The Players Championship 2018 Betting Preview

Post by: Mike Philipps

One of the most anticipated events of the golf season takes place this week, as The Players Championship – the unofficial fifth major – is played at its familiar venue, TPC Sawgrass (par 72, 7,189 yards) in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

The Pete Dye design is known for putting precision and shot making at a premium. The layout does not seem to favor any one type of player, so it’s not surprising to see a wide variety of players on the list of champions.

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The Players is best known for being held at TPC Sawgrass – and its most famous hole, the island 17th green – but it is also known for having the toughest field of any non-major event. That’s what makes winning it so difficult. The 2018 Players Championship will challenge all comers as normal this year, and again we are in store for some great golf.

In its 44-year history, there has never been a repeat champion, and there are only six multiple winners. Not since 2000 has a defending champ even finished within the top five the next year (Hal Sutton, fifth). Success the previous year has not been an indicator of success, either. Not a single one of the last seven winners has finished in the top 20 the year prior to their win.

Today, we’ll be looking at the latest Players Championship odds and then detailing some of the top picks. Any one of the players discussed below is more than capable of making a deep run and possibly winning; figuring out which one that will be is the hard part of course.

2018 Players Championship Odds

Golf bookmakers pay handsomely for single wagers on the outright winner (as you can see in our odds comparison below). If you predict the winner from among a field of such talented golfers, you’ve earned your payday. However, outright wagers are not the only types of golf bets on offer this week.

The biggest golf bookmakers are also offering wagers on the winning margin, top player of each nationality, head-to-head matchups and even whether or not there will be a hole in one. All you need to do is visit the bookmaker of your choice and head to the golf section to see what all they have on offer.

The following tables will focus specifically on outright odds for the top 20 players. You can use these charts to get a general sense of where the players rank relative to one another according to the oddsmakers and to ensure you get the best price possible for any individual picks you have. Visit any of the bookmakers using the links at the bottom of each column for prices for the entire field.

Odds at the Best International Bookmakers

Jason Day13/120/114/1
Rory McIlroy14/112/112/1
Justin Thomas15/116/112/1
Jordan Spieth16/110/110/1
Dustin Johnson18/114/110/1
Rickie Fowler20/116/114/1
Jon Rahm24/118/116/1
Justin Rose27/120/120/1
Henrik Stenson29/125/128/1
Patrick Reed30/133/133/1
Paul Casey32/120/133/1
Sergio Garcia32/120/128/1
Phil Mickelson33/128/133/1
Hideki Matsuyama35/120/118/1
Tiger Woods40/110/120/1
Bryson DeChambeau48/1150/166/1
Francesco Molinari50/1100/166/1
Billy Horschel53/1200/166/1
Bubba Watson53/150/166/1
Patrick Cantlay53/1100/140/1

Best Players Championship Picks

The 144-man field is absolutely loaded, so paring it down to a list of 15 players was challenging, let alone picking a winner. Here are the players that could add their name to a very prestigious list.

Justin Thomas

  • World Golf Ranking: 2
  • Overview: Thomas has as much of a claim to the title of world’s best player as anyone. He is the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedEx Cup champion, and he’s back on top of the FedEx Cup Points Standings this season. He’s won four of the last 16 individual events he’s played, including twice already in 2017-18. He ranks in the top 15 on the PGA Tour in four Strokes Gained categories – Total (4th), Tee-to-Green (5th), Approach-the-Green (9th) and Off-the-Tee (15th). He’s a threat to win every event he plays.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Thomas has a pair of top-25s to his credit at THE PLAYERS, including a T-3 finish in 2016. That year he had a roller coaster weekend, shooting 75 on Saturday before blistering the course with a 65 on Sunday, the best round of the day. Last year was a struggle, finishing T-75 after a third-round 79.
  • Last event: Thomas got off to a slow start at the Wells Fargo Championship, opening with a 73, but he played the final three rounds under par to earn a T-21 finish. Thomas has actually only finished lower than that once in his last 12 starts.

Jason Day

  • World Golf Ranking: 7
  • Overview: Day is starting to look like the player that dominated the PGA Tour for nearly 18 months a few years back – he’s bombing it off the tee and putting as well as anyone. He now has two wins and a runner-up in his last seven starts. He leads the PGA Tour in both Total Strokes Gained and Stroked Gained: Putting, moving him into second position on the FedEx Cup Points Standings. Day feels like he has a lot of momentum, but even he admits he has work to do with his full swing if he wants to win again at TPC Sawgrass.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Day has one of the more impressive showings in PLAYERS history when he led wire-to-wire to win the 2016 event. His 15-under-par total was the third-lowest aggregate score since 2000, as was his four-shot margin of victory. Along with leading on the scoreboard after each round, Day led in Driving Distance and ranked third in Total Putts. Day has a pair of top-20s to go along with the win, including a T-6 in 2011. He finished T-60 last year, part of his early-season struggles.
  • Last event: Day battled his own swing all day long on Sunday, but managed to hold on for a two-shot victory at the Wells Fargo Championship. He hit just six fairways in the final round, but relied on his short game to get the job done. Winning a golf tournament with your best game is tough – to do it wih less I is that much more impressive.

Rory McIlroy

  • World Golf Ranking: 8
  • Overview: Winning THE PLAYERS Championship is one of the few accomplishments McIlory hasn’t added to his impressive resume, but he’s got the talent to get it done. He’s got five top-five finishes already this season, including a win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a T-5 at The Masters. Unfortunately, McIlory’s lack of consistency is frustrating. Three of those top-five finishes this season were followed up with a result of T-36 or worse.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: McIlroy missed the cut in his first three tries at TPC Sawgrass, but since then, he’s been a consistent performer there. He has four top-12s since 2013, including a T-6 in 2014 when he played the weekend in nine-under-par. Last year he struggled with injury and never really got into contention, eventually finishing T-35.
  • Last event: McIlory had an up-and-down week at the Wells Fargo Championship. He alternated rounds in the 60s, including a 66 on Saturday, with rounds in the 70s. In the end, his second-round 76 held him back, and he had to settle for a T-16 finish.

Henrik Stenson

  • World Golf Ranking: 15
  • Overview: After a subpar 2017, Stenson is regaining his form as one of the best ball strikers in the game. He leads the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and ranks in the top 10 in Total Strokes Gained (5th) and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (8th). That’s helped him finish in the top eight in six of his 10 starts this season.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: The 2009 champion has two other top-fives to his credit as well (T-3, 2006; T-5, 2013). In 12 career starts, he’s placed in the top 25 an impressive eight times, including last year when he finished T-16.
  • Last event: Stenson’s last start came in the team-format of the Zurich Classic, pairing with Ryder Cup teammate Justin Rose for the second straight year, and finishing T-19. His last individual start came at The Masters, where he earned a T-5 result. He finished each round in the top five, and was in the top 10 in both Fairways Hit (T-5) and Greens in Regulation (T-7).

Paul Casey

  • World Golf Ranking: 12
  • Overview: Casey has been one of the most consistent players in the world since 2015, but he got his first victory in over three-and-a-half years, winning the Valspar Championship in March. He’s a top-10 machine, earning 13 in the last 13 months. He ranks 10th on the PGA Tour in Scoring Average and in the top 10 in three Strokes Gained categories – Total (6th), Tee-to-Green (8th) and Approach-the-Green (10th).
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Casey hasn’t had too much success at TPC Sawgrass. He’s earned four top-25s in 11 starts there, but he also has five missed cuts. He finished T-22 last year, his best result since a T-14 in 2009.
  • Last event: Casey carded four rounds of par or better, including three rounds in the 60s, at the Wells Fargo Championship to add yet another top-five to his resume. Despite the T-5 result, Casey may have missed a golden opportunity. He hit just four fairways on Sunday, keeping him from making a final push up the leaderboard.

Sergio Garcia

  • World Golf Ranking: 13
  • Overview: Garcia has five top-10 finishes this season, including a win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in his native Spain in October. He’s hit a rough patch lately, missing three cuts, starting with his unfortunate showing at The Masters, but he’s still a premier ball striker, and has had a great deal of success at TPC Sawgrass. He ranks third on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and Tee-to-Green.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Garcia has played in every PLAYERS since 2000, winning in 2008 and adding four more top-four finishes. He hasn’t missed a cut since 2003, an impressive streak of 14. More recently, Garcia has three top-eights in his last five starts, including a third in 2014 and a disappointing T-2 in 2015 when he lost to Rickie Fowler in a playoff. He has 10 rounds of 67 or better in his career at TPC Sawgrass. Two of those have come in the last two years, though his results weren’t up to his normal standards (T-54 in 2016, T-30 in 2017).
  • Last event: Paired with countryman Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Garcia missed the cut at the Zurich Classic – his third straight missed cut.

Rickie Fowler

  • World Golf Ranking: 6
  • Overview: Fowler has a win and three more top-fives this season, but it still feels like he’s underperformed. Statistically, he’s really dropped off from last year, especially when it comes to putting. Last year, he ranked second on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting, but has fallen all the way to 121st in 2017-18. Fowler will be part of arguably the most raucous threesome in some time, playing the opening two rounds this week with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Even one of the most popular players in the word could struggle with that circus.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: In eight career starts, Rickie has been either big-time hit, or big-time miss at THE PLAYERS. Of course he had the epic comeback in 2015 where he played the final six holes in six-under to get into a playoff, eventually winning when he birdied No. 17 for the second time in sudden death. It was one of the greatest closing stretches in recent memory. He also had a T-2 in 2012 when he finished a couple shots behind Matt Kuchar. Those are the hits. The misses include four missed cuts, a T-77 and a T-60 last year. His lack of consistency is why he’s a little lower on the list than you might expect.
  • Last event: Fowler looked poised to earn another top-10 after rounds of 68 and 69 at the Wells Fargo Championship last week. Unfortunately, a final-round two-over 73 dropped him into a tie for 21st.

Justin Rose

  • World Golf Ranking: 5
  • Overview: Over the last eight months, Rose has been one the best, most consistent performers in the world. And while he’s cooled off a bit this spring, he’s still putting together a spectacular season. In his last 18 starts, he finished in the top 10 13 times, including three victories. Known for his outstanding tee-to-green game, it’s been a much-improved putter that has carried Rose this season. He currently sits 10th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting. That makes him a very dangerous player every time he tees it up.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: It took Rose awhile to get comfortable with TPC Sawgrass – he failed to crack the top-20 and missed five cuts in his first 10 starts there. Since then, he has a pair of top-20s in four starts, including a T-4 in 2014. He struggled again last year, especially on Sunday when he carded a final-round 80 to finish T-65. This is clearly not his favorite place in the world, but being such a good ball striker should lend to better results.
  • Last event: Rose paired with Henrik Stenson in the Zurich Classic’s team format, finishing T-19, eight shots off the lead. His last individual event was at The Masters, where he finished T-12 after a final-round 69.

Phil Mickelson

  • World Golf Ranking: 19
  • Overview: The 47-year-old Mickelson is having a bounce back season in 2017-18, proving he’s still got what it takes to win. He got his first win in nearly four years when he came out on top at the WGC-Mexico in March. In all, he has five top-six finishes this season, moving him into third place on the FedEx Cup Points Standings. If he has a good week off the tee, the rest of his game could be the difference. He ranks sixth on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and second in Strokes Gained: Putting.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Mickelson is making his 20th career start at THE PLAYERS, the most of anyone in the field. He won back in 2007, but that’s one of just three top-10s he has there. The going has been especially tough lately, missing the cut four of the last five years, and finishing outside the top 20 in nine of his last 10 starts.
  • Last event: Mickelson rocketed up the leaderboard at the Wells Fargo Championship last week after a 64 on Saturday. His final round was anything but consistent – he carded seven birdies and five bogeys – but a 69 moved him into a tie for fifth.

Kevin Kisner

  • World Golf Ranking: 24
  • Overview: Kisner has played some very solid golf over the last month and a half, earning three top-15s in his last five starts. His strengths also translate well to TPC Sawgrass, evidenced by his runner-up finish there in 2015. He ranks 13th on the PGA Tour in Driving Accuracy and 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Kisner really began his ascension up the ranks in the golf world when he finished T-2 in his PLAYERS debut back in 2015. He played the final round with a poise a multiple major winner, making it to a third playoff hole before eventually falling to Rickie Fowler. Since then, the results haven’t been good, even though his name is more well known. He missed the cut in 2016 and finished T-56 last year.
  • Last event: Kisner, in the return to his near-miss at last year’s PGA Championship, missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship by two shots.

Dustin Johnson

  • World Golf Ranking: 1
  • Overview: How can the world’s top-ranked player be near the bottom of the list? Well, plain and simple, he has never been a factor at THE PLAYERS. His name will always carry premium odds, so this is probably not the best week to pick him. Of course, the fact that he is SO talented means he has to at least be on the list. He leads the PGA Tour Scoring Average, Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: The World No. 1 and TPC Sawgrass just do not seem to get along. He’s made the cut in seven of nine starts there (he withdrew in 2013), but he’s finished in the top-25 just once and has an average result of 43rd. His T-12 last year was easily his best result in the event and may be a sign of things to come, but he’ll have to show that he can handle the Sawgrass greens if he wants to contend. He averages 48th in the field in his career in Total Putts.
  • Last event: Johnson finished T-16 at the RBC Heritage after a final-round 67. He led the field in Greens in Regulation and ranked third in Driving Distance, but was near the bottom (T-71) in Total Putts.

Jordan Spieth

  • World Golf Ranking: 4
  • Overview: The three-time major champion has had a bit of a sluggish 2017-18 season, most likely due to a bout with mononucleosis. The expectations are so high for Spieth, so a pair of missed cuts and no top-fives over the first three months of 2018 are actually viewed as a slump. But he is coming off a pair of podium finishes at the Houston Open (T-3) and The Masters (3rd), his last two individual events, so he might be getting ready to put together a run of high finishes. The reason Spieth is so low on the list this week is his lack of success at TPC Sawgrass.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Spieth is another of the top players that has had fits with TPC Sawgrass. After placing T-4 as a PGA Tour rookie in 2014, Spieth hasn’t seen the weekend in his next three tries. His average score over his last eight rounds in nearly 73, and he hasn’t broken 71 since the 2014 second round.
  • Last event: Spieth and Zurich Classic teammate Ryan Palmer really struggled after an opening-round 66, missing the 54-hole cut. The duo carded a pair of 74s to miss the cut by nine shots.

Tiger Woods

  • World Golf Ranking: 93
  • Overview: Woods has now made five straight cuts during his latest comeback, but his results have dropped for the third straight time. In the seven full-field events he’s played in 2018, Tiger has four top-25s, highlighted by a T-2 at the Valspar Championship in March. He still ranks in the top 20 on the PGA Tour in four Strokes Gained categories – Approach-the-Green (11th), Around-the-Green (11th, Total (11th) and Tee-to-Green (17th). If he can get off the tee better than he has – he ranks just 110th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee – Tiger should be able to draw off his past victories at TPC Sawgrass. He’s won THE PLAYERS twice and won the first of his three straight U.S. Amateurs there in 1994.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Woods has proven to be “better than most”, as he is the lone multiple PLAYERS champ in the field, winning in 2001 and 2013. In 17 career starts, he has just five top-10s, thoug – well below his career rate of 59 percent in all other events. He finished T-69 in his last start at TPC Sawgrass in 2015.
  • Last event: It was mostly a struggle for Tiger at the Wells Fargo last week. His third-round 68 was a highlight, but it was his only round under par for the week, resulting in a T-55 finish.

Alex Noren

  • World Golf Ranking: 18
  • Overview: Noren, a stalwart on the European Tour for the past few seasons, is having his best season in events played in North America. He has a trio of top-three finishes in 2018, and finished in the top 25 in six of his last nine starts. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy ranks ninth on the PGA Tour in Total Strokes Gained.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Noren finished in solo 10th in his debut in the event last year. He led the field in Greens in Regulations for the week, hitting at a 75 percent clip.
  • Last event: Noren missed the cut by four shots at the Wells Fargo Championship after a second-round 76.

Francesco Molinari

  • World Golf Ranking: 30
  • Overview: Molinari brings an outstanding tee-to-green game to a course that requires precision. He ranks third on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and seventh in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He’s made the cut in 12 of his last 13 starts, but has just one top-10 during that span. However, he has a streak of three straight top-10s at THE PLAYERS, so he’s a longshot worth considering this week.
  • At THE PLAYERS Championship: Molinari has a very strong resume at TPC Sawgrass that is likely flying under the radar. In seven career starts, he has four top-10s, including each of his last three. Since missing three straight cuts from 2011 to 2013, Molinari has gone T-6 (2014), T-7 (2016) and T-6 (2017). His average score over his last 12 rounds is nearly two-under-par, while the field has come in over par over the same span.
  • Last event: Molinari finished T-16 at the Wells Fargo Championship last week, playing the weekend in three-under-par.

Other players to consider: Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, Kyle Stanley, Bubba Watson

Past champions in the field: Si Woo Kim, Day, Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Woods (2), Kuchar, Stenson, Garcia, Mickelson, Adam Scott