Shall we get the old cliches out of the way at the start? The Players’ Championship at Sawgrass is golf’s unofficial fifth major and the richest tournament on the USPGA circuit with total prize money of $5.8million. Sawgrass is no Augusta but does have its own particular quirks, not least the famous Island Hole on the TPC at Ponte Vedra. The par-three 17th has seen some of the very best lose it down the years and will get its fair share of victims again this year. As an aside, my local club has a similar, if much-less-daunting, approach to the last green and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to the duck I almost decapitated there a few years ago.
Masters champion Bubba Watson is enjoying a sabbatical and won’t be competing in Florida but world number one Rory McIlroy, already in his third spell at the top of the golfing tree, will be in action, though the Ulsterman hasn’t made the cut in either of his previous visits to Sawgrass and has yet to break par. His general 10/1 quote doesn’t look particularly good value therefore with most of the world’s top players in opposition and the usual suspects towards the forefront of betting markets.
The Players’ Championship has again attracted a huge field but it’s something of a surprise that 2010 winner Tim Clark is available at a general 300/1. Though he withdrew at the halfway stage last season and has had his problems over the last 18 months, the South African does seem to like it here (he also finished in the top 10 in 2009) and could give supporters a run for their money. I also think talented Australian Robert Allenby, a previous runner-up, is too big at bet365, Stan James and William Hill‘s 175/1 and just as interesting is compatriot Aaron Baddeley. The 31-year-old hasn’t had the greatest of starts to 2012 but is another that comes alive at Sawgrass. He tied for sixth last year and would have finished higher but for only making par in the final round, and was alongside Tim Clark in 2009 with another under-par four-round total. Baddeley is 125/1 with Coral, Stan James and William Hill.
Nick Watney may well prove the pick of the home team at the general 50/1 as he came back to life in last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. Well placed at halfway, the Californian didn’t quite last home but that was a big step up on previous efforts this season and Watney can be backed at 30/1 with Stan James to be top American, which is much better value than the general 12/1 available about Tiger Woods. But for the overall winner we’re looking to Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell.
He’s waited a year to put the horror of a closing 79 here last year behind him having looked good for victory after 54 holes. That was a rare blip for McDowell, normally a good finisher, and he’s yet to finish any lower than 13th in three tournaments in Florida this year. The Portrush resident showed up well in the Masters, eventually tying for 12th, and has only recorded one four-round over-par total so far in 2012 so is clearly in good form. At the general 66/1, McDowell can upstage fellow countryman McIlroy and the others.
- Graeme McDowell to win the Players’ Championship @ 66/1 (general)
- Nick Watney to finish Top American @ 30/1 (Stan James)
- Aaron Baddeley to finish Top Australian @ 10/1 (William Hill)