PGA Pros Battle TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course For Player’s Championship

PGA Tour Golf
2012 The Player’s Championship
TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course – Ponte Vedra, Florida
Par 72 – 7,220 yards
Thursday, May 10-Sunday, May 13, 2012, TV: Golf Channel, NBC
Defending Champion: K.J. Choi
All Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

lee westwood british open
Lee Westwood is among the favorites with Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald to win the Player's Championship at TPC Sawgrass thsi week.

A week after Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, and Lee Westwood all returned to the course for the first time since the Masters, the PGA has one of the most prestigious events of the year. The Player’s Championship is one of the biggest non-major events of the year. As always it is played at the TPC Sawgrass, with it’s iconic Island Hole at 17.

After playing over par for 13 years in a row, the course has softened up playing at par or under the last two seasons. Some modifications to five of the greens might have contributed to this. Whatever the reason, the course is capable of yielding some low scores.

Here is a look at the contenders and their odds to win, along with some head to head match-ups I like. All odds are courtesy of Bookmaker.  Most of the world’s top players are playing this week, with the notable exception of Master’s champ Bubba Watson who withdrew to spend time with his wife and newborn child.

Rory McIlroy (9/1)

McIlroy lost in a playoff to Rickie Fowler last week at Quail Hollow. McIlroy has been playing light’s out golf for the last 8 months and is the number one player in the world. Though he has never won at Sawgrass in two tries, he led the field in driving distance and birdies last year at the Player’s. He is #20 on Tour this year in greens hit, first in the all-around, and 17th in scrambling. As hot as he has been this year, he is always worth a play. He is -130 to beat Lee Westwood and -140 to beat Luke Donald. McIlroy could be a good play in either one of those match-ups.

Lee Westwood (19/2)

Westwood was the leader coming into the weekend at Quail Hollow last week, but ended up tied for fifth. This was after a tie for third at the Masters. He is making his 13th appearance at the Player’s. He skipped the event last year, but has 3 top 10’s including a tie for fourth 2 years ago. Westwood leads the tour in greens in regulation. He has come close to winning this event before, but this could be the year he breaks through and wins. Westwood is even against McIlroy, -140 against Luke Donald, and -200 against Tiger. I like him to beat both Donald and Woods.

Luke Donald (14/1)

Donald didn’t play last week at Charlotte after he finished in third place in New Orleans the week before. He only had one bogey in his last 55 holes in the Big Easy. Donald has never won the Player’s before but does have several top ten’s including a tie for fourth last year, and a runner-up in 2005. Donald is 13th in driving accuracy, 1st in scrambling, and 4th in putting. Donald is a+110 underdog to McIlroy and Westwood, and -160 against Tiger Woods. I like Donald to beat Tiger, and he could beat the other two as well.

Tiger Woods (33/2)

After winning the Arnold Palmer in March for his first win since 2009, many thought Tiger was back. However, he tied for 40th at Augusta and missed the cut for only the 8th time in his career at Quail last week. Tiger’s problems with the putter continue to plague him, and the problem is mostly mental rather than with his form. If he can’t fix that, then he won’t compete  for wins consistently. Tiger is a +160 underdog against Westwood, +130 against Donald, and +105 against Mickelson. I don’t see him beating any of those three or winning the tournament.

Phil Mickelson (33/2)

The newly minted Hall-of-Famer finished tied for 26th last week in Charlotte, after he tied for third at Augusta. He has a win at Pebble Beach, and 3 other top 5’s this year. Mickelson has made the cut here 10 straight years. He won the Player’s in 2007, but hasn’t finished in the top 15 since. He is 42nd in GIR and second in scrambling. Mickelson is -135 against Woods, and -115 against Steve Stricker. I like Lefty in both of those match-ups but I don’t think he beats the trio from the UK.

Sergio Garcia (25/1)

Garcia usually does well at Sawgrass. He has 12 career starts at the Player’s with a win in 2008. He also has top fives in 2002 and 2007. Garcia finished tied for 12th last year. He is making his first start since Augusta, where he tied for 12th. Garcia is 14th on tour in the all-around. Garcia is -110 against Adam Scott and -120 against Jason Day. Garcia is a nice dark horse pick. You know what, he has done well at this course, and is the leading career money winner in this event. I will pull the trigger on him winning his second Player’s.

Hunter Mahan (28/1)

Mahan leads the FedEx Cup standings and has 2 wins this season. He is the only multiple winner on tour this year. He was tied for 6th last year at Sawgrass, his best ever finish at the Player’s. Mahan is playing the best golf of his career and has become an elite golfer. Mahan is 5th in GIR and 18th in scoring on tour. Mahan is long and accurate off the tee, two things that will help him at Sawgrass. Mahan is -120 against Webb Simpson. I like Mahan in that match-up, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Mahan won the whole thing.

Steve Stricker (30/1)

Stricker has a win and 3 other top ten’s this year. He has 6 top 25’s at Sawgrass including a tie for 12th last year. He is 7th in GIR and 13th in scrambling. Stricker is -140 against Jason Dufner, and I like Stricker in that match-up. Stricker is -115 against Mickelson.  He is one of the most consistent golfers on tour but I don’t think Stricker wins this event.

Jason Dufner (33/1)

Dufner grabbed his first career PGA win at New Orleans a couple of weeks ago. He took last week off to get married. He tied for 6th here last year. Dufner is 30th in greens, fifth in the all-around, and 15th in scrambling. Dufner is +110 against Stricker. It would cap off a great 3 weeks for Dufner if he could win the Player’s but I think the field is a little too deep.

Webb Simpson (33/1)

Simpson tied for 13th at New Orleans and finished fourth in Charlotte. Simpson has struggled in final rounds in his career, which makes people question his closing ability. He is 12th in scoring average, but is averaging 72.40 in final rounds.  Simpson is -110 against Mahan.

Jason Day (33/1)

Day finished tied for ninth last week at Charlotte. He shot under par in all four rounds last year at Sawgrass and tied for sixth. Day is in the top 25 in most of the scoring categories. Day is -110 against Garcia this week. Day could contend this week and surprise.

Rickie Fowler (35/1)

Fowler claimed his first PGA win last week in a playoff at Quail Hollow in a playoff against McIlroy and D.A. Pointes. He also finished in the top 10 at New Orleans. A win here might start a fashion trend on the garish orange outfits he wears during the final round. Well, maybe not, but Fowler is playing some good golf right now. Fowler is +120 to beat Adam Scott and +110 to beat Justin Rose. I think Fowler is a nice play in both of those match-ups.

Two other golfers I like as potential dark horses are Justin Rose (40/1) and Graeme McDowell (50/1). Rose has struggled at Sawgrass with only one top 40 finish in 2009. However, he has 3 top 15’s in his last 3 starts this season, including a win at the WGC-Cadillac Invitational. McDowell was the 54 hole leader here last year but he shot a disastrous 79 in the final round. He could close the deal this time, and shouldn’t be 50/1. He is worth a play. Here is a list of the complete odds to win the tournament and the match-ups.

It should be a great Mother’s Day weekend of golf on a beautiful course. The field is so deep that it makes for an exciting wide open event.


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