It’s what they all call the fifth major on the golfing calendar as the PGA Tour holds its annual flagship event with The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Verda Beach, Florida.
The 144 field will all be competing around this stunning and iconic but very demanding Pete Dye designed Sawgrass track for the richest prize in golf. The prize purse this week is a staggering $20m with the winner collecting the title and a cool $3.6m winner’s cheque.
Justin Thomas returns to defend his crown but this will prove difficult as no golfer has gone on to successfully defend this title since this event stated in 1981.
47 of the world's top ranked 50 players will all be in attendance but Bryson De Chambeau has withdrawn with an ongoing injury problem and Phil Mickelson has decided to take some time away from golf after all the Saudi breakaway comments.
Sawgrass will be playing 7,189 yards and is a par 72 but don’t expect a birdie fest this week. Every shot requires a hard thought decision and the key attribute will be accuracy with a hot putter pivotal.
The weather is forecast to be rain on Thursday with sunny intervals, Friday and Saturday will see heavy rain with winds expected to peak at around 20mph and Sunday's final round will get the best of the weather with a hot sunny day forecast.
This event will be screened on Sky Sports Golf & Sky Sports Main Event with live coverage starting at 11.30 am GMT on Thursday morning.
Last weekend we hit the bar yet again or should I say the flagstick as our main selection Viktor Hovland eventually finished T2nd when leading the way by as much as five shots. After Daniel Berger's crash and burn exploits last weekend at the Honda Classic, it’s probably fair to say we have been very unlucky. It was good to see both the matchbet NAPS win yet again on the DP World and PGA Tours so well done to everyone who collected.
So let’s move on with this weeks selections for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
For my first and main selection I’m looking no further that Matthew Fitzpatrick 40/1 EW Bet365 1-8 places.
The 27 year old from Sheffield, England ticks every box for me this week and his recent form says it all really. In the last eight events that Fitzpatrick has played he has a victory, a runners-up medal and five Top 10 finishes to his name.
His victory came at the Andalucia Masters while the runner-up place was at the DP World Tour Championship. In fact in his last nine attempts, the talented Englishman has only finished outside the Top 20 on two occasions, truly remarkable.
He was 9th last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, 10th at the Phoenix Open before that and an even better T6th at the AT&T Pebble Beach before Phoenix.
Fitzpatrick has seven DP World titles in the bag already but has yet to win that elusive maiden title on the PGA Tour. It’s surely only a matter of time before he can boast winning on both sides of the big pond.
He has come close on a couple of occasions when finishing runner up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2019 and 3rd at The Memorial Tournament in 2020. I just have a feeling that with this course being all set up for Fitzpatrick's game and the putter proving pivotal then this guy has all the tools to conquer this testing Sawgrass track and how nice would it be to see Matthew Fitzpatrick crowned as a PGA champion at the flagship event on the PGA Tour.
For my next selection I’m going to advise Patrick Cantlay 20/1 EW Bet365 1-8 places.
The 29 year old from California is another who seems to either win or at worst finishes in the place money everytime I select him.
Currently ranked the 4th best player on the planet, the FedEx Cup champion will be looking to use this week as preparation for The Masters which is just around the corner. It’s about the only thing Cantlay is yet to achieve, win a major.
Although it wouldn’t count as a major with a victory at The Players Championship this weekend, it’s fair to say that it’s the closest thing to winning a major but I have a feeling Cantlay will set that record straight some time this year.
The FedEx Champ won two events last year, The BMW Championship and also The Memorial Tournament.
Cantlay's worst finish in seven attempts was 33rd at The Genesis Invitational a few weeks back but the other six events are phenomenal. They are all Top 10 finishes with five of those being in the Top 5; 2nd at the Phoenix Open, 4th at AT&T Pebble Beach, 9th at the American Express, 4th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and as mentioned above he won the BMW Championship.
Cantlay has done us proud on so many occasions and I’m backing him to continue that trend with a victory at Sawgrass, perfect timing with The Masters at Augusta just around the corner.
For my next pick I’m going to single out Russell Henley 80/1 EW Bet365 1-8 places.
The 32 year old from Macon, Georgia has shown some recent consistent form with four Top 20 finishes in his last seven starts.
Last weekend Henley was a very respectable 13th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational but it could have been much better if not shooting a final round 75, although to be fair, conditions were not ideal.
His best finish this year was runner-up at the Sony Open in Hawaii around a tough testing track just like Sawgrass.
Henley has already bagged three PGA Titles, but hasn’t tasted victory since winning the Houston Open in 2017. That is probably enough to to put anyone off but with golf anyone can win at any time, it’s all about keeping a close eye on who’s performing and being consistent and Henley ticks all the boxes.
It’s not easy for the firms to price so many players and they can get it wrong every now and then. That could be the case this week with Russell Henley who at 80/1 represents terrific value in my book especially safe in the knowledge that a place in the top eight will return a tidy profit.
Rory McIlroy v Scottie Scheffler
For my final selection it’s the customary matchbet and this week I’m really liking the look of Rory McIlroy to beat Scottie Scheffler who could still be celebrating rather than focusing 10/11 NAP Betfair.