The Players Championship - Winner

The season gets ramped up this week as we enter undoubtedly one of the most entertaining events of the year. Ponte Vedra is the location and the course is the magical Sawgrass designed by Pete Dye. Any type of game can win around here. McIlroy showed a long and straight driver gives a significant advantage in 2019 a year after the mercurial tee to green game of Webb Simpson displayed another way to skin this cat.

Approach play has always been important with the amount of hazards to stray from and difficult run offs provide a fair challenge to your game around the tee. Rain is forecast this week and it looks inevitable we will have delays so around the greens may become significantly easier than drier editions of this event. Certainly approach game in recent weeks looks where to narrow down your search and in particular from 100-150 yards.

Jon Rahm at 14/1 (Nine Places)

Morikawa, Thomas and Rahm fight it out for favouritism here and it is the latter who looks much the better prospect at the prices. There aren't many doubts at all surrounding Thomas and Morikawa. They equally look capable of performing well at Sawgrass and their game is in excellent shape. Morikawa is putting well lately so is of course a huge danger. Thomas has decided to skip the two Florida events thus far and there's a small possibility that doesn't go in his favour.

Jon Rahm on the other hand has been producing absolutely ridiculous golf from the tee and approaching the greens in recent weeks. 2nd in approach and 5th Off the tee at Arnold Palmer when finishing 17th. 11th approach and 3rd Off the tee at the Genesis finishing 21st. 11th on approach and 1st off the tee at Phoenix finishing 10th. 19th on approach and 2nd off the tee at the Farmers finishing 3rd.

Quite simply this long game is head and shoulders above anyone in the game right now and it is his work on and around the greens which causing the problem. Thus far this is categorically his worst season with the putter, and around the greens. The rain should help his plight this week and also play into his hands with his long game.

When Thomas won last year he finished 42nd in putting. Rory finished 45th with the putter when winning in 2019 and although Simpson topped that stat when winning in 2018, Si Woo showed it wasn't a necessity again when finishing 37th on the greens when lifting the trophy. Therefore Rahm's putting woes are of little concern this week and we all know how fickle that form can be and can turn around in an instant.

Rahm led after 54 holes here in 2019 only to shoot a final round of 76. He made mental errors that day and has clearly overcome some of those hurdles since. He was right in the thick of it last year after 54 also shooting a final round 73 to finish 9th. His long game is firing as good as it ever has and I'm very bullish on his chances here this week. 

4pts each-way J.Rahm 14/1 (1/5 9)

Jon Rahm - 4pts e/w @ 14/1

Russell Henley at 80/1 (Eight Places)

This looks one of the most exciting markets in a long time for each-way selections and although finding the winner is always my remit there are plenty at huge odds who are tempting to back with the place terms on offer. Chris Kirk led here after 54 before and has played extremely well lately and should tempt many between 66-80/1. Gary Woodland looks another who could quite easily repeat last weeks effort and looks value at the odds to at least place once again.

Russell Henley has shown what he can do around a technical layout before and at 80/1 looks massive value this week. 2nd at the Sony earlier in the year is his best effort to date in 2022 but has been playing solid golf and is yet to miss a cut this season. His approach game has been on fire all year and a return to Sawgrass should really suit. 18th on approach last week was another fine effort when finishing 13th and that test should be good preparation for what lies ahead this week. 

1.5pts each-way R.Henley 80/1 (1/5 8)

Russell Henley - 1.5pts e/w @ 80/1

Jordan Spieth at 45/1 (Eight Places)

Jordan Spieth still looks very backable around the 45/1 mark. No matter the strength of field Spieth must always be considered at this price. You'd be forgiven in thinking he must be in a run of poor form but that doesn't quite stack up. He gained strokes in all departments when finishing 26th in Los Angeles and two starts previous looked all over the winner down the back nine at Pebble before a late mistake and some Hoge heroics costing him the title.

Sawgrass hasn't been the happiest of hunting grounds for Spieth but he led after 54 in 2014 before a disappointing final round of 74 resulted in a 4th place finish. That effort was long before he won a major though and if he gets into a similar position nowadays expect a better finish. Spieth is a technical layout expert and Sawgrass should really play into his hands, despite some average efforts here since 2014. A few in the market appeal more simply because of their recent form but Spieth's price makes him an auto selection here this week.

1.5pts each-way J.Spieth 45/1 (1/5 8)

Jordan Spieth - 1.5pts e/w @ 45/1

Brooks Koepka at 40/1 (Eight Places)

Dustin Johnson is certainly worth considering at 35/1 but my preference in that bracket is for Brooks Koepka at slightly bigger odds. He certainly doesn't seem the force of old and has slipped to 18th in the world. That being said we have underestimated him on numerous occasions before and should he manage to get near the lead there should be a huge redress with his price. His long game in two of the last three weeks has been very solid and if that trend continues then a few big results will be in the near future.

He didn't putt all too well when finishing 16th at the Honda last time out and there were little or no negatives when putting up a stout defence of his title at Phoenix finishing 3rd. Koepka has bounced back and won from places of worse form than this and having made his last four cuts on the trot here at Sawgrass twice finishing inside the top 20, I believe he has been slightly underestimated by the market. 

1pt each-way B.Koepka 40/1 (1/5 8)

Brooks Kopeka - 1pt e/w @ 40/1

Keith Mitchell at 125/1 (Eight Places)

Keith Mitchell hasn't pulled up any trees here in three efforts finishing MC-47-MC but his recent golf suggests something a lot better could be on the horizon here at Sawgrass. In 2019 his second round of 65 was only bettered by Rahm and Furyk across the four days so there is an ounce of positive course form to draw upon. In his last six events on tour he has only been outside the top 12 twice. One of those was last week at Bayhill where he finished 61st with his approach game tailing off for the first time in a while.

I'm hopeful he can return to previous levels from February though and having made the top 12 in four of his last six it seems silly to leave him off the list with the place terms available at the price of 125/1. He has won in Florida before and a more technical layout like Sawgrass should suit Mitchell compared to the slog of Bayhill last week.

1pt each-way K.Mitchell 125/1 (1/5 8)

Keith Mitchell - 1pt e/w @ 125/1

Marc Leishman at 66/1 (10 Places)

Zach Johnson, Martin Laird, Danny Lee, Brendan Steele, Johnny Vegas, Aaron Wise and Brian Harman are all worth consideration for each way options on the week. Further up the market Matt Fitzpatrick has been playing spectacular golf lately and a layout like Sawgrass could be where he reaches a new level.

The price to do so just wasn't enough and had 50/1 or bigger been dangled then we would have probably been betting. Instead with the rain forecast I'd like to have another big hitter in the tank and I'll opt for Marc Leishman. The Aussie is a difficult one to get right with seemingly not landing the results he deserves with various parts of his game in fine working order.

Last week he finished down the field at Bayhill with his approach game deserting him for the first time in a long while. I don't expect that to linger and Leishman could make hay on a week where weather could dominate proceedings. He has shown before he can cope well with bad weather weeks and I expect an upturn in his results soon. His putting has improved a lot this season and having won many strong events in his career is clearly capable of slaying Sawgrass.

1pt each-way M.Leishman 66/1 (1/5 10)

Marc Leishman - 1pt e/w @ 66/1