We’ve seen more big fields in 2023 than we had in previous years, so The Players Championship won’t be the first time we’re seeing all of the PGA Tour’s top golfers in one place this year.
It will, however, be the richest event in PGA Tour history with a $25 million purse at stake. That’s $5 million more than last year’s Players and $10 million more than in 2021.
This year’s Players Championship is also unique in that the top-three finishers from last year’s event—Cameron Smith, Anirban Lahiri, and Paul Casey—are now members of LIV Golf and ineligible from competing in the event.
The event began in 1974, and the field consists of 144 players that must meet specific criteria to qualify. The winner receives 600 FedEx Cup points instead of the typical 500 for winning a tour event. Jack Nicklaus is the only three-time winner of this event while two-time winners include Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, and Davis Love III.
Included in the field are PGA Tour tournament winners from the last calendar year, previous winners of this tournament, and major champions from the past five years. In addition to the top 125 from the prior year’s FedEx Cup points list and the top 10 from the current year’s standings, the Senior Players champion from the prior year and up to two from the Korn Ferry Tour are invited to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
The tournament began play on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in 1982. The course is a par 72 and measures 7,189 yards, but what the course lacks in length, it makes up for in patience required by golfers.
The 17th hole here is one of the most famous holes in golf–the “Island Green” par-3 hole, as the green is nearly completely surrounded by water (save for a small strip of land for golfers to be able to walk to the green).
The course record dates all the way back to 1994 when Greg Norman shot a 24-under 264. Smith’s winning score last year was -13. The weather can play a factor in how the course affects players, which was a big factor during last year’s second round when several players, including Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth, and Xander Schauffele, post scores in the high 70s and missed the cut.
Have all spent time this year as the top-ranked golfer in the Official World Golf Ranking, and they are co-favorites here along with Patrick Cantlay.
The reason that there is no clear-cut favorite is that of these four golfers, only McIlroy has had true success here. He won in 2019, but his last top 10 here before that was in 2016. Rahm’s best finish here is ninth, while Cantlay’s best is a 22nd and Scottie Scheffler has only managed a 55th here as his best outing.
McIlroy, however, was encouraged by his game at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. He finished runner-up to Kurt Kitayama, and if it wasn’t for a bad break on his approach shot on the final hole, Scheffler may have birdied the final hole to force a playoff. Cantlay also finished tied for fourth with Scheffler.
The only one of these top golfers who struggled last week was Jon Rahm. After shooting -7 to lead following the first round, Rahm was +8 for the rest of the tournament to end up tied for 39th. It was his first finish outside the top 10 in any tournament worldwide since last year’s Tour Championship in August. Given his competitive spirit, a bounce-back here isn’t not just out of the question, it’s probably expected.
Among the next group of golfers at +2100 is Max Homa. After taking a week off following his runner-up at Riviera, the two-time winner this season finished 14th at Bay Hill after remarkably consistent rounds between 70 and 72. He was 13th here in his second attempt at The Players, closing out strong with a 66 on Sunday.
Won here two years ago, and he’s had a flair for winning when it counts over the past couple of years—adding the 2022 PGA Championship to his resume. He was fourth at the WM Phoenix Open last month, which is his best finish among five events in 2023, but he’s placed in the top 25 in each one.
Tied for ninth last year and was just a shot off the lead at Bay Hill going into the final round on Sunday, but he had to settle for a 10th-place result after shooting a 75.
Just off the odds board is Jason Day. The 2016 winner hasn’t gotten much attention this season since he hasn’t returned to the winner’s circle, but his comeback is worth noting. He’s on a run of four-straight top-10 finishes, including a 10th last week at Bay Hill. Since the 2016 win here at TPC Sawgrass, he’s added a pair of top-10 finishes.
Always seems to come here with confidence because he’s so good at Bay Hill. He tied for fourth last week to go along with a win and a runner-up there over the past few years. He continued the hot streak by finishing 13th here last year.
Is the highest-finishing player from last year’s tournament entered in this week’s event. He placed fifth at -9 and is also coming off a 10th-place effort in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Bradley also has another top 10 here and has made the cut each year since 2016.
While the top golfers have been inconsistent here, big names have won here in each of the past three editions: Smith, Thomas, and McIlroy. If that trend is going to continue, we’ll back McIlroy and Thomas. There’s plenty of value here all over the place, so we’ll also back Viktor Hovland and Day, as he’s been close and due to put it all together for 72 holes.
|ODDS TO WIN 2023 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP