2021 THE PLAYERS Championship Betting Preview: Which Players Have the Right Skillset to Win at TPC Sawgrass?

2021 THE PLAYERS Championship Betting Preview: Which Players Have the Right Skillset to Win at TPC Sawgrass? article feature image
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Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Keegan Bradley

The PGA TOUR heads to TPC Sawgrass to play in one of the most prestigious events of the season: The PLAYERS Championship. Often referred to as the fifth major, the importance of a PLAYERS victory to the legacy of a golfer can’t be overlooked.

TPC Sawgrass is a Par 72 measuring 7,245 yards and features Bermuda-grass greens. A Pete Dye design, golfers must be patient in attacking the course. With trouble lurking at every turn, the strokes can add up quickly. With a Par five 16th that is truly a risk-reward hole and the famous par three 17th island green, the only safe bet at TPC Sawgrass is a bet on an exciting finish.

THE PLAYERS Championship field is often referred to as the strongest field of the year, and for good reason. Of the 154 in the field, 48 of the world’s top 50 players will be competing this week; with the only exceptions being Matthew Wolff and Brooks Koepka, who withdrew due to injury. THE PLAYERS is an exceptionally volatile event in which we have never seen a repeat champion.

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Past Winners at TPC Sawgrass

  • 2019: Rory McIlroy (-16)
  • 2018: Webb Simpson (-18)
  • 2017: Si-Woo Kim (-10)
  • 2016: Jason Day (-15)
  • 2015: Rickie Fowler (-12)

5 Key Stats For TPC Sawgrass

Let’s take a look at five metrics key for TPC Sawgrass to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes gained: Approach has historically been far and away the most important and predictive stat at THE PLAYERS Championship. With water everywhere golfers can’t afford to be wild with their iron shots. Not only is it essential to avoid the water, it will be as important to go after pins and make birdies because scores can get relatively low.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Collin Morikawa (+34.1) (+2000)
  2. Matthew NeSmith (+25.0) (+20000)
  3. Russell Henley (+24.7) (+9000)
  4. Keegan Bradley (+23.5) (+12500)
  5. Tyrrell Hatton (+23.0 (+3300)

2. Good Drives Gained

While I rarely use this statistic, I think it is perfect for TPC Sawgrass. Historically driving distance hasn’t been a major factor but with the date switch to March, I think it needs to be considered. During this time of year the ball won’t carry quite as far and the run out will also be shortened.

Driving accuracy is also crucial due to all of the trouble golfers can get into off of the tee. Therefore, players who are gaining on the field with good drives will put themselves in an ideal spot this week.  Rory McIlroy was 2nd in this statistic in his 2019 victory.

Good Drives Gained Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Cameron Percy (+34.7) (+35000)
  2. Corey Conners (+30.4) (+6600) 
  3. Keegan Bradley (+29.1) (+12500)
  4. Matthew NeSmith (+28.2) (+20000)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+27.7) (+15000)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew NeSmith

3. Strokes Gained: Total at Pete Dye designs

TPC Sawgrass may be Pete Dye’s most famous design, and for good reason. The course features Dye’s typical shaved run off areas and tricky green complexes.  Pete Dye specialists love TPC Sawgrass and should have a major advantage this week.

SG: Total (Pete Dye) per round over past 24 rounds:

  1. Dustin Johnson (+2.6) (+1100)
  2. Bryson DeChambeau (+2.1) (+1400)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.0) (+1800)
  4. Webb Simpson  (+1.9) (+1800)
  5. Adam Scott (+1.6) (+6600)

4. Strokes Gained: Ball-striking

Prototypical ball-strikers have dominated TPC Sawgrass. With past winners like Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Webb Simpson and Rory McIlroy it is evident that golfers must be striking it pure to contend at THE PLAYERS. 

SG: BS Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+40.4) (+1400)
  2. Collin Morikawa (+38.6) (+2000)
  3. Jon Rahm (+34.2) (+1400)
  4. Tyrrell Hatton (+34.1) (+3300)
  5. Corey Conners (+33.7) (+6600)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrrell Hatton

5. Strokes Gained: Par 5

Par 5 efficiency is extremely important at TPC Sawgrass. With all four of the Par 5’s under 575 yards and three of them under 540 yards, a good amount of the scoring needs to come from these holes collectively.  In 2019, four of the top five on the leader-board ranked in the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Par 5.

SG: Par 5 Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Max Homa (+20.7) (+10000)
  2. Ryan Palmer (+19.7) (+10000)
  3. Bryson DeChambeau (+19.4) (+1400)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+17.0) (+1800)
  5. Matt Jones (+16.7) (+15000)

THE PLAYERS Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (30%), Good Drives Gained (20%), SG: Total Pete Dye (17.5 %), SG: Ball-striking (17.5%) and SG: Par 5 (15%).

  1. Keegan Bradley (+12500)
  2. Dustin Johnson (+1100)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1800)
  4. Henrik Norlander (+15000)
  5. Jon Rahm (+1400)
  6. Webb Simpson (+2000)
  7. Patrick Cantlay (+1800)
  8. Corey Conners (+6600)
  9. Matthew NeSmith (+20000)
  10. Tony Finau (+1800)

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