Sleeper Picks for THE PLAYERS Championship: Our Favorite Longshot Bets at TPC Sawgrass (March 11, 2021)
Andrew Redington/WME IMG/WME IMG via Getty Images. Pictured: Abraham Ancer
- THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most volatile tournaments on the PGA TOUR schedule.
- Anything can happen at Sawgrass and that is music to the ears of longshot bettors.
- Here are our sleeper picks for the 2021 PLAYERS Championship:
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 longshot bets and sleeper picks for the 2021 PLAYERS Championship:
Justin Rose (+15000)
OK, let’s say it all together: Beware the injured golfer!
Rose withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational early in his third round with a back issue, which admittedly renders him a less-than-ideal candidate for this week. If Bryson DeChambeau taught us anything this past week, though, it’s that a little risk can lead to a lot of reward. Let’s also remember that Rose was starting to play some much better golf lately and undoubtedly a rare in-person session with longtime instructor Sean Foley helped even more.
He owns a solid-if-not-spectacular record at this one, with five top-25s in 16 starts and a best finish of fourth in 2014. This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a risk which could pay off.
Emiliano Grillo (+16000)
Grillo is a player I tend to look at when the approach game is the most important factor. Is he going to make a putt all week? No, probably not. But he’s in a decent run of form with three top-25 finishes in the past month and he’s put up some good results at Sawgrass including an 11th in 2017.
I wouldn’t expect Grillo to win, but he’s definitely someone to consider for place bets like a top-20.
Abraham Ancer (+7500)
Debutantes typically have a tough time around TPC Sawgrass, but Ancer bucked that trend in 2019 when he finished 12th. He would gain strokes on the field in all metrics that week, including more than seven strokes gained ball-striking.
Ancer has been up and down to start the new year, with two missed cuts in his five events, which may explain the price, but he also has three Top-20 finishes, including a 5th, in that stretch.
I am happy to jump on a player of his caliber that has a history of playing well at these Pete Dye tracks, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find him in contention come Sunday. I know he has the skillset to pull off the win, but I’ll also bet him up the board for all of the finishing position opportunities as well.
Joaquin Niemann (+6600)
The fact that we don’t see first-timers win THE PLAYERS Championship makes Niemann a sleeper this week in my eyes. However, at this price I will gladly gamble on his pure talent to overcome the lack of experience at TPC Sawgrass.
The 22-year-old Chilean is an ideal fit for the course and his skillset reminds me a lot of a young Sergio Garcia, who won the event in 2008. In his past 24 rounds, the “Wonder Kid” ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. He is also long and straight off of the tee which will be useful in avoiding the many water hazards at TPC Sawgrass.
Niemann also has had some recent success on a similar Pete Dye design finishing 5th at the 2020 RBC Heritage (Harbour Town). We have seen some inexperienced players overcome trends of late (Morikawa winning the PGA Championship comes to mind), and Joaquin Niemann has a shot to be the next super talented youngster to join the party.
Scottie Scheffler (+5000)
Completely on #brand play here, as I will continue to keep hammering these numbers on Scheffler as long as books keep offering it.
Scheffler seems to be back in his pre-COVID form as both his ball-striking and putting are trending upwards of late. He ranks fourth in this field in total strokes gained over his past 12 rounds, trailing only Cantlay, Finau and Casey.
Much like Morikawa he also opened last year’s version of this event with a four-under 68, so we have zero worry of him being able to handle one of the tougher tests on TOUR.
I love targeting one of the purest ball-strikers in the world at this high of a number, and if he can just stay out of the water he will be in contention come Sunday.
Chris Kirk (+15000)
I’m learning quickly that the definition of a Sleeper in fantasy varies greatly with the same in betting, and it opens more opportunities to lean on a more proven talent.
Then again, in a field this deep, a Sleeper is even more relative than usual, but Martin Kaymer was 61st in the Official World Golf Ranking when he prevailed in 2014 and Si Woo Kim was 75th in 2017, so there’s proven value at this layer.
Most importantly, because Kirk (84th in the OWGR) has overhauled his life outside the ropes, no one will be more prepared to handle the pressure on the inward side on Sunday, but even better once he’s inside the ropes, he’s been lighting it up since winning on the Korn Ferry Tour last June. And in 2021 alone, he has a T2 (Sony), a T8 (API) and a pair of T16s.
His default skill set of ball-striking is perfect for the test and he’s cashed in seven of the last eight editions of THE PLAYERS, three of which resulting in a top 15.