The Florida swing continues in the PGA with the Players Championship, one of the biggest events on tour. A Pete Dye design, TPC Sawgrass is recognized for its signature par-3 “Island Green” but the course itself is a beautiful monster. With strategically placed hazards, I’m looking for precision players — good off the tee, even better with their irons.
Here are three players that make solid Top 20 options that can also contend for an outright win.
Top 20 +105
Top 10 +160
Top 5 +335
To win +1800
Cantlay is fourth in the field for strokes gained off the tee. However, it’s his recent iron play that has me intrigued. He’s gained three strokes on approach in back-to-back events, while being a neutral putter in three straight. The worry: three straight missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass. Overall, I’m throwing the 2022 results out of the window because weather was a major factor last year — wind, rain, delays ... all the things to distract and throw any player out of rhythm.
Still though, Cantlay’s history is not ideal. However, he is fourth in the field for par-5 scoring, which could come into play considering these are some of the longest par 5s on tour. The ability to make birdies will be needed. If Cantlay can keep his back-to-back iron streak in play, then he has a solid chance for at least a Top 20.
Top 20 +140
Top 10 +240
Top 5 +500
To win +2800
I want to back solid iron players. That’s not quite Jason Day. In nine tournaments since October, Day has gained strokes on approach in five. However, the good news is that Day has been fairly neutral, just barely losing when not gaining. One positive: Day is one of the best short gamers in the field, fifth in strokes gained behind players like Jon Rahm and Brendon Todd. Top 10 in putting, Bermuda is Day's second-best surface. His solid game has led to some stellar results as of late with four top-20 finishes, including a solo fifth in the Phoenix Open.
Day won this event back in 2016. He has the eighth-most recorded rounds at TPC Sawgrass and is 10th in strokes gained total at the course.
Top 20 +130
Top 10 +220
Top 5 +450
To win +2500
I was so hesitant to put Hovland on the final list. The metrics are there: third off the tee, 16th on approach, top 20 in par-5 scoring and finished T9 last year. I am always so weary of backing Hovland though because his short game is just awful. Despite finishing T9 last year, Hovland lost six strokes in his short game. Imagine if he cleaned that up.
Last week, he finished T10 in the Arnold Palmer, losing nearly four strokes around the green. You back Hovland in the outright market just in case it all clicks but I definitely like his top-20 option more as you’re still getting plus money. Plus, it reduces the stress of having to watch him putt on Day 4.