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TPC Preview and Picks

   by Matt Fargo - 05/11/2011

The PGA Tour heads back to Florida this week for the “Fifth Major”, THE PLAYERS Championship. “THE PLAYERS” is capitalized for a reason since this is THE Championship for the PLAYERS and a lot of them covet this tournament more than any of the four real Majors. That may sound narcissistic but this game is about the players and this is exactly what this tournament is about.

While a lot of the current regular stops on tour value experience, TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National are arguably the two biggest venues where experience matters the most. Check out this stat from the PGA Tour. The average number of starts before a victory here is 7.57 so just like Augusta, it takes a few years to win here, not including the 2002 win by Craig Perks.

Last year was the first year since 1996 that TPC Sawgrass played under par and overall, it ranked 28th out of 52 stops on tour in difficulty. It is a course that rewards accuracy but at the same time, scramblers can have success as long as their misses are in the right spots. Knowing where these spots are comes from experience and as mentioned, that is the biggest factor is success here.

When you think of TPC Sawgrass, you think of the 17th island par three, arguably the scariest 130-something shot in golf. It is definitely a risk-reward hole and getting out of there with a par is huge going into 18. Why? The 18th at Sawgrass is the second-toughest closing hole on tour going back to 1983. We have seen many PLAYERS won and lost on these final two holes and that is what it should all be about.

The favorite this week is of course Tiger Woods (+1200) but he is the favorite because of the past and not the present though as he has dropped to eighth in the OWGR. This is not his favorite stop either as he won in 2001 at THE PLAYERS but he has not been a big factor of late as he has just one top ten at THE PLAYERS in his last seven starts. His last tournament was the Masters so rust could be another factor this week.

Luke Donald (+1500) is one of the hottest players in the world right now and he is getting some favorable odds this week. Donald is currently third in world and he has cashed six straight top ten checks going back to his Accenture Match Play Championship. Donald is one of the best iron players in the world and his currently ranked fourth in scrambling. He finished T2 at TPC Sawgrass in 2005.

Ben Crane (+3000) won twice on tour last year and while he has not been as close this year, this could be the event that puts him into the 2011 win column. He is coming off a T6 at The Heritage and a T20 in New Orleans so he comes in with good form. He finished T6 at THE PLAYERS in 2008 and has followed that up with a T5 and a T4 the last two years so he certainly likes this course.

Hunter Mahan (+3000) has rebounded incredibly from his debacle at the Ryder Cup. He has missed only one cut this season and he has four top ten finishes in 10 stroke play events as well as a T9 in the Accenture Match Play Championship. He has not won yet this year but that may be a good thing as it adds even more fuel to the fire. He finished T17 at THE PLAYERS A year ago.

This should be considered incredible value for Dustin Johnson (+4000). He is coming off a missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship and has actually missed the cut in two of his last three events. He does have three top tens this season though and this is a good spot to buy low. His best finish at THE PLAYERS is a T34 last year and even though there has not been success here, there has been experience.

For a longshot this week, take a look at Kevin Na (+6000). He has been up and down this season but he is playing his best golf of the year with a T9 at The Heritage and a solo fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship last week. Those two finishes made it four top tens on the year. He missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass a year ago but he tied for third in 2009 and his scrambling ability makes him a good fit.

THE PLAYERS Championship Win Bets (all for 1 Unit)

Luke Donald (+1500)

Ben Crane (+3000)

Hunter Mahan (+3000)

Dustin Johnson (+4000)

Kevin Na (+6000)

THE PLAYERS Championship Matchup Bets (All from sportsbook.com) – All for 2 Units

Dustin Johnson -105 over Nick Watney

Brandt Snedeker -110 over J.B. Holmes

Adam Scott -115 over Matt Kuchar

Robert Allenby -115 over Graham McDowell

Ben Crane +120 over Tiger Woods

Martin Laird -115 over Aaron Baddeley

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