The Players Championship: Key Storylines, Betting Tips, Featured Groups and TV Times
A new trophy, "the biggest prize professional golf has ever seen for a single tournament" and one of the strongest fields in golf all take centre stage this week for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Along with a host of tweaks to the PGA Tour schedule for 2019, the tournament –commonly called ‘the unofficial fifth major’ – has been moved back from May to March for the first time since 2006.
Last year marked the second staging of the new-look TPC Sawgrass, which had been undergone an extensive transformation following Jason Day’s victory in 2016 that included resurfaced greens, new bunkers and new water hazards, in addition to the risk/reward 12th hole which came under fire in 2017.
And despite headlines centering around a battle for World No.1 and Tiger's return, it was a dominant Webb Simpson who took home the spoils at 18-under-par. Simpson posted rounds of 66, 63, 68 and 73 on his way to his fifth PGA Tour title, which included a double bogey on the last to finish four clear of the trio of Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel and Jimmy Walker. He was the eighth wire-to-wire winner at Sawgrass.
Below, find out everything you need to know about this year's event.
Course: Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass | Par 72 | 7,189 yards
Course Record: 63: Fred Couples (1992) Greg Norman (1994) Roberto Castro (2013) Martin Kaymer (2014) Jason Day (2016) Colt Knost (2016) Webb Simpson (2018) Brooks Koepka (2018)
Fed Ex Cup points: 600
Defending Champion: Webb Simpson
Former Champions in the field: Simpson ('18), Si Woo Kim ('17), Jason Day ('16), Rickie Fowler ('15), Martin Kaymer ('14), Tiger Woods ('13, '01), Matt Kuchar ('12), Henrik Stenson ('09), Sergio Garcia ('08), Phil Mickelson ('07), Adam Scott ('04)
Need to know: There have been five mulitple winners of The Players Championship, but noone has successfully defended their title.
Players Championship: Key Storylines
Race to World No.1:
Justin Rose, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka all have a shot at taking the World No.1 spot from Dustin Johnson this week.
Below are a list of the scenarios that need to play out for each player to take over the top spot.
Elsewhere, Tiger Woods has the opportunity to break back in to the World’s top 10 for the first time since 2014. He could climb to No.6 with a win, and as high as eighth with a solo second finish, or 10th with solo third.
Next Monday will also be the cut-off for the top 64 players to the WGC Dell Match Play
Changes to The Players: Month, Prize Fund, Trophy
1. The Players Championship has been staged in May since 2007, so there’s a huge part of the field that haven’t ever played the course at this time of year. One player who has is Tiger Woods, who was a champion here in 2001 and 2013. Will it make a difference? Temperatures are lower and winds are usually higher at this time of year, so we’re going to say yes.
2. The prize fund for this week exceeds the one at all four major championships as this year’s winner will take home the biggest pay-out in professional golfers. The total purse is $12.5million, up $1.5million from last year. For the winner, that translates as an increase of $270,000 more than 2018 champion Webb Simpson took home.
3. The Waterford Crystal prize has been replaced by a new computer designed 24k trophy for 2019, depicting a player swinging on the famous par-three 17th at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course that was created using a process called electroforming. It collated aspects of each of the 38 former winners of the event to come up with the final design.
Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed, Tiger Woods
Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka. Jordan Spieth
Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy
Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose
Players Championship: TV Times
Tuesday: Live PGA Tour, Sky Sports Main Event (13:00), Sky Sports Golf (13:00)
On the range: Live PGA Tour, Sky Sports Main Event (17:30), Sky Sports Golf (17:30)
Live: Live PGA Tour, Sky Sports Main Event (13:00), Sky Sports Golf (13:00), Sky Sports Golf (18:30)
Thursday & Friday
Featured Groups: Live PGA Tour, Sky Sports Main Event (11:30), Sky Sports Golf (11:30)
Main coverage: Sky Sports Main Event (17:00), Sky Sports Golf (17:00)
From the Players: Live PGA Tour, Sky Sports Golf (12:30), Sky Sports Main Event (15:00)
Main coverage: Sky Sports Main Event (18:00), Sky Sports Golf (18:00)
From the Players: Live PGA Tour, Sky Sports Golf (14:00)
Main coverage: Sky Sports Golf (17:00), Sky Sports Main Event (19:00)
Players Championship: Betting Tips
Dustin Johnson: 11/1
DJ already has four top 10s this year which includes victories at both the Saudi International and WGC Mexico Championship. In 10 starts at TPC Sawgrass he has missed just one cut, yet has a best finish on T12 (’17) and was T17 last year. Ranks 5th SG: Tee to green, 9th SG: Putting, 11th Scoring average and 12th for SG: Off the tee.
Rory McIlroy: 12/1
There's no doubt McIlroy is hitting form, and five consecutive top-six results in 2019 are testament to that. He just can't seem to get it over the line, especially when he's in the final group. In nine starts here he's had three top 10s (from '13-'15), and four MC's, including last year. Ranks 1st SG: Off the tee, SG: Tee to green and 9th for Scoring average.
Justin Thomas: 16/1
A T30 at the Honda Classic was Thomas’ worst start in 2019, which includes four top 10s and a T16 at the Sony Open. T11 here last year with a best of T3 in 2016. Ranks 1st for Scoring average, birdie average, SG: Approach the green, 2nd for SG: Tee to green and 6th for GIR. Providing he can win and both Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose give him a little help, Thomas could return to World No.1 this week.
Francesco Molinari: 20/1
In his first outing since signing with Callaway Molinari claimed the Arnold Palmer Invitational by two shots last week in just his third start of 2019. MC last year here but T6-T7-T6 in '17, '16 and '14. Ranks 19th SG: Putting, and holed 146 feet of putts during his final round last week with his new Odyssey.
Justin Rose: 20/1
The World No.2 won the Farmers Insurance Open in his second start of 2019 before a MC at the Saudi International and a disappointing T63 in Mexico. Ranks 4th for birdie average, 14th for scoring average. Best result at the Players is a T4 in 2014, and has since gone MC-T19-T65-T23.
Rickie Fowler: 22/1
Fowler followed a runner-up finish in 2012 with a play-off victory against Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in 2015, and heads to the 2019 edition with predominantly good form. He's had both a victory and runner-up finish in his last four starts, but faltered after a strong start on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational to end up T40. Ranks inside the top 10 on Tour for scoring average, birdie average and SG: Putting.
Brooks Koepka: 25/1
Koepka missed the cut last week but was runner-up at the Honda Classic prior to that, which was his second top 10 of 2019. Has a chance to end up as World No.1 this week. He also fired a record-tying 63 during the final round of the Players Championship last year to end up T11, and was T16 the year before. His best stat is 22nd for SG: Approach the green, 26th for scoring average and 29th for SG: Tee to green.
Tiger Woods: 25/1
Woods is the only player to have won this championship in both March and May, but is struggling with a neck injury that forced him to withdraw from the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week. It turns out it was something that was causing him issues at the WGC Mexico, but he still ended up T10, which followed two other top 20s in 2019. Ranked 7th for scoring average last season.
Xander Schauffele: 25/1
The FedEx Cup leader finished 2nd on his debut at The Players last year, and has been incredibly consistent this season. He's already had two wins, and hasn't finished worse than T15 in his last three starts. Ranks 7th for scoring average, 11th for SG: Approach the green and 13th for both SG: Putting and SG: Tee to green.
Jon Rahm: 28/1
Hasn't teed up since a disappointing T45 at the WGC Mexico Championship, but Rahm feels like a solid bet given that he had seven consecutive top 10s before that worldwide. Ranks 2nd SG: Off the tee and inside the top 25 for both scoring and birdie average. The only drawback with Rahm is that in two starts at The Players he's gone T63-T72.
Bryson DeChambeau: 28/1
DeChambeau has a victory and three other top 10s in 2019, although has stumbled to a T56-T46 during his last two starts at the WGC Mexico and AP invitational respectedly. T37 on his debut last year, and ranks 9th for birdie average, 15th for SG: Off the tee.
Tommy Fleetwood: 28/1
Fleetwood ended up T3 after leading last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational at the halfway point, and hasn't missed a cut since July last year. Finished T7 at last year's Players, and ranks for both SG: Off the tee, SG: Tee to green and 15th for scoring average.
Sergio Garcia: 30/1
The 2008 Champion was also runner-up in both 2007 and 2015, but finished 70th last year. Garcia has nine top 10s in his last 11 worldwide starts, the other being a T37 at the Genesis Open and a DQ for damaging greens at the Saudi International. Hasn't played enough to qualify for PGA Tour stats yet this season.
Paul Casey: 33/1
A third-place finish in his last start in Mexico was Casey's third top-three finish in his last four starts, following a T25 at the Genesis Open and back to back runner-up finishes in Singapore and Pebble Beach. Ranks 11th for GIR, Driving Accuracy, 12th for SG: tee to green and 18th for SG: Around the green. Two top 25s in his last two starts at Sawgrass.
Jason Day: 33/1
Pulled out after six holes of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with a back injury that he's been suffering with for two weeks, so I'd be wary of that. Despite that, Day had posted back-to-back top-fives and a 13th place in 2019, and has two top 10s and a victory at TPC Sawgrass. Ranks 3rd for birdie average, 5th SG: Off the tee, 11th SG: Putting and 23rd for scoring average.
Hidekia Matsuyama: 40/1
Mastuyama has gone T3-T15-T9-T19-T33 in his last five starts, and hasn't missed a cut since The Open last year. Ranks 2nd for SG: approach the green, 3rd for SG: Tee to green, and 19th for scoring average. MC here last year but was consistent in his previous four starts with a T7 in 2016 and three other top 23 finishes.
Ian Poulter: 50/1
Runner up at TPC Sawgrass in 2017 and T11 last year. Another player on an excellent spell of consistency, with four top 10s and two top 25s in his last seven starts in 2019. Ranks 10th on the PGA Tour for SG: Around the green.
Lucas Glover: 60/1
A third consecutive top 10 on Tour highlights Glover's continued run of form this season, which includes a further top 10 and four other top 20s. The World No.81 ranks 4th for both GIR and Scoring average on Tour this season, and is inside the top 20 for both SG: Approach the green and SG: Tee to green. Was T6 in 2017.
Charles Howell III: 60/1
Following his victory at the RSM Classic, Howell has posted two other top 10s and three top 15s - including at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational and the WGC Mexico Championship. Ranks 1st for GIR, in addition to inside the top 20 for SG: Putting, Scoring average and SG: Around the green. T17 at TPC Sawgrass last year.