Few golf tournaments raise the heartbeats of both players and punters as much as The Players Championship, and the 17th hold at Sawgrass is one of the most iconic holes in golf. Players stand there with no more than a 9-iron in hand, the wind often swirling, knowing full well that missing the green means a watery grave.
Day, Spieth, McIlroy and Fowler are all in attendance, and so far it is Rickie Fowler who has played best here with a win and a second, though he has the added pressure of defending, something no player has managed to do here. Day and McIlroy have both sixth finished here, without ever truly looking in love with the place, though both might add the title to their CV one day. However, Spieth could have easily won on his debut here two years ago, and missed the cut here last year, but looks to have the perfect game for Sawgrass if he bounces back from his Masters nightmare.
However, they big-4 all have enough doubts for me to pass them over on this occasion – and I’m putting 5 players in this week’s portfolio who have a mix of decent course form, and potential to do better.
Sergio Garcia 2 points each-way @ 30/1 (Betvictor) ¼ odds 6 places
Putting may always be an imponderable variable with Sergio, but his tee-to-green and short-game abilities mean this course is perfect for him, something which a win and three further top-4 finishes in his last 9 visits back-up. I like the fact he’s taken a few weeks-off, and he looks sure to arrive here fresh and aiming to give it a great shot.
Brandon Grace 1 point each-way @ 40/1 (Stan James) ¼ odds 7 places
Even though the South African is the world’s eleventh best player, he doesn’t seem to get the accolades he deserves, but winning here could alter that. Admittedly, he’s only finished 48th and 42nd here so far, but he was actually tied third here after two rounds last year. He’s been in excellent form recently, loves fast conditions, has no obvious weaknesses in his game, and knows how to win when in contention.
Kevin Na 1 point each-way @ 80/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 6 places
Na finds it tough to win, but this is one of his favourite venues having recorded three top-7 finishes here in his last six visits. He was also somewhere near his best last-time out, and I like the fact he’s taken a break, probably with this tournament in mind.
Russell Knox 1 point each-way @ 80/1 (Bet365) ¼ odds 6 places
Knox took a while to bag his maiden tour victory, and it was no surprise that he went off the boil for a while afterwards. However, he bounced back at one of his favourite venues last-time, and has shown excellent form here in finishing 23rd and 17th on his two visits here, suggesting he can go closer again this time around.
The former world number one has shown signs of life recently and, knowing that he needs a win in a big tournament to have a chance of making the Ryder Cup Team, he’ll surely be going all-out at a course on which he’s posted three top-6 finishes in his last 11 visits.