TPC Sawgrass remains the venue for the 2017 Players Championship, the tournament universally regarded as the men’s fifth major, but there have been some tweaks since Jason Day stormed to victory last year.
It’s a course that is shorter than most modern courses at 7,189 yards, and it’s been made even shorter by the reduction in length of the 12th hole to 305 yards to make it a risk-in-reward hole. That will add even more excitement to a course that already boasts what is arguably the most famous hole in golf – the 17th hole famous for being an island-green.
However, the grass on the greens has also been changed this year to TifEagle, whilst the green complexes of holes 1, 4, 8, 9, 11, 13 and 14 have been changed. Players can still expect treacherously fast greens though, which should be at around 12.5 on the Stimpmeter.
Picking the winner here has never been easy, as it’s not a course that lends itself to players who aren’t in command of their game. Therefore, a player with no previous form here who is in total control of his game can win, though many winners have shown snippets of decent form here before capitalising on having their game in good shape at the right time.
Dustin Johnson could easily fit into the category of players who have never played well here but could get away with it because he’s playing unbelievable golf. He could have been forgiven for being rusty after returning from injury last-week, but a runner-up finish sees his form figures read 1/1/1/2. However, his best finish here so far is 28th. Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy has played consistently well here in recent years 8/6/8/12, and his new club-sponsors would be ecstatic to see him lift the title, but he’s still yet to actually finish in the each-way places. Jordon Spieth, despite finishing fourth here on debut, has missed his last two cuts here, whilst the inform John Rahm makes his Players Championship debut. Rickie Fowler has possibilities having won here before, but might just have gone off the boil.
Therefore, the first player in this week’s portfolio is Sergio Garcia and, though we don’t know how much practice he’s been putting in since winning The Masters, the confidence the Spaniard should get from his first major victory should see him revel around a venue where his tee-to-green prowess is ideal, proven by a win and four further top-4 finishes.
Another player who has won recently who deserves to be backed this week is Kevin Chappell, and he’s another who could prosper now his confidence has aligned with his talent after his first PGA Tour win. Second last year, he could easily go one better.
Kevin Kisner also looks worth including, as he was second here on debut two years ago, and has been in that sort of form again recently with two second-place finishes in his last 6 events,
The final vote goes to Francesco Molinari who, despite blowing a decent chance last week, merits support after finishing 9/MC/MC/MC/6/7 here in recent seasons.
2017 Players Championship Tips
Sergio Garcia 2 Points Each-Way @ 18/1 (Skybet) ¼ odds 7 places
Kevin Chappell 1 Point Each-Way @ 55/1 (Stan James) ¼ odds 7 places
Kevin Kisner 1 Point Each-Way @ 55/1 (Bet365, Betfred) ¼ odds 7 places
Francesco Molinari 1 Point Each-Way @ 60/1 (Betfred) ¼ odds 7 places