Teeing Off: The Coral Golf Blog
The Players Championship has often been labelled as the ‘fifth major’ and you can see why as another world class field assembles at TPC Sawgrass this week. The infamous par three 17th is the hole so many players dread with countless balls finding the water. Scoring should be decent though as plenty of rain has softened the 7,215 yard par 72 Pete Dye designed course.
Tiger Woods heads the betting followed by Rory McIlroy but they can be easily opposed due to their poor record at the tournament. The world number one has just one victory here while McIlroy has yet to make the cut in three visits. Their unimpressive record means it is worth looking at the bigger priced runners to contend in Jacksonville.
Billy Horschel makes his tournament debut but still represents a strong betting proposition after a brilliant run of form. The excitable American has to be considered the most consistent player in the world over the last six weeks after a stunning spell which resulted in his maiden win two weeks ago. The 26-year-old put together three consecutive top tens before landing a first victory at the Zurich Classic. His last four events have seen him post a stunning total of 49-under-par.
Horschel’s displays this season have seen him dominate the rankings across so many different categories. He is first in total birdies, fifth in the all-round rankings, fourth in scoring average and second in par four birdie or better leaders. Horschel, who has yet to miss a cut all season, lives in Jacksonville Beach so is likely to have had plenty of practice rounds at Sawgrass and at 40/1 looks the best bet in the field.
Henrik Stenson returned to form at the end of last season when he captured the South African Open and the Swede has built on this win with some impressive performances this year. Stenson finished inside the top 20 at the Masters but his best showing came just prior to this when he came joint second at the Houston Open. Much of this success can be attributed to his ball striking where he leads in the greens in regulation percentage and total driving.
Stenson also has excellent course form to fall back on this weekend. The European landed the Players Championship four years ago and has also posted two other top tens at the Florida venue. Throw in 15th 12 months ago, when playing nowhere near as well as he is now, and this is definitely a course which suits his game. Stenson is knocking on the door for a third title in America and looks decent value at 50/1 each way.
Thorbjorn Olesen is one of the most talent players in Europe and the powerful Dane can challenge for a first PGA Tour win this weekend. The 23-year-old has only started playing regularly in America this season but caught the attention of the US fans when he recovered outstandingly from a first round 78 to finish tied sixth on his Masters debut.
Olesen has already won on the European Tour last year and his form in 2013 suggests another title is not far away. In addition to seventh place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he has also posted two top-fives in Europe and has been extremely impressive all over the world. A rare missed cut on his last outing has enabled Olesen’s odds to lengthen to an attractive price this week and he looks well worth backing at 80/1 each way.
Kevin Streelman finally delivered his first win this season and the 34-year-old has not looked back since with a string of excellent results. He held his nerve to land the Tampa Bay Championship in March and has gone from strength to strength with this confidence boost. Streelman tied for third at the Heritage, another Dye course, before finishing joint sixth at Quail Hollow at the weekend.
Streelman relies on his tee to green accuracy and his golf this year has seen him sit tenth in scoring average. He has previous experience at Sawgrass where his best result is tied 19th two years ago. But his current form is the most persuasive reason to support Streelman at a generous 80/1 each way.
David Toms has been one of the most consistent performers in recent years at Sawgrass. The experienced American was unlucky not to win two years ago when he tied for second and managed a tie for tenth on his return last season. The 13-time PGA Tour winner also finished inside the top ten in 2009 so this is a course where the steady hitter feels increasingly comfortable.
Toms’ form this season has certainly not been electrifying but the short hitter impressed when tying for 13th at the Masters last month. His putting has not been helping his cause recently but there is nothing wrong with the way he’s hitting the ball as sixth in driving accuracy percentage and ninth in par four birdies or better leader suggests. Take 100/1 on the win and he is worth backing at 8/1 for another top ten finish.
Follow Simon’s bets on Twitter @watfordtipster