The Players Championship Tips

Steve Bamford’s Tips for The Players Championship 2011 at TPC Sawgrass

Firstly I must pay my respects to Seve Ballesteros. A truly great man and a natural golfer the like of which we are unlikely to see in our lifetime. Watching the buccaneering Seve in the mid 80’s as a teenager captured my imagination and was one of the reasons I fell in love with the game. Seve will be greatly missed by all golf fans but never forgotten.

The World of Golf no doubt will further pay its respects at The Players Championship which takes place at TPC Sawgrass, Florida this week. After the gloriously classical test that is Quail Hollow, a quality field less Westwood, Rory and Big Mig gather at the toughest Bermuda-greened test in the world. The Pete Dye designed Stadium course was instigated with the ultimate goal to favour no style of play, but ultimately the toughest of short Par 72 courses (don’t be fooled it most certainly plays like a tight Par 70) has it’s own quirks that need to be understood before the discerning golf punter makes their picks.

TPC Sawgrass features the typical Florida course format taken to the extremes. The Bermuda greens run at +12 on the stimp. The typically Dye-style greens are small in target size and 24 water features are very much in-play. Friday & Sunday see tempting pin locations close to tough bunkers where any inaccuracy sees players horribly short sided with bogey the best possible result. The flat Florida land offers no protection from wind and a freshening breeze over the course of the tournament will start as an annoyance but could develop into a real feature.

The winners list here highlights that the original design concept of featuring no player style holds true. Short-hitting South African Tim Clark shot -16 and broke his PGA Tour winning duck last year on what has to be said was the easiest course setup for many a year. Clark’s 272 winning total was questioned in the States by the golfing cognoscente. How could the PGA Tour’s self proclaimed “5th Major” be won with such a non-Major low score. Well the PGA Tour have responded by deliberately lengthening the gnarly Bermuda rough to 3 inches to grab errant drives and approach shots too bring scoring down. For me that favours the accurate rather than the brave, but ultimately a quality player who has at least contended at recent majors will rise to the top.

Watch our for Paddy Power, Bet 365 and Skybet who, amongst others, are offering 6 place EW payouts this week over and above the usual 5 places. I’ve only highlighted market leading prices below that also pay-out the extra place…..the proverbial no brainer! The Paddy Power £50 of free bets promo and market leading 6 place Each Way prices make picking value players a must this week. Read our Longshots feature and grab some profit this week.

Sergio Garcia 1pt EW 60/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet £50 In Free Bets, get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

The Spaniard this week just has to be backed. I’ve thought long and hard about what Garcia’s mental state will be after losing his golfing mentor. For me he’ll be even more motivated to grab his first US victory since winning here in 2008 and can you imagine the support he’ll receive if he gets anywhere close to contention, even in the US. Expect an emotional week and some brilliant golf from Garcia on a course that’s absolutely perfect for the ex-World No. 2.

2011 has seen Garcia’s golf rehab gain real momentum and last week’s performance at Quail Hollow did nothing to dispel that truth that Sergio’s stock is on the rise. 2 Top 10s and a further 2 Top 20s highlight a player ready to contend on a track that engenders confidence and Garcia loves Sawgrass. Get ready to cry your eyes out if Sergio can find the weekend form he needs to contend. Result: T12

Jason Day 1pt EW 55/1 with Bet365 Get £200 in free bets via this link: Bet365

I’m very aware that Aussie sensation Day has no TPC Sawgrass course form but nor did Lucas Glover, John Mallinger or Kevin Na in the past 2 years when finishing in the Top 3. I tipped Day at Houston with the commentary that Day had majors on his mind in 2011. Typically he missed the cut in Texas, I never selected him for Augusta the following week and he finished 2nd at 175/1 with Totesport!

Day’s Masters performance sent shock waves around the world, but I was equally impressed with his 9th place finish at Hilton Head on his next outing, where he contended on a course that was ultimately a little too tight. Day has previous on par 70 set-ups (Sawgrass suits Par 70 specialists) as he won at TPC Four Seasons last year and finished 4th at Colonial in 2009 and his last 2 major finishes read 10th (PGA) and 2nd (Masters). Result: T6

Zach Johnson 1pt EW 66/1 with Bet365 Get £200 in free bets via this link: Bet365

Where Day is a precocious young talent, Zach Johnson has been there, seen it, done it. The Masters Champion in 2007, he also finished 3rd in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last year on a long course set up that never truly suited. 2011 has seen a slow start with errant iron-play at fault. However 6th last week at Quail saw a composed GIR% display and when Johnson hits green his putting is top notch.

4 of Johnson’s 6 PGA Tour victories have been on Par 70 set-ups, with 3 on Bermuda greens, so TPC Sawgrass should be a perfect fit for Johnson. Therefore only a single Top 10 from 6 appearances is disappointing but a course form-line of 22(2011)-32-MC-16-58-8 highlights consistency on a course where hardly any player has any! Has a habit of converting when he does contend and 66s is a great value 6 Place Each Way punt. Result: T12

David Toms 1pt EW 80/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

80s is an awesome price for a player who is due a win on a track where accuracy and experience is key. Let’s set the scene with Tom’s current form 24-18-24-3-37-5 is excellent and includes contending performances on Bermuda at Bay Hill and El Cameleon. A 4 time Bermuda winner, 2010 saw Toms contending at the Par 70 Sea Island and Sedgefield set-ups. In 2009 he finished 6th on debut at Camaleon but also finished 2nd at St Jude and Waialee plus 5th in New Orleans and 9th at The Players. A Major and World Matchplay winner with 8 Top 10 major finishes to his name in such great nick will relish the opportunity that TPC Sawgrass provides this week. Result: 2nd, Lost P/O.

Andres Romero 1pt EW 100/1 with Sky Free Bet Get up to £35 in free bets via this link: Sky Free Bet

Rewind to 2008 and Andres Romero was hot property. His first European Tour victory in Germany was soon eclipsed by 3rd place at The Open, both in 2007. The aforementioned o8 season saw 8th at Augusta, his first PGA Tour “W” in New Orleans and 7th at the PGA Championship all in 2008. The talented Romero was in the World’s Top 30 and looking strong for future progress. The Argentinean though dined out and his game collapsed. 2010 though marked the end of his 2 year PGA Tour exemption and as often happens the threat of losing a PGA Tour card motivates!

A slow start to the season has been overtaken by 8th at New Orleans and 16th last week in Charlotte. Romero’s poor 2010 saw a 10th placed finish at TPC Sawgrass and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Romero play brilliantly in this ‘major’ type atmosphere on a course that suits. Result: T39

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 20:00BST 10.5.11 But naturally subject to fluctuation.

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