PLAYERS Championship Odds Preview: Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas Battle for Top Spot
PLAYERS Championship Odds Preview: Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas Battle for Top Spot
How To Watch The PLAYERS Championship
Thursday-Friday: 12 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)
Saturday-Sunday: 1 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC).
Qualifying Criteria For The PLAYERS Championship
- Major winners (5-year exemption)
- PLAYERS Champion (5-year exemption)
- Winner - Arnold Palmer Invitational or Genesis Invitational (current year)
- Winner - Olympics
- Tournament winner in the past year
- Top-125 on Prior Season's FedEx Cup Standings
- Top 125 (Medical)
- Top-50 OWGR
- Leading Points winner from Korn Ferry Tour from Prior Year
- Below Top 10 on Current Year FedEx Cup Standings until the field is full at 144 players
Last Year's PLAYERS Championship
Last year, Lee Westwood rolled back the years, leading after 36 and 54-holes, and headed into the final-round paired with Bryson DeChambeau for the second-straight week.
DeChambeau got the better of him at Bay Hill, but it was Justin Thomas, who had fired himself into contention on Saturday with a round of 64, who leapfrogged both of them.
Westwood finally struggled, posting a level-par final round, where his four birdies were countered by four bogeys, and it was a similar story for Bryson who could only shoot 1-under, largely thanks to an eagle at 16, which made up for the double-bogey he made on #4.
Thomas started his round incredibly slowly, parring his first seven holes, before bogeying the 8th, but a birdie at the par-5 9th got him back on track. That started a run of birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie from the 9th to the 12th hole, which in effect clinched his victory.
Thomas did bogey the 14th which provided the field with hope, but a birdie at the par-5 16th, followed by safely navigated 71st and 72nd holes, meant Thomas was victorious once again, beating the wily veteran, Westwood by a single stroke. Westwood virtually gave up his chance of victory with a water-ball at 17, which led to a bogey, but he did bounce back with a birdie on 18 to make it just a one-stroke victory for Thomas.
PLAYERS Championship Trends
Over the past 10 renewals, every player has finished 22nd or better in their most recent start:
- 2021 - Justin Thomas (T15 WGC Workday)
- 2019 - Rory McIlroy (T6 Arnold Palmer Invitational)
- 2018 - Webb Simpson (21st Wells Fargo Championship)
- 2017 - Si-Woo Kim (T22 Valero Texas Open)
- 2016 - Jason Day (T5 Zurich Classic)
- 2015 - Rickie Fowler (9th WGC Cadillac)
- 2014 - Martin Kaymer (T18 Wells Fargo Championship)
- 2013 - Tiger Woods (T4 Masters)
- 2012 - Matt Kuchar (T13 Valero Texas Open)
- 2011 - K.J. Choi (T3 Zurich Classic)
9 of the last 11 winners have also finished T4 or better at least once on the PGA Tour, in the same calendar year as their PLAYERS win.
Jon Rahm @ +1400 (Bet $100 to win $1400)
Once again we are here talking about Jon Rahm as the favorite. In fact, I am not sure if during my time at Oddschecker, whether another player has ever been favorite when Rahm has been in the field. One to ponder.
Anyway, after another tough week with the putter, including his missed putt from inches on Friday, Rahm's game continues to stutter. The difference with Rahm, and the reason why he is where he is in the World Rankings, is his stuttering doesn't mean missed cuts, it just means top-30 finishes, where he's not entering Sunday with a chance to win as often as he would like.
Onto Rahm's record in this event. When making his debut in 2017, Rahm opened with a round of 68 to sit third, and followed with a level-par 72 to sit 10th after 36 holes. A third-round 82 followed and he missed a 54-hole cut that year. Since then, Rahm has finished 63rd in 2018, where he was 17th after 36-holes, 12th in 2019, when he led after 54-holes and 9th last year, where he was again in contention, sitting 5th going into Sunday.
He shot a final-round 73 last year, where he had to be aggressive to close the gap that Lee Westwood had created for himself. The Englishman was two-clear of Bryson DeChambeau in 2nd, three ahead of Justin Thomas and four ahead of Rahm, Brian Harman and Paul Casey.
Rahm might have a better record here than people remember, and has just been caught out a couple of times on a tough golf course. If he finds his putting stroke, he will be a factor on Sunday.
Collin Morikawa @ +1600 (Bet $100 to win $1600)
Collin Morikawa is my first lean of the week, so I will discuss him more below.
Justin Thomas @ +1500 (Bet $100 to win $1500)
Justin Thomas comes in as the defending champion, having overcome a three-shot deficit on Sunday, to win one of the most coveted titles in golf. This was after a really tough spell for Thomas, who was coming under scrutiny for derogatory comments earlier in the year, while also coping with the loss of his grandfather.
Last year was Thomas' sixth start on the golf course, and it was the fifth time he has made the cut here. His previous best came on his second start in 2016, when he finished 3rd and even a year prior to that on his debut, he found himself in 5th place after 54-holes, thanks to a 65 on Saturday.
Thomas has one blemish here, a missed cut after 54-holes in 2017, and given he is in good form coming into the week, ranking 2nd and 9th his last two starts in SG Tee-to-Green, and finishing T5-T20-T8-6 in his four starts in 2022, his chances are clearly very strong once again.
It was between him and Morikawa for my bet this week, and I landed on the latter given how hard it is to win here two years in a row. With that said, Thomas is the type to defy these sort of odds.
Rory McIlroy @ +1800 (Bet $100 to win $1800)
Rory McIlroy is a PLAYERS Champion, landing this title in 2019. but he's otherwise had a chequered history.
McIlroy missed the cut in his first three starts in this event, before reeling off three-straight top-8 finishes here from 2013-2015. Since then his form here reads 12-35-MC-1-MC so he's the epitome of volatility here.
McIlroy led at Bay Hill after round 1, shooting a blistering seven-under par round, but he then went 21-holes without a birdie from the 9th hole on Friday. Rounds of 72-76 followed, leaving him four adrift of Billy Horschel and Talor Gooch going into Sunday.
It wasn't the Sunday McIlroy had in mind, who wasn't particularly complimentary of the course setup, but its another event where he's been in the mix, and that is a good sign for one of the world's best.
He's been around the top of the leaderboard for most of 2022 and it is clearly close for McIlroy, who did win twice in 2021, so he will have his backers here once again.
Viktor Hovland @ +2000 (Bet $100 to win $2000)
Vikto Hovland was right there again on Sunday and while he didn't get the job done, losing out to Scottie Scheffler,, he continues to either win or be in contention at the moment.
He missed the cut on debut here last year, shooting 72-74 to open the week, but there isn't too much reason for concern, given this is a golf course that is notoriously difficult to be consistent on and doesn't necessarily favour debutants.
Hovland will likely improve on his second visit here, and his 4th place finish at the Wyndham Championship in 2019, before he even developed into the player he is today, is a good pointer, given the course correlation there.
Incoming Form (2022)
Below are the top-10 in adjusted scoring average since the start of 2022:
- Scottie Scheffler - 2-57-25-20-1-7-1
- Matt Fitzpatrick - 2-6-10-9
- Justin Thomas - 5-20-8-6
- Joaquin Niemann - MC-MC-6-8-1-MC
- Jon Rahm - 2-14-3-10-21-17
- Patrick Cantlay - 4-9-4-2-33
- Rory McIlroy - 6-12-3-10-13
- Viktor Hovland - 30-4-1-MC-4-2
- Russell Henley - 7-22-2-14-33-33-13
- Will Zalatoris - 37-6-2-26-38
Past Champions (10 Years)
- 2021 - Justin Thomas (-14) - 1 stroke victory
- 2019 - Rory McIlroy (-16) - 1 stroke victory
- 2018 - Webb Simpson (-18) - 4 stroke victory
- 2017 - Si-Woo Kim (-10) - 3 stroke victory
- 2016 - Jason Day (-15) - 4 stroke victory
- 2015 - Rickie Fowler (-12) - Playoff victory over Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner
- 2014 - Martin Kaymer (-13) - 1 stroke victory
- 2013 - Tiger Woods (-13) - 2 stroke victory
- 2012 - Matt Kuchar (-13) - 2 stroke victory
- 2011 - K.J. Choi (-13) - Playoff victory over David Toms
Collin Morikawa @ +1600 (Bet it now at DraftKings)
I still, despite all the superlatives, think Collin Morikawa is underrated, and despite his 41st place finish on debut here looking rather ordinary, there was plenty of good stuff there.
Morikawa, as he almost always does, gained strokes here on approach, sitting 23rd in that category, and in the end he managed to post a final-round 66, the tied-lowest round of the day, to show he's got a chance of winning round here.
So far in this new-ish season, Morikawa has played four official PGA Tour events. He has finished 2nd, T7, T5 and T2. In his two starts on the DP World Tour to start the year he was disappointing (T62, T18) but he bounced back with an incredible Sunday at Riviera, where he put pressure on Joaquin Niemann to the very end.
On paper, this has all the makings to be a great golf course for Morikawa, and I am willing to bet he learned a lot from his first spin round here, and that he can put that to good use this time around.
His price is shortening, which is almost enough to put me off, given the quality in the field and attractive prices elsewhere, but I do not want to abandon my opinion that he's the most likely winner, for the sake of a couple of points.
Dustin Johnson @ +4000 (Bet it now at DraftKings)
Full disclosure, this was a last-minute add, as I just cannot ignore the odds.
He was 28/1 when first writing this preview, and that was tempting enough, but 35/1 for a player of his quality, regardless of suitability is just ridiculous.
After missing his first two cuts here, Johnson is 9/10 for made cuts since, missing one weekend due to a withdrawal, and his efforts are increasingly positive here. He may also be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the date change, given its tendency to play into bigger hitter's hands now.
Johnson was 5th here in 2019, the first time he played this event in March and while he was 48th last year, I am always willing to forgive a poor finish here, especially when the spotlight is on. Johnson was the World No.1 when teeing it up here last year, and was adjusting to life as a Masters winner, but after a missed cut at Riviera, and only one top-10 so far in 2022 (he;s only played three times), he is no longer the focal point.
Dustin was the round 1 leader here in 2018, opening with a 66 and he was 3rd at the 54-hole stage, but a poor Sunday saw him slip to 17th.
His last four finishes here read 12-17-5-48 and with his improving form at Sawgrass, and three wins on Pete Dye courses (Travelers, Austin Country Club and Crooked Stick), I think he represents plenty of value.
I think both Koepka's course and current form are being overlooked here, and while everyone is convinced he isn't playing that well, his long game is in decent shape and his short game can bounce back at any time.
He contended in Phoenix which we expect of him, which means he's playing well enough to contend on his favorite courses, and even at the Honda where he was 16th, it was the short game that cost him.
Koepka ranked 7th at Phoenix and 17th at the Honda in SG: Off-the-Tee and he was in the top-26 in the field at both in SG Approach, so his ball-striking is just fine.
Looking at his history here, which again may not seem amazing at first look, he's actually been pretty decent around this famed track. In five visits here, he has made four cuts, with his only missed cut coming on debut, where he opened with a 78, but followed it with a 67 to just miss.
Since his missed cut on debut, Koepka has finished 35-16-11-56 here, which is fine by me, on a course which as mentioned earlier, is notoriously difficult to be consistent on. When 35th on his second start, Koepka opened with a 66 to sit 7th, and on his next two starts he finished 16th and 11th, with the latter coming courtesy of a course record-tying 63 on Sunday.
Considering Koepka is half this price or less for every major this year, he's a decent bet on that basis alone, but when his course form suggests he's actually pretty good here by all accounts, I think the number is more than fair, on one of the game's elite.
Shane Lowry @ +5000 (Bet it now at DraftKings)
I never tend to back Shane Lowry, because I tend to find his outright prices on the short side, but at 50/1 I am more than happy to chance him on a golf course that plays to his strengths, and he has some positive history on as well.
The Irishman is 3 for 6 for made cuts here, but he's made 2 of his last 3 and last year he put in his best effort yet, an 8th place finish. He opened with a 68 on Thursday last year to sit in 3rd, and also broke 70 in both rounds over the weekend (69-68), it was just a Friday 74 that held him back.
It was a similar story when 16th in 2016, as he opened with rounds of 65-68 to sit 2nd at the halfway stage, but a third-round 78 saw him tumble down the leaderboard. A final-round 71 saved him from falling too much further (15th to 16th) and I like his chances of putting four rounds together this time around.
Tough weather conditions are forecast over the weekend, and as an Open Championship winner, and a player who's recently navigated poor weather well at the Honda Classic, I like Lowry's chances.
He was T3 on another Pete Dye course in 2019 (RBC Heritage) and that can only be beneficial, as is his Florida-based form at the Honda, where he's finished 2nd on his most recent start.
His form in 2022 reads T12-T24-T14-2 so he's clearly not far away, and we know at his best he is more than capable of winning an event of this magnitude, winning a major, a WGC and even going back to his first win on the European Tour, his home open, when still an amateur. He is class personified and a win at this event would solidify that status.
Lowry is the fourth-straight selection of mine that has major-winning pedigree and that's no accident.
Considering the level, and as I keep mentioning, the volatility of this event, Sergio Garcia's record at TPC Sawgrass is insane.
Garcia has played this event 22 times in total, not missing a year since his debut, and he's made 20 cuts in that time. His two missed cuts came in his first four appearances, with the latter coming when wildly out of form in 2003, so I am confident even without his best stuff that he can compete round here.
I bet him last year at 90/1 and when he raced out to a two-stroke lead after round 1, I was feeling pretty smug. He was still 3rd after 36-holes, but eventually finished 9th, and although disappointing, it was another notch in an impressive portfolio.
The Spaniard has a win, a 2nd and two 3rd's here and the move back to March hasn't seemed to phase him either, as he's finished 22nd and 9th here the past two renewals, so I think there's a lot to love.
Granted, he's not setting the world alight, with finishes of T12-T24-T39-T38 in 2022, and he's not fitting the trends required at the moment, but trends are there to be broken and I will take a course veteran here any day of the week. Garcia is still more than competitive at this level and worth a small bet at this price.
Brian Harman @ +15000 (Bet it now at DraftKings)
I would say this is probably where the winning upside potentially stops, but Harman is an attractive option in triple-digits, given his record here.
In his past two starts at Swagrass, which have both come in the March slot, Harman has finished 3rd (2021) and 8th (2019) and that adds to an 8th place finish here in 2015 as well.
Harman has shown signs of life already in 2022, after a tough end to last season, finishing 3rd at The American Express, and 14th at the Phoenix Open, which suggests he's capable of making a run on a course he's enjoyed over the years.
He missed the cut last time out at the Honda, but that was on the number, and when he was 8th in 2019 he had missed his last two cuts and five of his first seven of the year, and in 2021 he had finished T39-T43 in his past two starts, and had a sole top-10 to his name on the year (T8 American Express), so he's arguably in better shape this time around to contend.
This is probably a placement market bet more than anything else, but there's just about enough belief in him to back him outright, given his three top-8s here and four top-8s at the Travelers Championship, which is played at the Pete Dye-designed, TPC River Highlands.
Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!