THE PLAYERS Championship Picks: Our Favorite Outright Bets at TPC Sawgrass (March 11, 2021)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Collin Morikawa
Picking a golf winner is really hard. Not only do you need everything to go right, but you also will need a lot of luck. The stars truly need to align.
Perhaps no course typifies the randomness and volatility of golf (and betting on golf) better than TPC Sawgrass. There's trouble everywhere (I mean one of the greens is a literal island), so one poor swing of the spoon and poof, you could tumble down a leaderboard.
While that kind of zaniness may drive bettors nuts, it also makes THE PLAYERS Championship one of the most fun events on the PGA TOUR schedule to bet. Bring on the bedlam.
Here are our favorite outright bets for the 2021 PLAYERS Championship:
Patrick Cantlay (+2200)
I’ll preface this pick by reiterating what I wrote in my betting guide: This has traditionally been one of the toughest tourneys to predict each year. Cantlay does check a handful of boxes, though. He opened with a 5-under 67 last year before the event was canceled. (And yes, astute observers might remember that I picked him a year ago, too.)
More importantly, he’s trending in the right direction, with no result worse than T-17 since October and a T-15 in his last start. Even though he was forced to WD from the WGC-Workday due to stomach issues and dehydration, that hardly sounds like anything that will still affect him two weeks later.
The world’s ninth-ranked player is ready to win something big very soon, and while that big one might very well be a major championship, I think his tee-to-green game sets up nicely for this one.
Justin Thomas (+2000)
Justin Thomas has been winning at around a +1000 clip for over four years now, so I really don’t think he should be 20/1 in any field. And definitely not on a course where the approach game is probably the most important aspect.
I understand he's drifted to this number because it looks like his form has been off, but he's still playing quite well. He was second in approach two weeks ago — behind only eventual winner Collin Morikawa — but just couldn't get his driver to cooperate.
Thomas is usually good off the tee, and even so, this event tends to negate the driving advantages anyway. It’s usually iron and good Bermuda putters at Sawgrass and Thomas checks both those boxes.
Daniel Berger (+4400)
The way that THE PLAYERS Championship sets up each year, I prefer to dig down the board a little bit for value as there are more players that can win this event than is typical in most top-flight fields. Daniel Berger’s play over the last year has put him on the cusp of being considered in the top tier each week, and he seems to be priced on a rung below where he belongs this week.
Berger has won twice since June, a claim that only a few players can make, and he also has four other Top-7 finishes in that timeframe. One of those was a third-place finish on another Pete Dye track at the RBC Heritage, which has been a good corollary course in the past.
Berger has acknowledged he has a bit of a chip on his shoulder after being left out at The Masters last fall, and he already leveraged it to win at Pebble Beach last month. He still has something to prove and this is a stage, and course fit that will allow him to do just that at some great odds.
Tyrrell Hatton (+3500)
It feels like Tyrrell Hatton is being disrespected on the oddsboard this week. With seven worldwide wins since 2016, Hatton is a prolific winner and now seems to be focused on making his mark on the PGA 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 losing over 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 and another 3.4 strokes last week at Bay Hill.
Success of 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 at a traditional Dye setup.
Everything is aligning this week for the fiery and undervalued gamer to be the next PLAYERS Champion.
Collin Morikawa (+2200)
I’m all in on Morikawa this week, both in DFS and in the betting market. It’s just hard to ignore his recent play. He’s 24 years old and is already a Major Champion and has a WGC victory. As mentioned in my FantasyLabs writeup, the only other player in PGA TOUR history to accomplish this feat before his 25th birthday is one Eldrick Woods.
In addition to his ridiculous rolling numbers, where he paces this field in SG: Ball-Striking and Tee-to-Green over his past 24 rounds, Morikawa also ranks No. 1 in this field in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation percentage across his past four rounds. He is absolutely locked in right now and showed zero issue in handling TPC Sawgrass last year, as he posted an opening round 68 before the tournament was canceled.
Fade this man at your own risk.
Tommy Fleetwood (+4500)
Elated to be back for my second spin with the gang here. I’m of the philosophy that you probably don’t need my reinforcement of the board favorites. If I’m going to be compelled to advise on any, it’ll likely be as a fade in a prop sitch à la Viktor Hovland to miss the cut at the API last week, so I’m planning to focus on the 25-to-1 and longer odds most of the time. Of course, because of the quality of the field at THE PLAYERS Championship, the buffet is overflowing, so it’s easy to adhere to the objective.
If Fleetwood prevails, he’ll be the first first-time PGA TOUR winner at THE PLAYERS in 11 years (Tim Clark), but the Brit was positioned to do just that in the last edition in 2019. He co-led after the first and second rounds and finished T5. Also placed T7 the year prior.
Savvy, global talent who will win on TOUR at some point. No one disputes this.