a 6-to-1 bet in this area.
Despite picking him for the last six months or so, I’m officially jumping off the Hideki Matsuyama (+260) train – for this week, at least. His putting is giving me hives. Si Woo Kim (+500) is a model of inconsistency; if you can figure out where he’ll finish on a given week, you might as well be playing the lottery. Sungjae Im (+600) owns a world of talent, but I’m not sold on him in his first Players start. Haotong Li (+750), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (+900), Sung Kang (+1000) and C.T. Pan (+1600) each own some value, but none excite me too much.
And so we’re left with An, whose recent success I wrote about above.
An ranks 23rd this season in strokes gained off the tee, 48th in strokes gained on approach shots and first in strokes gained around the greens. I like that combination for a top-10 result this week – and a winning bet in this category.
Justin Thomas over Justin Rose (-125)
No one really seems to play Sawgrass well enough to back them in the top 20 range that I like, so I’m rolling with a matchup play this week.
I’ll back Thomas over Rose for a couple reasons. Thomas has played Sawgrass four times and beat Rose in three of those appearances, finishing inside the top 25 on each of those occasions. Meanwhile, Rose has been far more inconsistent here, finishing outside the top 40 in six of his past 10 starts.
Thomas has also been in better form than Rose this year. Rose picked up the win, but hasn’t finished inside the top 30 in any other event.
On the other hand, Thomas has finished 30th or better in each event he’s played in 2019.
Jason Kokrak to finish in the Top 20 (+450)
Here are the metrics that have historically best predicted success at Sawgrass: Recent Missed Cuts, Recent Adjusted Round Score, Recent Scrambling, Recent Par-4 Scoring and Recent Driving Accuracy. You probably notice a trend: recent form is huge here, especially in ball-striking metrics.
That turns us to Kokrak, who has placed in the top 20 in five of his past six events. He hasn’t missed a cut since last July, and his current ball-striking marks are among the best in the field.
At +450, I don’t mind betting on him to sneak in the top 20 again.
Byeong-Hun An (-115) over Tyrrell Hatton
I’m high on Byung-Hun An. He’s my favorite DFS play and I’ll be betting him in matchups, as well. He makes a lot of sense at this tournament.
Dustin Johnson over Rory McIlroy (-105)
Johnson and McIlroy are presently co-favorites for The Players, and when there are two comparable golfers squaring off against each other, I’ll usually take the guy who is a better value.
That said, Johnson’s -105 odds aren’t the only reason to take him. For starters, DJ has superior long-term metrics in every category I am looking at this week:
- Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: 67.3 vs. 68.1
- Birdies per tournament: 18.4 vs. 16.0
- Adjusted strokes on par 4s: -3.2 vs. -1.7
- Adjusted strokes on par 5s: -6.1 vs. -5.7
Furthermore, over the past 50 rounds, DJ ranks first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and fourth in Strokes Gained: Approach. Rory isn’t a slouch either, obviously, ranking second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, but he ranks 35th in Strokes Gained: Approach.
No Hole in One (+110)
For the past 37 years thePlayers Championship has been played on the Stadium Course.
When evaluating head-to-head matchups, I use the FantasyLabs PGA Models, and there are some matchups I like, but the bet that really catches my eye this week is the hole-in-one prop.
It’s not easy to find historical data for The Players, but my internet sleuthing indicates that there have been 36 aces at Stadium Course, which means that on average we’ve seen a little less than one ace per year at the Players. To be exact, 0.97 holes in one.
But over the past 10 years I’ve been able to find a total of four aces — two of them came in the same year (2013).
And it’s not uncommon for aces to come in bunches, when perhaps course conditions are more conducive to holes in one.
For instance, in 1994 was saw two aces at holes No. 3 & 8. And in 2000, there were two aces at No. 8 and one ace on No. 17. And in 2006, there were FOUR aces at No. 13.
So it’s not as if in a typical year at The Players we should expect to see one ace. The distribution is not nearly that even.
And it might be harder than usual for someone to get a hole in one this year. This tournament is usually in May, but this season it has been moved to March, which means the course could play very differently. Many golfers could be thrown off of their game.
And the 7,189-yard course isn’t easy in general because of doglegs and water hazards.
As Josh Perry says in his Players Championship betting guide, this tournament always has the strongest field of the PGA Tour season, so it wouldn’t be surprising for someone to get a hole in one.
But at +110 odds, there’s a 47.6% implied probability of no hole in one at The Players, and I think the true odds are closer to 55%.
I’d bet on no hole in one down to +100.