Venue: TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Date: March 14-17, 2019
Course stats: Par 72, 7,189 yards
Course summary: Although the Stadium Course is renowned for its spectacular finish, and particularly the 17th, there’s much more to this resort-style parkland than just the back three. It gets particularly tricky during the middle part of the front nine but players who can get through the turn intact have the chance to pick up some shots before the climax.
The move back to March will have an effect – with cooler temperatures and more wind than you’d normally see in the spring. That should mean the 17th proves much trickier. The entire course has been overseeded with ryegrass over the past few months so you’ll see the layout looking lusher than ever before. Players will probably have to club up with the ball not running as far as previously.
Purse: $12.5 million
Defending champion: Webb Simpson (-18).
Weather forecast: Sunny and comfortable on Thursday, with temperatures maxing out at 24 degrees. It’ll get hotter on Friday and into the weekend.
Tuesday: Live from The Players, Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 1pm
Wednesday: Live from The Players, Sky Sports Golf and Main event, 1pm; The Players – On The Range, Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 5.30pm.
Thursday: The Players – Featured Groups, Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 11.30am; Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 5pm
Friday: The Players – Featured Groups, Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 11.39am; Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 5pm
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf and Main Event, 6pm
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf, 5pm; Sky Sports Main Event, 7pm
The Players Championship betting tips: Each-way picks
Lucas Glover continued his impressive season with another top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and, with some firms paying as many as 10 places this week, he looks a very attractive bet at 70/1.
The former US Open champion hit every fairway in his final round at Bay Hill and didn’t miss within 10 feet with the flatstick in a final day 69.
Following a top five at the Honda Classic, where he drained a nerveless putt at the last to put the pressure on the leaders, and a top 10 at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it looks like a fourth PGA Tour victory might not be too far away.
In fact, outside of a missed cut at the Pheonix Open, Glover has finished inside the top 20 in every one of his nine events this season.
Sixth at Sawgrass in 2017 and third in 2010, it’s not unreasonable to expect he could deliver another good week on a course that demands accuracy. Sixteenth on tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and 17th in approach-the-green suggests quite a lot is in his favour.
Ian Poulter revitalised his career when runner-up to Si Woo Kim at Sawgrass two years ago and the Englishman is once again on my shortlist at 70/1.
Poulter was also on the podium in 2009 and 11th last year so, after an impressive start to 2019, I like his chances on a course that you can’t simply slay with big hitting.
After a week off, Poulter had a gentle reintroduction with a top 25 at Bay Hill. On the back of his tied 3rd in Mexico, and impressive displays in the Middle East, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t at least threatening the top 10.
Jim Furyk says this is the first time in a couple of years he is playing without any injury concerns. It’s showing as well. Consider that he has come off two years as Ryder Cup captain – usually the death knell for any golfer in his late 40s – and has posted three top 20s since his return.
Tied ninth last time out at the Honda Classic, where his weekend consisted of impressive rounds of 68 and 67, Furyk also had a very nice week in difficult conditions at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Furyk is a veteran of Sawgrass and can remember the feel and conditions of playing this tournament in March. He lives a pitching wedge away from the club in Ponte Vedra Beach and was second as recently as 2014.
He hasn’t done much since but combine his new found fitness with his grit and determination, as well as his recent form, and 150/1 looks huge.
Another big hitter at a three-figure price, who has been creeping back into form, is Charl Schwartzel.
The South African was one of Webb Simpson’s closest challengers last year – albeit still four strokes adrift in tied second. He has struggled for consistency since, which is probably why he’s available at 110/1, but he was sixth in Puerto Rico when everyone else was sunning themselves in Mexico.
He followed that with a top 20 at the Honda Classic and will merit a speculative pound of my cash.
So that’s who Steve reckons can fill the places. But who is going to lift the new trophy at The Players? Turn the page to find out…