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PLAYERS Betting Picks: Is Justin Thomas Being Overlooked at TPC Sawgrass? (March 9)

PLAYERS Betting Picks: Is Justin Thomas Being Overlooked at TPC Sawgrass? (March 9) article feature image

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Thomas.

When placing bets for THE PLAYERS Championship this week, it must be noted that the volatility of TPC Sawgrass can be quite destructive to a betting card.

Oftentimes, golfers will win on this course following a missed cut or missed a cut after a win the year before. Therefore, I think it will be important to spread picks out this week and avoid putting all of your eggs into one basket.

And while Rory McIlroy won the event in 2019 at 14-1 odds, a top-of-the-board champion is more of the exception than the rule at this event.

Past champion winning prices are as follows:

2019Rory McIlroy14-1
2018Webb Simpson100-1
2017Si Woo Kim500-1
2016Jason Day12-1
2015Rickie Fowler60-1
2014Martin Kaymer90-1
2013Tiger Woods8-1
2012Matt Kuchar55-1
2011KJ Choi45-1
2010Tim Clark100-1
  • Average winning price in those events: 89-1
  • Median winning price in those events: 58-1

While winning prices have been unpredictable, my strategy will still rely on finding value in the current betting market and targeting win equity. Which leads me to my betting selections for THE PLAYERS Championship:

Justin Thomas — 20-1 (DraftKings)

Thomas has been off of his game recently, which is really saying something considering he has finished in the top 15 in two of his last three starts. The approach game has been excellent as usual, and he gained a ridiculous 9.5 strokes on approach at The Concession.

He is one of the world’s best iron players, with his struggles primarily coming off the tee. Driving accuracy is  something I think can be mitigated this week, with TPC Sawgrass being a shorter course that should enable him to club down a bit more.

Many of Thomas’s recent wins have been at shorter courses: two wins at St. Jude, a victory at the Honda Classic and a championship effort at the Sony Open all since the 2017 season immediately come to mind. In terms of win equity, there is arguably no better bet on the board than Thomas, who has 13 PGA TOUR wins since 2015.

While going balanced is probably the correct strategy this week, I can’t pass up on a super elite at 20-1 odds. 

Risking: 2.10 units to win 42 units

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Tyrrell Hatton — 35-1 (DraftKings)

It feels like Hatton is being disrespected on the odds board. The world’s seventh-ranked player has proven himself to be a prolific winner. The Englishman has an impressive seven worldwide wins since 2016 and seems to be starting to focus more on the TOUR.

Hatton recently bought a home in the Orlando area ,and is looking to build off of his Florida success after winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational last year. In addition to the win equity and strong Florida track record, he also comes into the PLAYERS in excellent form.

After starting horribly and losing more than four strokes putting in Round 1 at Bay Hill, he rebounded the next three days and got himself into contention. The most important statistic at TPC Sawgrass is Strokes Gained: Approach and Hatton’s approach game has been excellent.

He gained 4.6 strokes on approach at The Concession, plus another 3.4 strokes last week at Bay Hill.

Success on Pete Dye designs is also an important factor this week and Hatton finished third at the 2020 RBC Heritage (Harbour Town), showing he has the necessary skill set to compete on a traditional Dye setup. Give me the fiery and undervalued gamer to battle for my money.

Risking: 1.2 units to win 42 units

Pictured: Patrick Reed plays his shot during the second round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at the Bay Hill in Orlando. Photo credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images.

Patrick Reed — 40-1 (DraftKings)

This is more of a win-equity play than anything.

Patrick Reed at 40-1 odds is just an absurd number based off the amount he actually wins. With nine career TOUR victories, the 30-year-old is sandwiched between Hideki Matsuyama, who hasn’t won since 2017, and Tommy Fleetwood and his a grand total of zero career victories on the TOUR.

I’m not a Reed fan by any means, but even I can acknowledge how disrespectful this number is. We might be getting a discount on him due to his missed cut at the API, but he has actually played great off career missed cuts.

In fact, his most recent win at The Farmers Insurance Open (Torrey Pines) was after a missed cut the previous week at The American Express. Reed also sets up nicely in terms of some corollary courses I am looking at this week.

He has a Pete Dye victory (PGA West 2014); a Florida win (Doral 2014), and, a triumph at the Wyndham Championship (2012), where five of the past PLAYERS Champions have also won.

Having already claimed two WGC victories and major title, Reed is a big-game hunter looking to add another big piece of tournament hardware to his résumé.

Risking: 1.05 units to win 42 units

Joaquin Niemann of Chile hits a shot from a fairway bunker. Photo credit: Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

Joaquin Niemann — 66-1 (DraftKings)

The fact that we don’t see first-timers win this event is a cause of concern for the Sawgrass debutant. However, at this price, I will gladly gamble on his pure talent to overcome a lack of experience.

The 22-year-old Chilean is an ideal fit for the course and his skill set reminds me a lot of a young Sergio Garcia, who won the event in 2008.

In his past 24 rounds, the “Wonder Kid” ranks sixth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. He is long and straight off the tee, which will be useful in avoiding the numerous Sawgrass water hazards.

Niemann also has had some recent success on a similar Pete Dye design, finishing fifth at last year’s RBC Heritage.

We have seen some inexperienced players overcome trends of late (Collin Morikawa winning the PGA Championship comes to mind), and Niemann has a shot to be the next super-talented youngster to join the party. 

Risking: 0.63 units to win 42 units 

Total Risk: 4.98 units to win 42 units

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