A stellar PGA Tour field gathers in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, this week for the tournament billed as the fifth Major, the Players Championship at the iconic TPC Sawgrass.
While top-class PGA fields have become the norm in recent weeks, the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, with its infamous island green 17th, helps to set this event apart from the rest.
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The Players Championship winner prediction – Justin Thomas at 20/1
The build-up has been dominated by the three-way battle for the world number one ranking, with current top dog Jon Rahm bidding to hold off 2019 Sawgrass champion Rory McIlroy and reigning Masters hero Scottie Scheffler.
All three are playing well enough to win, and Sawgrass has favoured longer drivers since the switch from May to March for the 2019 tournament, but it’s also possible to pick holes in each of them and at bigger odds, the eye is drawn to Justin Thomas, who was tipped in our recent Month in Sport feature.
Thomas has made a slightly underwhelming start to the 2023 campaign but he’s been solid in elite company since finishing 25th at the Farmers Insurance Open, finishing fourth at the Phoenix Open, 20th at the Genesis and 21st at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational.
He is struggling to put it all together at once – losing strokes on the greens in Phoenix, putting superbly at the Genesis when the long-game failed to sparkle, then he once again toiling with putter in hand at the Arnold Palmer – but there looks to be a decent chance he marries it all up at Sawgrass, which is one of his favourite venues.
Unlike previous years, Thomas should benefit from a competitive prep at Bay Hill, while Sawgrass holds wonderful memories for the Kentucky man, who claimed the 2021 Players Championship thanks to a masterful weekend tee-to-green display.
While the par-three 17th hole will again dominate TV coverage, the Stadium Course also features four par-five holes and Thomas, who is fourth in par-five scoring on the PGA Tour this season, has the ability to take those holes apart – he was 14-under for the par fives in 2021.
The Players Championship outsider prediction – Keegan Bradley at 40/1 eachway
Absent LIV golfer Cam Smith won the 2022 Players but Keegan Bradley was arguably just as impressive, finishing four shots back from the wrong side of an uneven draw after also suffering an unfortunate two-shot penalty in the second round.
Bradley, who was also seventh at TPC Sawgrass in 2018, has since returned to winning ways at the Zozo Championship, then finished second to Max Homa at the Farmers, and was tenth at Bay Hill last week. He has an each-way chance.
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