If the Champion Course at PGA National was full of terrors, Bay Hill was an outright bloodbath.
The leaderboard at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational was a “who’s who” of many of the world’s top players throughout the week, but a war of attrition prevented anyone from dominating the leaderboard on the final day. The player who made the least mistakes was, lucky enough, our favorite, Scottie Scheffler. The likes of Viktor Hovland, Billy Horschel and Gary Woodland all stumbled to allow Scheffler to claim his second win of the season.
As for the rest of our picks outside of Scheffler getting us off the schneid, mid-range pick Jason Kokrak and sleeper Lanto Griffin just missed out on finishing in the top-20.
We now head up to Ponte Vedra Beach for what some people consider the year’s “5th Major,” the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The loaded field includes 47 of the world’s top 50 players. Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and Harris English will be missing. The penal Pete Dye layout has created an eclectic group of winners over the years, so this is one of the harder weeks of the year to handicap a winner.
According to SI Sportsbook, the favorite is world No. 1 Jon Rahm at +1200. To follow are reigning Open Champion Collin Morikawa and defending champion Justin Thomas at +1400. To close out the notables are 2019 champion Rory McIlroy and Arnold Palmer Invitational contender Viktor Hovland at +2000.Scroll to Continue
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For our favorite, we’re going to take the value in Hideki Matsuyama at +2800. If we remember correctly, Matsuyama shredded TPC Sawgrass with a first-round 63 in 2020 before play was halted because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Recently, Matsuyama is second in this season’s FedEx Cup standings and has not finished outside the top-40 in his last seven events, which includes two wins. In his last 24 rounds at TPC Sawgrass, he ranks in the top-10 in strokes gained: ball striking, approach, tee-to-green and total. The reigning Masters champion should be full of confidence in Ponte Vedra this week.
For a mid-range pick, Billy Horschel at +4500 is good value. Prior to last week’s runner-up performance at Bay Hill, Horschel posted three straight top-20s and has not finished worse than T-36 since the new year. Last week, his iron play was on display finishing fifth in strokes gained: approach. His history at TPC Sawgrass is not eye-popping, but the resident of nearby Jacksonville Beach has not been in better form heading into his tour's Super Bowl.
For a deep sleeper, we’re looking at Alex Noren at +11000. Noren has won 10 times on the DP World Tour, and it seems he’s rounding back into some of that previous form. In six straight starts, Noren has improved in strokes gained: approach, which is always a recipe for success at TPC Sawgrass. He finished T5 at the Honda Classic and T6 at the WM Phoenix Open just prior. In four appearances at the Players, he has a T17 and a solo 10th to his name. Look for Noren to continue the momentum this week.
2021-22 picks scoreboard:
Winners: 2Top 5s: 5Top 10s: 2Top 20s: 1
Here are some notable odds, according to SI Sportsbook:
Jon Rahm +1200Collin Morikawa +1400Justin Thomas +1400Viktor Hovland +2000 Rory McIlroy +2000Patrick Cantlay +2200 Scottie Scheffler +2500 Hideki Matsuyama +2800 Xander Schauffele +2800 Dustin Johnson +3300 Daniel Berger +3300 Cameron Smith +3300 Shane Lowry +3500 Matt Fitzpatrick +3500Brooks Koepka +4000 Jordan Spieth +4000 Sungjae Im +4000 Sam Burns +4000 Will Zalatoris +4000 Billy Horschel +4500 Joaquin Niemann +4500 Tyrrell Hatton +4500 Louis Oosthuizen +5000 Corey Conners +5000 Adam Scott +5000 Talor Gooch +5000 Tony Finau +5500 Paul Casey +6000 Webb Simpson +6600 Max Homa +6600 Cameron Young +6600 Tommy Fleetwood +6600 Abraham Ancer +6600 Gary Woodland +6600 Marc Leishman +6600 Sergio Garcia +7000 Chris Kirk +7000 Russell Henley +8000 Si-Woo Kim +8000 Jason Kokrak +8000 Jason Day +8000 Justin Rose +9000 Brian Harman +10000 Keith Mitchell +10000Alex Noren +11000 Harold Varner +12500 Seamus Power +12500 Lee Westwood +12500 Patrick Reed +12500 Bubba Watson +12500 Cameron Tringale +12500 Maverick McNealy +12500 Thomas Pieters +12500 Ian Poulter +12500 Aaron Wise +15000 Lanto Griffin +15000 Sebastian Munoz +15000 Jhonattan Vegas +15000 Lucas Herbert +15000 Francesco Molinari +15000 Tom Hoge +15000 Mito Pereira +15000 Ryan Palmer +15000 Mackenzie Hughes +15000 Erik Van Rooyen +15000 Kevin Na +15000 Kevin Kisner +15000 Matthew Wolff +15000 Keegan Bradley +15000 Matt Jones +15000 Luke List +15000 Sepp Straka +17500