The PLAYERS Championship 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?

The PLAYERS Championship Round 1 matchups, 3-Ball picks, and analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. Andy Lack is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners.
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The PLAYERS Championship 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?

I've always been hesitant to call the PLAYERS Championship the 'Fifth Major,' but it's hard to deny its stature given the strength of this field and the $20 million dollar purse. That's right, the 2022 PLAYERS Championship will have the largest purse in PGA Tour history, shattering the previous record of $12.5 million from the 2021 U.S. Open. The PGA Tour has put their heart and soul into this event, as well as this golf course, and at the very least, golf bettors will certainly appreciate the shot-by-shot live coverage of every player on the course.

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The venue is the iconic TPC Sawgrass, designed by the legendary Pete Dye in 1979. The course plays as a Par 72, measuring 7,189 yards on the scorecard. It is known for its infamous island green 17th hole, but the entire course is a complete and impressive product. TPC Sawgrass has undergone multiple renovations since the original Dye design, and the PGA Tour has done everything in its power to make this course more exciting without compromising the integrity of the original architecture. The 12th hole has been converted into a drivable Par 4, which provides for even more fireworks down the stretch. It's important to note that since this tournament has been moved from May to March in 2019, the course has changed as well. Because of the colder climate in March, organizers have overseeded the fairways and rough with Rye and Fine Fescue, and the greens with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis. Before making Florida golf comparisons, these greens are far more similar to the overseeded Bermuda we see every year at TPC Scottsdale and PGA West than they are to the grainy Bermuda that we were used to here prior to 2019.

Finally, let's discuss the elephant in the room: the weather forecast. As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, scattered thunderstorms are expected across Thursday and Friday, and Saturday and Sunday are expected to bring up to 20 mph wind gusts. It's hard to imagine that we will not at least see one weather delay throughout this tournament, and I would put the odds at 50/50 that it even finishes in time. This event had trouble getting players off the course before sunset last year in dry conditions! Ultimately, I'm not letting the inclement weather change too much of my handicapping strategy. Do players with a strong resume in the wind and in colder climates get a boost? Maybe a little, but it's also Florida, the weather can change in an instant. I wouldn't spend too much time tying yourself down to a narrative that may not even come to fruition. Instead, I will primarily be looking for players with a balanced tee to green game that excel in categories such as Par 5 scoring, bogey avoidance, and general approach play.

Let's dig into my Round 1 3-Balls.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Tony Finau (+150) vs. Webb Simpson (+170) vs. Patrick Reed (+210)

Selection: Tony Finau (+150) (Bet $100 to Win $150)

I'll admit, all three of these players enter this tournament with their fair share of questions, but allow me to make the case for why Tony Finau is one of the most undervalued players in the field this week. The World No. 23 is coming off a 33rd place finish at the Genesis Invitational where he gained 6.4 strokes on approach, good for his best iron week since he won the Northern Trust in August. The only reason why he was not able to capitalize and move up the leaderboard is a faulty putter. Yet now Finau returns to the same overseeded Bermuda greens that he has already experienced so much success at at TPC Scottsdale and PGA West. I still believe that Finau is in a different class of player than his opponents this week, and he is certainly the easiest man to trust in this 3-Ball.

I've attempted to make the case for Patrick Reed in previous columns, and I'm running out of ammo with each growing week. The nine-time PGA Tour winner has now missed three cuts in a row, losing over a stroke ball-striking in each appearance. I don't love this course for Patrick Reed to begin with, as he greatly struggles with his scoring clubs, but adding his recent form into the mix, he is downright unplayable.

I struggle to make a much stronger case for Webb Simpson this week. He has not teed it up since the Sony Open in January, where he lost a whopping 5.4 strokes ball-striking en route to a 61st place finish. I'm simply not convinced that he's fully healthy. Simpson has won this tournament before, and there is a lot of money on the line, which might be encouraging him to come back before he's ready. I will gladly let Simpson and Reed beat me, as there is absolutely zero logical or statistical bearing that points to either of them right now.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Tyrrell Hatton (+115) vs. Tom Hoge (+170) vs. Brandt Snedeker (+275)

Selection: Tom Hoge (+170) (Bet $100 to Win $170)

I will always have fond memories of Tom Hoge after he cashed a 65/1 ticket for me just last month at the AT & T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and I have no reason to believe he can't keep the momentum going at TPC Sawgrass. Hoge is all the way up to No. 37 in the world, and the reason I'm so confident that his win at Pebble Beach wasn't an anomaly is because he remains one of the best mid to short iron players in the world over a large sample size. It should not come as a surprise that he has made the cut here every year, or that he's experienced so much success on other short, positional golf courses such as PGA West (the TPC Sawgrass of the West), Mayakoba, Waialae, Sea Island, and of course, Pebble Beach.

As far as Tyrrell Hatton goes, I wouldn't read too deeply into his second-place finish last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. That was a circus-esque golf course, and Hatton's plus eight strokes putting was the sole reason he was in the mix. In four appearances at TPC Sawgrass, Hatton has never finished better than 41st, with three missed cuts. I feel comfortable fading a player who clearly struggles on this course coming off a spike-putting week.

Brandt Snedeker is the long-shot of the group, and for good reason. I just don't believe that he has the ball-striking chops to compete with Hoge right now. He's missed four cuts in a row, losing strokes ball-striking in every effort, and he currently ranks toward the very bottom of this field in strokes gained off the tee, strokes gained approach, and par five scoring. Not exactly an ideal formula for the task at hand this week. Hoge is the play.

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Round 1 3-Ball: Sungjae Im (-125) vs. Martin Laird (+190) vs. Richy Werenski (+350)

Selection: Martin Laird (+190) (Bet $100 to Win $190)

At some point, my streak of good fortune with Martin Laird will likely come to an end, but for now, I am just going to continue to play him. The four-time PGA Tour winner has made his last four cuts, and all have come at strong golf courses and in good fields. Laird was actually hovering around the top-10 of the Arnold Palmer invitational for nearly the entire tournament before a final round 80 dropped him all the way down the 52nd place. I'm not going to put too much stock into that, as the course conditions were out of control, and on the week, Laird was still one of the best iron players in the entire field. Laird possesses a higher floor than most players in his price range because he is an incredibly accurate driver of the ball, as well as a good ball-striker.

Sungjae Im is clearly the best player of this threesome, but -125 feels a bit short of a price. Im lost strokes both off the tee and on approach for the first time since last year's Tour Championship, and his ball-striking has been steadily trending in the wrong direction over his last three starts. His 20th-place finish last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was masked by a scorching hot putter. For me to even consider laying juice in a Round 1 3-Ball, I would need the favorite to be absolutely firing on all cylinders, and Im simply doesn't check enough boxes for me.

There's no need for me to pile on Richy Werenski, but the reason that I am not playing him is because he is in the bottom ten percentile in this field in strokes gained approach, strokes gained off the tee, good drives gained, greens in regulation gained, scrambling, par five scoring, birdies or better gained, bogeys avoided, and sand saves. Basically just don't play Richy Werenski this week. There are far better options. Martin Laird, for example, being one of them.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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