Frazzled outlines his selections for The Players Championship at Sawgrass. Time constraints prevent a detailed preview of this Pete Dye designed gem.
The "5th major" is upon us this week, as we head to the 7,215 yards, TPC Sawgrass venue. The Pete Dye design is a venue where only Jack Nicklaus has won 3 times, only 5 players including Tiger Woods have won twice and nobody has ever defended the title.
It is a venue, where course experience is vital, even if a very high placement before victory has not always been needed and the key criteria this week appear to be Greens In Regulation ("GIR"), Scrambling and Strokes Gained Tee to Green. We will get straight to the selections at this stage.
Kevin Na is our first pick this week, despite the fact that we and everyone else is aware that getting him over the line is far from the easiest thing to accomplish. He is not the strongest Sunday finisher and should certainly be considered as an in running lay to secure profits if he hits the front on the closing 9 holes, but he matches up so well to this venue, that he has to be backed each way at 70/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying 7 places each way.
Na is having another very solid season and he is coming here after a couple of weeks off since he finished 4th in the RBC Heritage at the Pete Dye designed Harbour Town venue. In that event he started slowly with rounds of 73-71, but had an excellent weekend, posting 66 & 69 and it continued both his trend of playing very well at that venue (3 previous Top 10s) and playing very well at shorter courses or courses that demand precision golf and a very solid around the green game. His results are largely similar to his results at the Sony Open, where he also has 3 Top 8 finishes and the technical Copperhead venue, home of the Valspar Championship, where he also excels. Na has also finished 3rd in the CIMB Classic and 2nd in the Shriners Open and Frys Open, so he has put some excellent weeks together without quite managing to secure a title.
A lot of this evidence is persuasive, but it is backed up by his Sawgrass course form and his stats, which are a perfect fit for this venue. He finished 6th here last year and this backs up finishes of 7th in 2012 and 3rd in 2009, so this is a venue that clearly suits his game. He also ranks 489th in Driving Accuracy, 40th in GIR, 12th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 46th in Scrambling. His distance from the tee is a disadvantage at many venues, but that is certainly not the case this week and with some of the big guns have question marks about them (Spieth returning for first time since The Masters, Rory not putting 4 solid rounds together, Adam Scott cooling off since his two wins, Day having a patchy record here, Dustin & Bubba having awful record here and Justin Rose coming off a week where he really had chances to win), he looks good value at 70/1. He is also worth an interest in the Top American market, given that there look to be many European players and Rest of the World golfers that could content this week and a price of 40/1 with Powers for 5 places each way looks very decent value.
1 point each way Kevin Na at 70/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds 7 places)
1 point each way Kevin Na - Top American at 40/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds 5 places)
Luke did us a favour when we tipped him at 50/1 for the RBC Heritage, although for a large part of the Sunday, we thought that we were going to land the jackpot. However he faltered late on while Branden Grace played excellent golf. Since then he was putting an excellent tournament together at the Valero Texas Open, only to close with a 74 to finish 13th and then he was well down the field at the Wells Fargo. As a result, he seems to have fallen off the radar this week, even though he is returning to a course that will suit him perfectly and one where he has some excellent form in the past.
He was 2nd here in 2005, 4th in 2011 and 6th in 2012 and even during some of his quieter years, he managed 19th in 2013 and a respectable 38th in 2014. Given that he backed up previous solid course form with a very good 2nd at Harbour Town and this is a relatively similar Pete Dye test, we would expect to see a vast improvement from last week and he looks set to put up a big display this week.
He ranks highly in some of the key categories this week, given that he is 85th in GIR, 8th in Scrambling and 56th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green. He also ranks 57th in Proximity to the Hole and with a view to the shots that will be played into these greens, he ranks 4th in approaches from 100 to 125 yards, 50th from 125-150 yards and 62nd from 150-175 yards. He also ranks 77th in Strokes Gained Putting and this was an area of his game that was a real strength when he was at his best. Given his display last week, we look to be getting a premium on what might have been expected to be his price and he is worth an interest at 110/1 with Bet365, who are paying 6 places. In addition he appeals in the Top GB & Ireland and European Markets, but with Garcia and Stenson having such solid course form, we prefer the 18/1 with BetVictor about him in the GB & Ireland market.
1 point each way Luke Donald at 110/1 with Bet365
1 point each way Luke Donald - Top GB& Ireland at 18/1 with BetVictor
Graham De Laet:
De Laet is our final pick this week as he suits the agenda of both a value price in the outright market and is a decent bet in a side market. He is ranked 82nd in the Fedex Cup this season and is rebounding after what was a disappointing 2015 for him. It is notable however that even in 2015, his best result was 4th in the Travellers Championship at the Pete Dye designed TPC River Highlands venue and he was also 8th in the Northern Trust Open at the very technical Riviera Venue, where you have to shape the ball both ways off the tee.
This season so far, he has been 7th in the Sony Open, 5th in the Valspar Championship and also 14th in the RBC Heritage. This venues have been discussed above as very good guides to this event and while De Laet has not yet produced a good display here, that is true of many winners, with course experience rather than course form proving to be the vital ingredient. De Laet ranks 17th in GIR, 49th in Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 25th in Ball Striking and 52nd in Proximity to the Hole. His around the green game can be an issue, but if he can have a solid week here and on the greens, then he could certainly outplay his odds of , while 33/1 each way in the Top Rest of the World Market looks worth an interest.
0.5 points each way Graham De Laet at 150/1 with Paddy Power (1/5 odds - way 7 places)
1 point each way Graham De Laet - Top ROW at 33/1 with Paddy Power and Stan James (1/5 odds - 4 places)