Crane Can Lift Players Championship
It’s Players Championship time again, and the excitement of watching one of the best golf-fields of the year take on Sawgrass’s infamous island greened 17th never gets stale.
The hole may only be in the region of 130 yards long, but there’s no hole anywhere else in the world that keeps the bottoms of golf fan firmly glued to their seats. The only thing that makes it more exciting is having a few bets, and hopefully one or two runners in contention come Sunday night.
The eclectic collection that makes up the last ten winners is comprised of Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar, KJ Choi, Tim Clark, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickleson, Steven Ames, Fred Funk and Adam Scott – and they’re a real mixture of world-class players and journeymen with previous decent course form. With plenty of bookmakers paying out each-way on 6-places and Stan James paying 7-places, it makes sense to spread the staking plan over several selections.
Top of my list is Ben Crane. The 38 year-old four-time PGA winner has arrived here in a variety of form in the last few years, but has played well on several occasions. Strong iron-play and a hot-putter are what usually win you this title – and Crane is capable of both. Six-year form-figures of 6/5/4/45/MC/8 shows his potential – and three missed cuts on the trot is probably the reason why he’s a whopping 175/1.
Henrik Stenson may never reach the heady heights of last season, but he’s showed his liking for Sawgrass on several occasions including victory in 2009 and when making the places in 2006 and 2013. Two fifth-places in his last four events suggest he could challenge very soon – and at 28/1 it’s definitely worth taking a chance it will be here.
Luke Donald (25/1) is another player with a liking for the course and his accurate irons and all-round quality short-game have always marked him out as a player who should capture one of these one day. Has posted top-6 finishes in 2005, 2011 and 2012, and two top-4 spots in his last four events.
Last week’s 30th place for Martin Laird was his best finish in his last five events, but it was a similar story in the last two years when he finished 2nd and 5th here. 100/1 looks a bit of an insult.
After his Master’s heroics, I’m a little surprised to find Jonas Blixt trading at 150/1. The Swede may have only finished 77th on his Sawgrass debut last year – but he has now been placed in the last two majors on courses he had little or no experience of.
2013 PGA Champion Jason Dufner (66/1) finished 6th in 2011 and his long game really should be tailor-made for this test. Perhaps his short-game has let him down to often on his other four visits, but if The Duff gets his irons dialled in he’ll surely go close.
Ben Crane each-way 175/1
Henrik Stenson each-way 28/1
Luke Donald each-way 25/1
Martin Laird each-way 100/1
Jonas Blixt each-way 175/1
Jason Dufner each-way 66/1
Football – Premiership – Wednesday
Manchester City are just 2/13 to beat Aston Villa tonight, and victory should clinch the Premiership title for them. Meanwhile, Sunderland and West Brom scrap it out in a tie where victory for either side guarantees their Premiership status for next year. In truth, with both sides having a vastly superior goal difference to Norwich, a draw would virtually guarantee both sides safety – and 11/5 looks a good bet.
Sunderland vs West Brom – Draw 11/5
Horse Racing – Chester Cup – 2.45pm
6-year-olds have won four of the last six-runnings, and also rattled up a hat-trick between 2001 and 2003, but surprisingly there are only two this time, Body Language and Communicator. The latter looks the better weighted on one piece of Chester form in which he was second to Tominator (later third in Chester Cup off a mark of 100) in September 2009. He runs off the same mark of 93 today – and looks worth an each-way play especially from an ideal draw in stall two and with future Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy riding.
Communicator each-way 9/1