Golf is a funny old game. Take the past 2 weeks as a vivid example. After being lambasted as a 'choker', Jason Dufner finally silenced his critics and won at TPC Louisiana 10 days ago. Rickie Fowler, on the other hand, was supposedly overrated and an average player with a huge PR machine behind him. That was until he won at the classical splendour of Quail Hollow last week a course that only the purest golfers triumph at. So it was great for us to be on both of them when they won their first PGA Tour victories at 25/1 and 50/1 respectively! So after a sojourn to Louisiana and North Carolina, we move back to Florida this week and the star-studded Players Championship on the hunt for a hat-trick at the self proclaimed '5th Major'. What is for sure is that the entry list is the very highest of quality with Dustin Johnson (back), Anthony Kim (wrist), Bubba Watson (family), Charl Schwartzel, Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, Anders Hansen, K.T. Kim and Paul Lawrie numbering only a handful of significant absentees. As ever, a few points to raise before I walk you through this week's TPC Sawgrass team. European Tour guru Paul Williams has cast his eye over the field and pulled together his views on the very best +100/1 longshots to follow this week at TPC Sawgrass and highlighted some cracking Alternative Market Bets - read his Players Championship Longshots here: The Players Longshots or click here to read our Players Championship stats page: Players Championship Stats
On top of that, virtually all the major bookmakers have extended their each way terms to 6 places this week. Paddy Power, as well as going 6 places EW, are offering £/€200 of free bets to all Golf Betting System readers who open a new account using this link; Bet 365 also offer £200 of free bets plus 6 places Each Way available using this link. Risk-free bets are all the rage and Bodog have a brilliant offer this week which is absolutely perfect for covering off one of the big guns - say McIlroy, Donald, Woods or even Westwood - and again they are paying out 6 places Each Way. Open an account and they will give you a risk-free £/€10 bet which is refunded into your account as a bonus if your first bet doesn't win. Click here for full details and bonus rollover requirements. So just what is required this week at the ultimate Bermuda greened golf course in the world? The Pete Dye-designed Stadium course was instigated with the ultimate goal to favour no particular 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 any player can challenge for victory. Indeed the past 4 champions - namely Choi (defending), Clark, Stenson and Garcia - had racked up 27 appearances before triumphing at TPC Sawgrass.
TPC Sawgrass at PGA Tour HQ in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida features the typical Florida course format taken to extremes. The Bermuda greens run at 12.5 on the stimp this year. The typically Dye-style greens are small in target size and 24 water features are very much in-play. Friday & Sunday sees tempting pin locations located 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 the elements and winds of 15 mph to 25 mph are forecast across all 4 days of the tournament with rain a real possibility. This will be tough and I'm not expecting the scoring to be quite as low as the past 2 renewals as a result. Tee-to-green will be key as will be patience and scrambling for pars, alongside maximising rare birdie opportunities.
I'm seriously into Poults this week and I'm genuinely surprised that the in-form and upward trending Poulter is available at an amazing 80/1 - indeed he's as short as 66s elsewhere. Quality wins through at TPC Sawgrass and a champions list that includes Choi, Clark, Stenson, Garcia and Scott tells the whole story for me - all are Major contenders who haven't quite got the job done in the rarefied high altitude of a Major Sunday back nine. In my own mind, and naturally I'm here to be shot down, I'm not convinced that Ian will win a Major Championship, but 4 Major Top 10s including 2nd at Birkdale (Par 70) in 2008 and a career best 7th at Augusta this April deserve the utmost respect. As he's already proven, the Stevenage born, Florida resident can win at WGC level (2010 World Matchplay at Ritz-Carlton GC) and I'm 100% confident he has the ability to triumph at The Players this week. Ian has always been a momentum player so his recent 2 European Tour outings which have yielded 15th throttling back at Blackstone GC and 29th at Binhai Lake GC both on formats that were way too long have alerted me. The preceding 7th at Augusta and 3rd at Bay Hill (Bermuda) highlight more accurately exactly where Poulter's game is right now and the Englishman, who currently sits outside of the automatic spots for European Ryder Cup team qualification, will have earmarked the lightning fast Bermuda Mini Verde greens of TPC Sawgrass as a huge opportunity to win his first strokeplay tournament on the PGA Tour. His resume contains a 2nd here in 2009 allied to big wins on fast Bermuda in Hong Kong and Singapore. Fill your boots! RESULT: T25
Quite rightly I'm doubling-up with Zach Johnson year-on-year after tipping him for victory last season. He disappointed 12 months ago when finishing 12th, but Zach's form is definitely in the ascendancy in 2012 and there is no doubt in my mind that the Georgia resident is showing better form in a quest to make the US Ryder Cup team where presently he sits 22nd and 16 places from automatic qualification, with no guarantee of a Freddie Couples Captain's Pick. The Masters Champion in 2007, Zach also finished 3rd in the PGA Championship at the Pete Dye-designed Whistling Straits in 2010 on a long course setup that never truly suited. But that's the deal with Zach who comes into his own on shorter Par 70-style formats where accuracy is key; indeed 4 of Johnson's 7 PGA Tour victories have been on Par 70 setups, with 3 on Bermuda greens, so TPC Sawgrass fits perfectly for Johnson. He's long overdue a victory as his last win was at Colonial in 2010 and recent outings have yielded 2nd at Thousand Oaks (behind Woods in December), 8th at PGA West (Bermuda), 11th at Bay Hill (Bermuda) and 2nd at Harbour Town (Bermuda). 7 appearance at TPC Sawgrass have yielded a 8th (05), 12th (11) and 16th (07) and that level of consistency shows that Johnson, who is putting brilliantly right now, will be right in the mix if he can find consistency with his irons this week to find the his favourite putting surface. RESULT: T2
1995: TPC Four Seasons; 1998: Bay Hill; 1999: Riviera; 2001: Dubai; 2003: Waialae; 2004: Waialae; 2005: Dubai, Qatar; 2008: PGA National; 2010: Doral, Bay Hill. These are just a selection of the Big Easy's professional wins, but all of them link into TPC Sawgrass beautifully and Ernie right now is finding greens and the putter is at last warming up! Els is in great nick right now as his recent form line highlights: 2(TPC Louisiana)-MC(Harbour Town)-12(Redstone)-4(Bay Hill)-5(Copperhead)-21(PGA National)-59(Riviera)-52(Torrey)-2(Fancourt). The big news for me though is that Els, who has always been Bermuda green positive - his last 3 PGA Tour wins have been at Bay Hill (10), Doral (10) & PGA National (08) – has at last started to putt better. Indeed he gained 1.7 strokes on the field on the Bermuda Mini Verde greens at TPC Louisiana when he lost in the Play Off to Dufner 10 days back and 1.1 stokes on the field on the Bermuda Poa Trivialis greens of Bay Hill in March. Indeed these have been the best PGA Tour putting performance since………you guessed it, his wins at Bay Hill and Doral back in 2010. Recent appearances at TPC Sawgrass have been poor due to putting woes (2011) and rust (2010), but 4 Top-10 finishes in 18 appearances here suggest that Els, who is clearly in the mood for a victory, will take far closer order this week as he did at the technical Copperhead track back in March. RESULT: MC
I'm on red alert for Jim Furyk who I think is due a win very soon. Many felt that would come last week at Quail Hollow at a ridiculously short 25/1, but the +7,400 yard Par 72 was never going to suit and sure enough Pennsylvania's finest delivered his standard 26th finish. However TPC Sawgrass, where he regularly practices, suits Furyk absolutely perfectly. 2012 has seen a rejuvenated Furyk play somewhere close to his consistent best with recent form being 8(Harbour Town)-11(Augusta)-11(Bay Hill)-2(Copperhead)-MC-11(Riviera). The only thing that's missing is his first victory since East Lake in 2010 and a win here on his native Ponte Vedra course that has yielded 3rd (06), 4th (03) and 5th (09) is a distinct possibility this week, especially when you consider the mental frame of mind Jim is likely to be in right now. Furyk currently sits 40th in the World Golf Rankings and in 21st spot in terms of US Ryder Cup qualification. So his recent up-swing in form is no real surprise -after all player motivation is always key and Furyk will do all in his power to establish a solid Top 20 world birth and qualify automatically for what would be his 8th straight Ryder Cup. Jim's positive momentum is also clear to see when comparing key PGA Tour skill categories 2012 vs 2011. Scoring Average: 5th vs 40th; Driving Accuracy: 3rd vs 18th; Proximity to Hole: 7th vs 3rd; Strokes Gained Putting: 25th vs 150th. RESULT: T25
I plumped for Lee Westwood last week at a short 14/1 price and he scraped into the Each Way places at Quail Hollow, but after serious consideration the Worksop World Number 3 has been dropped from this week's TPC Sawgrass team due to his stubborn putter which refuses to warm. Instead I'm taking up World Number 2 Luke Donald, who is a massive threat this week at a tournament where his great Bermuda surface putting linked to his forte of finding the short grass off the tee should see him seriously contend. As we've already discussed, winners here tend to be high class players who contend at Majors but haven't (yet) got the job done. Well, with 6 Major Top 10 finishes - including 3rd at Augusta in 2011 and 8th on the Bermuda greens of the long Par 70 at Atlanta Athletic Club last August - Luke is still on the hunt for that elusive first Major win, but nobody can question the world class stature of the Hemel Hempstead born Englishman. All 4 of Luke's PGA Tour stroke-play titles have been on Bermuda carpet: Annandale (02), Mirsasol (06), Disney (11) and Copperhead (12), with 3 of these being in the state of Florida where he has a home. With all of Donald's Top 10s being on Bermuda season to date i.e. 6th Doral, 1st Copperhead and 3rd TPC Louisiana, I'd be shocked if he wasn't right in the mix this week and naturally a win over arch rival McIlroy will see him grab back the World Number 1 spot. That's totally feasible at TPC Sawgrass where 9 appearances have produced a 2nd (05) and 4th (10). RESULT: 6th Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:00BST 8.5.12 but naturally subject to fluctuation. Author Steve Bamford, Find us on Google+
Our tips, picks and predictions for the 2013 edition of this event will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!