The Players Championship odds, preview, and course notes

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March 10th, 2021

The allure of golf’s unofficial fifth major will draw a prestigious field to The Players Championship, held this weekend at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson comes in as the +1100 favorite, and will face stiff competition from last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational winner Bryson DeChambeau (+1400), 2019 Players champion Rory McIlroy (+1400), World No. 2 Jon Rahm (+1400), plus a bevy of talented golfers capable of topping the leaderboard.

2021 Players Championship Odds

Dustin Johnson
Bryson DeChambeau
Rory McIlroy
Jon Rahm
Patrick Cantlay
Justin Thomas

The 48th edition of the tournament will return to the historic Stadium course at TPC Sawgrass, a par-72, 7,189-yard Pete Dye design. McIlroy will represent the defending champion this weekend, as last year’s event was cancelled after the first round because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, Hideki Matsuyama (+3300) led all players with a course record 63 (nine-under par) at the conclusion of Thursday’s round.

More than 110 previous PGA winners make up the 154-player field, along with 10 past Players champs, and 48 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. No. 12 Brooks Koepka and No. 20 Matthew Wolff will miss the event due to injury.

Players Championship layout and relevant statistics

TPC Sawgrass is a balanced course that doesn’t favor any one style of play.

In 2019, Rory tied for fourth in driving distance and 49th in driving accuracy, while recent champion Webb Simpson ranked 70th in distance but first in accuracy.

Looking at the past three winners (including Kim Si-woo in 2017), all three shared a top 20 ranking in ball-striking, top 25 in strokes gained around the green, top 16 in strokes gained tee to green, and top seven in bogey avoidance at the time of their win.

All three were also tied for 22nd or better in par-4 scoring at this tournament the year they won.

Players with prior experience at TPC Sawgrass tend to perform better than the novices. Kim Si-woo is the exception, as the year he triumphed, he became the only player in the last 10 editions to win with less than five previous starts.

Strokes gained approaching the green is another key statistic to factor. Golfers must steer clear of a number of hazards on this course, particularly water, which comes into play on 17 holes, and more than 80 bunkers.

The 10 par 4s range from 302 yards to 481, with six of those greater than 460 yards. Scoring opportunities abound on the par 5s, measuring between 523 yards and 572, while the four par 3s range from 137 to 239 yards. That includes the famous "Island Green" on 17, which has averaged around 50 water balls per tournament over the past five years.

Sergio Garcia (+6600) and Ryan Moore (+20000) shot aces on 17 in 2017 and 2019, respectively, but this iconic hole can also result in some devastating scores, like Bob Tway’s 12 in 2005.  

Best bets for The Players Championship

One player in good position to win this weekend is Rahm (+3300). With five top 10s in nine Tour appearances this season, including second at the Zozo Championship, the 26-year-old Spaniard is due for a win.

In 2019, Rahm landed 12th at this tournament, and will head to TPC Sawgrass in excellent form.

He ranks second on Tour in ball-striking, fourth in strokes gained tee to green, 12th on Tour in scoring average, 17th in strokes gained approaching the green, and is tied for sixth in par-5 scoring.

A huge longshot like Chris Kirk (+12500) could also see his name rise up the leaderboard. The 35-year-old scored a top 10 at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational and landed second at January's Sony Open, played on Bermuda grass, just like The Players.

He currently ranks ninth on Tour in bogey avoidance, 22nd in scoring average, 25th in strokes gained tee to green, and he is tied for 10th in par-4 scoring.

Also, look out for Simpson (+2000) to take a swing at his second win at The Players. Sandwiched between two 16th-place finishes in 2017 and 2019 is a victory at TPC Sawgrass in 2018.

How to watch The Players Championship

The winner of The Players Championship will receive $2.7 million out of a $15 million purse, the largest prize fund of any tournament in golf. First place on the leaderboard will also collect 600 FedEx Cup points and a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

Fan attendance will be limited to around 9,000 per day.

You can catch all the action Thursday and Friday, noon to 6 p.m. ET, on the Golf Channel, and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. ET on NBC.