Golf Betting: Players Championship Tips - Garcia is the man to beat but Francesco Molinari has the tools to do so at Sawgrass


They call it the best field in golf and many believe it's the fifth major. The Players' Championship gets underway from the PGA headquarters at TPC Sawgrass this week - a venue where any type of player can win. Indeed, 24 from the world's top 25 as of last week are in the field, with 55 of the top 60 players teeing it up. Jordan Spieth - 12.00 - who gave a masterclass in scrambling here back in 2014, is amongst the market leaders but surprisingly has missed the last two cuts here. I make course specialist and new Masters champ Sergio Garcia - 17.00 - the man to beat this week with a newfound confidence possibly igniting him into the very top echelon of the game.

Jason Day - 21.00 - got away with many errant tee shots en route to the lowest recent winning total here at Ponte Vedra Beach in 2016. The low scoring was due in large part to benign and soft conditions over the first couple of days. Day led after day 1 with a -9 (63) total, while five people also shot -7 (65) on the Thursday. Conditions were soft early doors and there was no wind. It got up later Thursday and with greens drying out the scoring average was two strokes more difficult in the afternoon wave - something maybe to take into account this week.

 

The course - TPC Sawgrass par 72 7,189 yards

As mentioned, conditions were easier than the norm over the first couple of days last year but on Saturday TPC Sawgrass had its bite back. The sub air systems brought the green speeds up to what some players claim were the fastest greens they've ever seen, and Day himself described them as a "joke". The stimp hit 14-16' and many pins were inaccessible.

TPC Sawgrass is an all-round test of golf. Driver is not needed on a lot of holes and it's all about positional play and shot shaping to tree-lined and dog-legged fairways. More water has been added to the course for the 2017 renewal on the 6th and 7th holes while the 12th will be a drivable par 4 similar to that of the 17th at TPC Scottsdale, with water to the left of the green.

Conditions here are usually fast, firm and windy and on small raised greens and scrambling and a top short game is the premium. Sawgrass offers one of the best finishes in golf with the risk reward par 5 along the water on 16, the famous island green - arguably the most iconic hole in golf - 17th, and the water lined 18th. In 2016 the rough was down along the fairways and shaved around the greens. The new extended water hazards will be interesting. The longer players, if not smart, will run out of fairway on numerous holes.

 

Players to watch

I'm going to stick with Francesco Molinari  - 67.00 or 14.00 - this week after a Sunday I just wasn't expecting from the Italian at Wells Fargo. Francesco's precision tee to green game is perfect for Sawgrass and Justin Ray put out a tweet last week saying the 34-year-old has the highest GIR% clip at Sawgrass over the last 10 years. He's finished 6th and 7th in his last two Sawgrass outings and owns three top 10s in total. Of course Francesco was the first round leader at Wells Fargo and was out in the last couple of groups on the Sunday.

Another in the Molinari mould that looks a bit of value this week is Kevin Chappell - 51.00 or 11.00 - who finally got the "monkey off his back" when claiming his maiden victory last time out at Valero. Like Garcia, I think this will propel Chappell to another level. Kevin's myriad of runner-up finishes prior to his victory in Texas - where he also showed efficiency in the wind - included a second place at Sawgrass in 2016. He ranked 13th in strokes gained tee to green in the 2016 season.

For me Shane Lowry - 126 or 23.00 - is an amazing price this week. To the naked eye his stats don't appear great but if you know what's behind them, then he's firmly in the one to watch camp at Sawgrass. Lowry threatened to, but never hit first gear at Wells Fargo, but a third round 68 helped him to a top 25 finish. Last year Shane was third after 36 holes at the Players Championship and he was one of those who hit a first round 65. He came unstuck on day three with the green speeds and succumbed to a 68 but still recorded a T16 finish. Lowry is known as one of the best short game players in world golf and he put this to good use at the fast and fiery Firestone for his WGC Bridgestone 2015 win and also for his second at the US Open in 2016.

Keep an eye on local Jonas Blixt - 251.0 or 41.00 - who hit a top 20 here last year. Blixt resides in Jacksonville Beach Florida and posted a top 20 last year at Sawgrass. This is a man rounding into form with himself and Cameron Smith taking down the Zurich Classic event in Louisiana two weeks ago. Blixt owns two major top 10s.