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The Players Championship is only a few days away. Johnny Covers looks at the field and shares his first-round leader predictions and picks. Read on to find out why he's eyeing Max Homa and more.

2023 The Players Championship First Round Leader Predictions, Picks: Max Homa Leads the Way

The Players Championship will take place this week at TPC Sawgrass, and 43 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will be there to compete. This is the best field that The Players Championship has ever had, despite  Cameron Smith, the defending champion, not participating because he has decided to join the LIV Golf League. Nonetheless, eight players who have previously won the Players Championship are taking part, including Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day, amongst others.

In addition to this, 14 tournament winners on the PGA Tour during the 2022–2023 season will be on hand, with the entire competition having a combined total of 323 PGA Tour wins won between them.

The PGA Tour's most lucrative prize will also be up for grabs, and there will be 144 players contending for it. The total prize pool is worth $25 million, and the winner will take home a staggering $4.5 million of it, more than even LIV winners. 

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The Players Championship Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

  • Date: Thursday, March 9th - Sunday, March 12th, 2023
  • Opening Tee Time: 6:45 a.m. ET - 12:00 p.m. ET
  • Where: TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
  • Where to Watch: ESPN+, Golf Channel, NBC

Click here for the Players Championship First Round Leader odds

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The Players Championship First Round Leader Predictions

Max Homa (+3300) Bet $100 to collect $3,400 BetMGM has the best odds; click here to bet

Max Homa quietly finished in a tie for 14th place in the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, getting stronger each day of the tournament. His performance may have been significantly better had his putter cooperated even slightly. 

Amazingly, it was the first time in 2023 that he lost strokes, putting for a complete competition, as he lost 2.94 strokes on the greens last week. Nonetheless, Homa's ball striking was extraordinary, and he practically lapped the field on approaches, where he amassed an incredible 7.9 strokes over the course of his four rounds. He also improved his off-the-tee scores in each of his four rounds. Given that Homa is sixth in this field in SG: Putting over his last 36 and 24 rounds while sitting third over his past 16, it is quite likely that the poor putting performance was an aberration and not a pattern.

Patrick Cantlay (+3300) Bet $100 to collect $3,400 FanDuel has the best odds; click here to bet

Patrick Cantlay enters the event fresh from two top-10 finishes in a row and appears ready for a serious run at this trophy.  Although he has never truly contended at TPC Sawgrass, he has had two top-25 performances there from earlier in his career, which indicates that the course isn't a bad fit for him. 

He has excelled at Pete Dye courses in various regions of the country, including four top-5 finishes over the course of five career appearances at Harbour Town, and he has dominated TPC Stadium, the site of the American Express, and a sister course to Sawgrass. Cantlay has been making good progress in his approaches over the past two weeks and is sixth in long-distance accuracy from farther than 200 yards.

Corey Conners (+5500) Bet $100 to collect $5,600 BetMGM has the best odds; click here to bet

There is nothing better than these major-type fields because they allow us to have exceptional ball-strikers like Corey Conners with a ton of value. He recovered well last week at Bay Hill with a T21 after two underwhelming showings at the WM Phoenix Open and Genesis. He also improved his ball striking by 6.8 strokes.

The Players Championships First Rouns Leader Picks

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Article Author


Johnny has been covering the sports betting markets and handicapping games for the better part of the past decade. Along the way, he has written for publications such as All-In Magazine, Blitz Predict, FantasyPros, Betting Pros, Sportsbook Review, and most recently, OddsChecker. In addition to giving out picks on Twitter, Johnny is the host of the podcast The Daily Sports Bet -- a 10 minute or less listen with actionable insights and no fluff or BS. Starting the podcast in June, he closed out 2021 up 26 units with a winning percentage of 55%.

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