Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's The Players Championship Tips

Get Steve's previews as soon as they're published @Bamfordgolf Follow Now

For details of how to claim any of the new account offers listed below read our free bets for golf betting guide here.

Steve Bamford's Tips for the 2018 The Players Championship. Follow Steve on twitter: @bamfordgolf

Congratulations to Jason Day backers who landed a 20/1 return last week at a very challenging Quail Hollow track. But that was very much the hors d’oeuvre though as we now move on to The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass which is always a highlight of the golfing season. Traditionally the strongest field of the year across the 144 players, 2018 sees every single player from the World’s Top 50 in attendance at the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, which is the ultimate test of consistency, patience, aggression on key holes and bogey avoidance. Victory at The Players holds a 5-year PGA Tour exemption and 3-year exemptions to The Masters, US Open and Open Championship. Beware though, this is no ordinary PGA Tour tournament and The Players Championship is a title that all of golf’s elite want on their CV.

Course Guide: The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is one of the most iconic courses in world golf. The Pete Dye design has always been a course where no particular type of player has a true advantage. The tournament’s mantra has always been that the best player on the week wins the tournament. In Si-Woo Kim and Jason Day who make up the past 2 champions, it’s pretty clear that different types of player can thrive here in Ponte Vedra. 2017 marked the first time that we saw the latest reincarnation of the Stadium Course, after a PGA Tour Design Services managed re-design. With all green complexes being re-built and replanted with TifEagle Bermudagrass and the 6th, 7th and 12th holes being re-configured, the course played extremely firm and fiery. Make no mistake – this is a true Florida golf course test, which often features plenty of wind and the tournament organisers have full control of this new golf course.

Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida: Designer: Pete Dye 1979, 2006 re-design, Steve Wenzloff re-design 2016; Course Type: Florida, Technical; Par: 72; Length: 7,189 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 14; Fairways Celebration Bermudagrass; Rough: 419 Bermudagrass 2.5″; Greens: 5,000 sq.ft. average TifEagle Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 13ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 72.47 (+0.47), Difficulty Rank 19 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.32 (+0.32), Difficulty Rank 19 of 43 courses. 2014: 72.16 (+0.16), Rank 25 of 48 courses. 2015: 72.08 (+0.08), Rank 18 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.06 (+0.06), Rank 19 of 50 courses. 2017: 73.29 (+1.29), Rank 5 of 50 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29; 350:20.
  • Quail Hollow: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:30; 325:29; 350:28.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:28; 325:27; 350:25.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 30 yards wide; 275:24; 300:21; 325:26; 350:23.
  • Golf Club of Houston: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:31; 325:25; 350:28.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:39; 350:30.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from tee: 26 yards wide; 275:21; 300:22; 325:24; 350:20.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from tee: 28 yards wide; 275:27; 300:24; 325:27; 350:24.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26; 325:26; 350:28.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 41 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:34 350:29
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:28 350:28
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:25 350:23

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Pete Dye designs include:

  • Whistling Straits – 2010 and 2015 PGA Championship
  • Ocean Course – Kiawah Island – 2012 PGA Championship
  • TPC River Highlands – The Travelers
  • TPC Louisiana – Zurich Classic of New Orleans
  • Harbour Town Golf Links – RBC Heritage
  • TPC Stadium, PGA West – CareerBuilder Challenge since 2016
  • Crooked Stick – 2012 and 2016 BMW Championship.

The Tour Championship was hosted at the Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass from 2013 to 2015. Chesson Hadley (2013), Derek Fathauer (2014) and Emiliano Grillo (2015) have won on that course with Russell Knox, David Lingmerth, Chez Reavie, Adam Hadwin, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Kyle Stanley and Patton Kizzire, all finishing in the top 7. The Jacksonville Open was also hosted there from 2010-2012 featuring top-5 finishes from Jonas Blixt (2011), David Lingmerth (2011), Danny Lee (2011), Russell Henley (2012), Ben Martin (2012) and Patrick Cantlay (2012).

Course Overview: Let’s start with the Steve Wenzloff re-design, which we saw for the first time 12 months ago. Pete Dye was consulted a number of times with all of the changes and the course will now plays 28 yards shorter as a 7,187 yard par-72. The loss in yardage comes predominantly from the 12th hole which was changed from a standard 358 yard par-4, to a driveable, dog-leg left, 302-yard hole with the same par. It was designed in such a way to encourage all players to go for it, with no easy lay-up available, but certainly didn’t play that way with few players taking the risk. In addition the par-4 7th and 15th holes were lengthened by 9 and 21 yards respectively. Other changes saw spectator mounds between the 6th and 7th removed, replaced by a new body of water which only added to the distraction factor from off the tee. All bunkers were re-built.

Green complexes on the 1st, 4th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 14th were modified to feature larger putting surfaces, with the aim of allowing more pin positions to reduce wear on the greens. Critically the tired MiniVerde Bermudagrass putting surfaces were replaced by TifEagle Bermudagrass to offer consistently fast greens speeds. These newly laid greens were firm last year and rejected approach shots handsomely. This was the main reason why the winning score regressed massively from -15/273 in 2016 to -10/278 in 2017. Effectively the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is amongst the most controllable golf courses on the planet. Just a quick look at the winners’ scores since 2010 highlights how organisers and Course Superintendant Tom Vlach can effectively manage the tournament to the target score they want in varying conditions. But the real point here is that Pete Dye’s design is brilliant in the fact that either controlled ball-strikers or short game specialists can win at the Stadium Course.

Key statistics that jump from the page from 12 months ago are as follows. Rank equals most difficult across the 2016/17 PGA Tour season: Proximity to Hole – 2nd most difficult on Tour; Rough Proximity – 2nd; Sand Save Percentage – 9th; par-3 Scoring Average – 3rd; par-4 Scoring Average – 3rd; par-5 Scoring Average – 15th.

Unless the course plays extremely soft with light winds, I would very much expect a firm and fast, technical challenge again this week.

Winners: 2017: Si Woo Kim (-10); 2016: Jason Day (-15); 2015: Rickie Fowler (-12); 2014: Martin Kaymer (-15); 2013: Tiger Woods (-13); 2012: Matt Kuchar (-13); 2011: K.J. Choi (-13); 2010: Tim Clark (-16).

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the WGC-Mexico Championship / Tshwane Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Ryan Armour; 2) Henrik Stenson; 3) Chez Reavie; 4) Emiliano Grillo; 5) Ryan Moore; 6) Chris Stroud; 7) Alex Cejka / Kyle Stanley; 9) Steve Stricker; 10) Martin Laird; 11) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 12) Chad Campbell; 13) Daniel Berger / Ian Poulter; 15) Ryan Blaum; 16) Sergio Garcia; 17) Tommy Fleetwood; 18) Rafa Cabrera Bello; 19) Kevin Kisner / Jon Rahm / Vaughn Taylor.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Dustin Johnson; 2) Adam Hadwin / Jon Rahm; 4) Bubba Watson; 5) Francesco Molinari; 6) Brendan Steele; 7) Kyle Stanley / Justin Thomas; 9) Ian Poulter; 10) Alexander Levy / Adam Scott; 12) Hao Tong Li; 13) Charley Hoffman / Tiger Woods; 15) Daniel Berger / Rickie Fowler / Ryan Moore / Steve Stricker; 19) Patrick Cantlay / Patrick Reed.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Phil Mickelson; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Branden Grace; 4) Patrick Reed; 5) Paul Casey; 6) Brian Harman / Marc Leishman; 8) Jimmy Walker; 9) Kevin Chappell; 10) Justin Rose; 11) Kelly Kraft / Alexander Levy; 13) Dustin Johnson / Cameron Smith; 15) Si Woo Kim; 16) Bud Cauley / Charl Schwartzel; 18) Bryson DeChambeau; 19) Kyle Stanley; 20) Tony Finau / Rory McIlroy.

Winners & Prices: 2017: Kim 500/1; 2016: Day 12/1; 2015: Fowler 66/1; 2014: Kaymer 90/1; 2013: Woods 9/1; 2012: Kuchar 55/1; 2011: Choi45/1; 2010: Clark 100/1. Average: 109/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 167/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high of 91. Wind WSW 8-16 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 91. Wind WSW 8-16 mph. Saturday: Overcast with showers in the morning with a high of 84. Wind SW 15-25 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 79. Wind NE 12-22 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind SE at 10-18 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 88. Wind S at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny with high in the low 80s. Afternoon wind gusted up to 20 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind ENE at 10-18 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Sunny, with a high of 83. Wind N at 10-15 mph with gusts to 20 mph. Friday: Partly sunny, with an afternoon high of 80. Light showers fell in the afternoon. Variable wind at 7-14 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind variable at 7-14 mph. Sunday: Highs in the mid-to-upper 80s, with sunny skies. SW wind at 10-15 mph .

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, is here. Conditions-wise, we should see a test which replicates Quail Hollow last week in terms of firmness of green and fairways. Rain in this part of north-east Florida has been non-existent for over 2 weeks, and it’s worth remembering that these TifEagle Bermudagrass greens were new for this tournament 12 months, where they repelled approach shots admirably. So fast turf conditions are expected, but the standard TPC Sawgrass level of wind doesn’t look to be a factor in 2018 with nothing more severe than a 10-12 mph breeze across 4 days where temperatures will reach up to 29 degrees Celsius.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners of this event since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2017, Si Woo Kim (-10). 295 yards (11th), 69.6% fairways (15th), 62.5% greens in regulation (37th), 43’2″ proximity to hole (47th), 81.5 % scrambling (1st), 1.76 putts per GIR (26th).
  • 2016, Jason Day (-15). 311 yards (1st), 58.9% fairways (51st), 72.2% greens in regulation (15th), 38’1″ proximity to hole (47th), 85.0 % scrambling (1st), 1.67 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2015, Rickie Fowler (-12). 296 yards (11th), 62.5% fairways (43rd), 62.5% greens in regulation (51st), proximity to hole 30’6″ (4th), 70.4 % scrambling (10th), 1.62 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2014, Martin Kaymer (-13). 290 yards (19th), 64.3% fairways (39th), 75.0% greens in regulation (3rd), proximity to hole 36’4″ (44th), 77.8 % scrambling (4th), 1.70 putts per GIR (23rd).
  • 2013, Tiger Woods (-13). 288 yards (22nd), 67.9% fairways (19th), 76.4% greens in regulation (3rd), proximity to hole 34’5″ (24th), 70.6% scrambling (6th), 1.71 putts per GIR (26th).
  • 2012, Matt Kuchar (-13). 281 yards (47th), 62.5% fairways (37th), 73.6% greens in regulation (3rd), proximity to hole 33’9″ (7th), 52.6% scrambling (23rd), 1.64 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2011, K.J. Choi (-13). 281 yards (44th), 71.4% fairways (10th), 69.4% greens in regulation (21st), proximity to hole 35’2″ (35th), 68.2% scrambling (7th), 1.64 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2010, Tim Clark (-16). 278 yards (59th), 75.0% fairways (5th), 76.4% greens in regulation (4th), proximity to hole 35’10” (30th), 76.5% scrambling (2nd), 1.66 putts per GIR (8th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 27th, Driving Accuracy: 27th, Greens in Regulation: 17th, Proximity to Hole: 30th, Scrambling: 7th, Putting Average 14th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how TPC Sawgrass sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Si Woo Kim: “Conditions? I think that this year it’s better than last year. I played last year and Saturday was really crazy bumpy and then this year we had a chance to stop balls on the green. It plays easier this year. I think I’m a little bit more nervous at the Stadium Course. I know that Q-school, that course and this course was composed by the same architect, and we have more – I think here they have more hazards, and the course is a little bit more difficult than the Q-school course, so I think I was a little nervous for this tournament.

Jason Day: “It’s a difficult golf course in regards that, for me, not so much trying to hit the driver off the tee, but there’s a few 3-woods out there for me that I have to hit, and if there’s one club in the bag that’s uncomfortable for me at times, it’s the 3-wood. That’s why I might be hitting a few more 2-irons off the tee this week, just to try and get it in play, so that I can hit the fairways and try and get it on the green and give myself an opportunity at birdie.

Thursday: “The conditions are very hot, so the ball is going forever. Guys can dial it back a little bit and not hit certain clubs or drivers or 3-woods. They can hit irons off the tees, give yourself a lot more opportunities coming in from the fairway. And you can attack these pin locations, especially this morning. You can attack them coming in from the fairway or even the rough or the fairway bunker. But the greens are pure. They’re so nice and they’re rolling so perfect. It’s kind of sad that they’re going to rip the bloody greens up. I’m expecting it’s going to be even better next year.

Saturday: “But it was just, the green speeds kind of took me by surprise. It was just such a drastic change from Thursday to Friday to now, this afternoon. I mean, the front nine was a bit borderline in my honest opinion, but I think a lot of the players probably think that, as well. I think it was, what, I think they said it was 71, the scoring average yesterday, and 76 today or something like that, which is just unbelievable. we were out there for nearly six hours today trying to play 18 holes. That was just, it was – talk about slow play, they made the course pretty much nearly unplayable. If they do make it like that, then I’m just going to have to grind my hardest to win the tournament, and I’m okay with that.

Sergio Garcia: “I think winning here is always challenging. It’s the kind of golf course that’s asking you for a lot of different shots. So it’s the kind of golf course that you want to play. It’s really pushing you to the limits. Greens are fairly small, so you have to be accurate, not only off the tee but into the greens. You’re not going to have a lot of 50 footers on these greens. It’s very rare that you have a long putt like that because it kind of reminds me a little bit of Valderrama. Obviously Valderrama maybe has a little bit more movement, but it’s small greens; if you hit a good shot you’re always going to have a birdie putt. It always feels like you’re in range to make a birdie. And if you miss the greens, then chipping is very challenging, so it’s a great golf course overall.

Jordan Spieth: “Yeah, I think this course is interesting because the way the holes shape, you normally need one shape off the tee and then the next shot calls for the other shape. And sometimes off of the slope that wants you to hit it the opposite way. So it certainly there is some imagination involved. I love this grass, too. I love this Bermuda, grainy Bermuda. It’s what I grew up on. I think it’s also an advantage for me. I think that the course plays well for me if I’m on my game, but if I go out there and I’m struggling with a certain ball flight, then it’s going to eat you up out here. You really do have to have control of both of them.

Martin Kaymer: “Well it’s a golf course where you can shoot very low scores. If you hit the fairways, you can go very low. If you make a few putts here and there, it’s possible. Last year when I shot 9-under par the first round, I didn’t do anything special. Yes, I mean you made a few putts here and there more, but I was playing well, I hit fairways, and I used my chances. So, I didn’t do any extraordinary. If you miss the fairways, it’s tough. You can easily shoot 2- or 3-over par without doing much wrong. I think that’s the beauty about that golf course. Anything can happen until Sunday afternoon, and therefore it’s a good score to have, you know, if the winning score is somewhere around 10-under par, I think it’s always a good score to have to win a tournament.

Jim Furyk: “This Pete Dye course is visually intimidating, but the more you get to play it, you’re able to realize that there’s more room out there on certain shots. I think that’s a typical trait of Dye golf courses. The Crooked Sticks, Kiawah, here, New Orleans, you stare out from the tee box, you look at the fairway, you look at the first fairway and it looks like it’s about 10 yards wide. You get out there and you look around and you go, you know, there’s actually plenty of room out here. And then you look at the green and it now looks like it’s eight yards wide and you go, wow, you hit a shot up there and you look around and you go, well, actually there was plenty of room up here. Visually, though, it’s deceiving. I’m not going to drive it into the little necks and areas I shouldn’t. So there’s ample room to hit the ball. I’ve grown to get used to it and I’ve grown to like it over the years. I’ll be honest with you, I did not like this golf course.

Phil Mickelson: “I actually think that this tournament has a bigger challenge around the greens if you miss it and makes getting up and down a lot more difficult. So I feel like it puts a premium on ball striking and hitting the green. I feel like some of the mounding is so severe, and with the rough, that a lot of shots around the greens become almost impossible. If you can hit the greens and not stress out, put stress on your short game, I feel like that’s kind of the best way to do well here. Whereas, at Augusta you can get up and down from all different places, if you happen to miss greens, and it’s not as important as being on the correct side as chipping uphill. That’s not the case here. You really just want to be on the surface.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 Players Championship winners:

  • 2017 – Si Woo Kim: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 16th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2016 – Jason Day: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – Rickie Fowler: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 11th.
  • 2014 – Martin Kaymer: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2012 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2011 – K.J. Choi: Round 1: 25th, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2010 – Tim Clark: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 23rd; Round 3: 6th.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Si Woo Kim: MC New Orleans/20th TPC San Antonio/MC Augusta/WD Houston.
  • Jason Day: 5th New Orleans/23rd Harbour/10th Augusta/1st World MP.
  • Rickie Fowler: 9th World MP/MC New Orleans/12th Augusta/71st Houston.
  • Martin Kaymer: 18th Quail/23rd Heritage/31st Augusta/MC Houston.
  • Tiger Woods: 4th Augusta/1st Bay Hill/1st Doral/37th PGA National.
  • Matt Kuchar: 13th TPC San Antonio/44th Heritage/3rd Masters/10th Copperhead.
  • K.J. Choi: 3rd New Orleans/8th Augusta/6th Bay Hill/MC Copperhead.
  • Tim Clark: 63rd Heritage/MC Masters/30th Bay Hill/22nd Doral.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010.

  • 2017 – Hughes / McGirt – AM/PM Split -5/67 – 250/1 & 100/1
  • 2016 – Day – AM -9/63.
  • 2015 – Hearn / Hoffman / Matsuyama / Na – 1AM/3PM -5/67
  • 2014 – Kaymer – PM -9/63.
  • 2013 – Castro – AM -9/63.
  • 2012 – Laird / Poulter – AM/PM Split -7/65.
  • 2011 – Watney – AM -8/64.
  • 2010 – Allenby / Holmes – AM/PM Split -6/66.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 6 – Tiger Woods.
  • 5 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas.
  • 3 – Brian Gay, Billy Horschel, Geoff Ogilvy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson.
  • 2 – Daniel Berger, Jason Dufner, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Russell Henley, Si Woo Kim, Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Palmer, Scott Piercy, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Jimmy Walker.
  • 1 – Ryan Armour, Jonas Blixt, Wesley Bryan, Keegan Bradley, Paul Casey, Austin Cook, Harris English, Branden Grace, Cody Gribble, Adam Hadwin, James Hahn, J.B. Holmes, Mackenzie Hughes, Martin Kaymer, Kevin Kisner, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Martin Laird, Marc Leishman, Grayson Murray, Sean O’Hair, Jon Rahm, Rory Sabbatini, Xander Schauffele, Charl Schwartzel, Cameron Smith, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Steve Stricker, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Jhonattan Vegas, Johnson Wagner, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland.

Trends in terms of recent winners are interesting to say the very least and that’s hardly surprising at a tournament where the average odds of the winner since 2010 sits at 109/1 and across the last 4 years at a staggering 167/1. Those average odds were boosted significantly when Si-Woo Kim won this 12 months ago at 500/1 with incoming form reading MC/22/MC/WD/30/49/WD/72. You have to say that golf is a truly magnificent game! The 22nd had come in his 2nd last appearance at TPC San Antonio where he had been 19th after 54 holes. He’d also shown a liking for TPC Sawgrass with a 23rd position on debut the season prior where he had been 11th after 54 holes. Kim had won his first PGA Tour victory the season before when winning the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield in August.

Rickie Fowler had finished 2nd here in 2012 prior to winning in 2015. His form during that season had been mediocre to say the least, but a 12th at Augusta and last-16 place at the World Match Play the week prior to TPC Sawgrass was the precursor to his come-from-behind victory here. Fowler’s last win had been at Quail Hollow in 2012 and despite his run of top Major Championship finishes in between, the American had been winless for 3 years worldwide.

However, strong course form doesn’t always translate to the winner here. Martin Kaymer had finished 19th (2011) and 15th (2012) in 5 appearances prior to capturing the title here in 2014. The German had been through a tough spell prior to his win as he had to wait 18 months since his last worldwide victory. Matt Kuchar had finished 13th (2010) and 14th (2009) prior to capturing his first tournament victory for 21 months here in 2012. K.J. Choi had a TPC Sawgrass best of 16th set 5 years previous when he captured his first worldwide title in 18 months with his 2011 victory; Tim Clark incredibly broke his Tour maiden here in 2010 with inbound form of 63-MC-30.

Naturally though a couple of World Number 1s break this ‘winless trend’ since 2010. Jason Day had won the Bay Hill Invitational and Dell Match Play titles prior to Augusta where he’d finished 10th. Day had also finished 6th at TPC Sawgrass 5 years earlier and his win here 12 months ago was at 12/1. Tiger Woods was playing brilliantly prior to arriving at TPC Sawgrass in 2013. His strong play overcame his relatively poor Stadium Course/Pete Dye design form to win one of his sweetest victories at 9/1.

No player has won The Masters and then gone on to triumph at TPC Sawgrass since the tournament moved to its early May spot on the PGA Tour schedule back in 2007. The challenge is there for Patrick Reed who’s been playing better on Pete Dye designs of late. Over the same period of time, only Jason Day (Bay Hill / Austin CC), Phil Mickelson (Pebble Beach) and Tiger Woods (Doral/Bay Hill) have won on the PGA Tour in the season prior to taking home The Players title.

Where immediate course form is not a must to win The Players, course experience is still an advantage, but one that seems to be waning just a little in recent times. Kevin Kisner, Jordan Spieth, Ben Martin and David Lingmerth (a Sawgrass member) have contended and placed across the last 4 renewals and Henrik Stenson finished 3rd on course debut back in 2006. Hal Sutton (1983) and Craig Perks (2002) won here on course debut, but that was in an age when The Players was scheduled a couple of weeks before Augusta.

My selections are as follows:

Henrik Stenson 2pts EW 33/1 with Betfred

The Players Championship and professional golf finds itself in fascinating times this week. Naturally this is a huge tournament to win, with 80 Official World Golf Ranking points up for grabs for the winner and the ramifications ranking-wise this week look significant. I’ve never known a single tournament where as many as 5 players could leave as World Number 1, but that is the case this week with Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose all in with a chance of either remaining or becoming the OWGR Number 1. Nosferatu @VC606 on Twitter is as ever the man to check out for all of the relevant details, but in general Dustin needs to finish in the top 11 to remain at Number 1. Justin Thomas is in the best position to take the spot away from Johnson, with Rahm, Spieth and Rose needing a win (for the Englishman) or a solo runner-up (for Rahm and Spieth) to take the coveted mantle. OWGR-aside, throw Rory McIlroy, a rejuvenated Jason Day and Rickie Fowler into the mix and the top of the betting market is, as you would expect, amazingly strong priced between 14/1 and 28/1. However at a tournament where clear World Number 1s Tiger Woods and Jason Day have won at short prices since 2009, I’m looking down the market this week for value.

The first I like the look of is Henrik Stenson who’s had a strong start to 2018 himself. 8th in Abu Dhabi, 6th in Dubai, 4th at Bay Hill, 6th in Houston and a career-best 5th at Augusta is an excellent start for the 2016 Open Champion who won this title in 2009. A Bermudagrass green positive player, who when on form has patience and course strategy in abundance, Stenson has a very strong record here at TPC Sawgrass. 3rd here on debut in 2006, 10th in 2008, 1st in 2009, 15th in 2012, 5th in 2013, 17th in 2015 and 16th in 2017 is course form consistency personified. By the way that 16th last year was arriving off the back of form reading MC-MC-MC-MC. I also like his results CV which touches upon lots of correlating golf courses. Naturally Si-Woo Kim was a massive 500/1 shock here 12 months ago, but a glance at his 2016 campaign shows 4th at Waialae, 9th at PGA West, 13th at GC of Houston, 14th at Harbour Town, 2nd at RTJ Golf Trail, 1st at Sedgefield, 15th at TPC Boston and 10th at East Lake. Henrik’s last win on U.S. soil was 8 months ago at the 2017 Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield and in 2013 he won at both TPC Boston and East Lake when clinching the FedEx Cup. 4th at the 2014 U.S. Open held at Pinehurst Number 2 also jumps off the page as the top 4 in that tournament include Martin Kaymer (2014 Players Champion), Rickie Fowler (2015 Players Champion) and Jason Day (2016 Players Champion). A dead-cert for the Ryder Cup European side in my view whatever the circumstances, I’m also a believer that the fact that Stenson sits outside of the automatic spots will be another motivating factor this week on a course he knows intimately. RESULT: T23

Bryson DeChambeau 1pt EW 55/1 with Betfred

Bryson DeChambeau has undoubted momentum arriving at TPC Sawgrass for his first Players Championship and you’d hazard a guess that he will believe that he can win it. Quirky, analytical, intelligent and cocky are easy descriptions for Bryson, but undoubtedly the Dallas, Texas resident is having a huge full 2nd season on the PGA Tour. 5th at TPC Scottsdale, a gutsy 2nd at Bay Hill to Rory McIlroy, 3rd at Harbour Town (after a 75 on Saturday ultimately killed his chances) and 4th last week at Quail Hollow highlight the kind of talent we’re dealing with in DeChambeau. Up over 50 spots in the OWGR since the turn of the year, Bryson now sits within the OWGR top 50 and must now have his eyes firmly planted on a second PGA Tour victory. You get the feeling that DeChambeau will progress from winning the likes of the John Deere Classic which he did last year and The Players Championship must be a huge opportunity for him this week. Yes, he’s never played the Stadium Course in competition, but his record at Harbour Town where he also finished 4th in 2015 suggests that Pete Dye’s ultimate design will be right up his street. Describing Harbour Town a couple of weeks ago he said, “This course just fits my eye. The shaping of the holes and just a couple of the doglegs, I’m able to shape shots. I love the tee shot on 8. Most people are kind of scared, that tee shot is not easy. Just for whatever reason this course fits me really nicely, and I was able to play really well and hit my wedges close and make a few putts. I love this place. And I’ll come back here for a long, long time.” The ability to play well at Hilton Head often transfers itself very well to the Stadium Course which cannot be overpowered and DeChambeau clearly can play tournament golf on stretching courses. RESULT: T37

Kevin Kisner 1pt EW 66/1 with Betfred

Kevin Kisner seems the sort who now raises himself for the very biggest tournaments and we know he’s a Pete Dye course specialist. That’s a potent combination for The Players Championship and Kisner seems the sort who could win this at a bulky price. 2nd at the Dell Matchplay in April, 2017 saw Kevin finish 3rd at the Tour Championship, lead the PGA Championship for 63 holes before finishing 7th, win the Invitational-status Dean & DeLuca Invitational at Colonial and finish 2nd at the Arnold Palmer invitational at Bay Hill. The World Number 24 from Aiken, South Carolina also thrives on Bermudagrass Pete Dye courses: 2nd at Austin Country Club (2018); 2nd (2015), 11th (2016) and 7th (2018) at Harbour Town; 2nd (2017) and 15th (2018) at TPC Louisiana, plus 2nd here at TPC Sawgrass on tournament debut, highlights a player who simply loves the challenge of Pete Dye designs. Kisner also played Presidents Cup at Liberty National for Team USA in 2017 and his kinship with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods would make him a popular inclusion in the 2018 Ryder Cup squad. Kisner though will want to qualify automatically and events such as this week’s Players are monumental opportunities not only to grab huge points, but to also gain his biggest ever tournament victory on the Bermudagrass where he flourishes. RESULT: MC

Zach Johnson 1pt EW 80/1 with Paddy Power

I love the look of Zach Johnson for the challenge this week. 15th with near-neighbour Jonathan Byrd at the Zurich Classic team-event, Johnson played some fantastic stuff at TPC San Antonio on his last singles appearance when he was the 36 and 54-hole leader. Winning at a windswept 7,400+ yard Oaks Course is always going to be a stretch for the 12-time PGA Tour winner, but the World Number 53 is on a definite upward curve as he sits 9-from-9 cuts made across 2018, which has featured 14th at Waialae, 20th at PGA West and 16th at Copperhead on Bermudagrass greens. Zach has always been comfortable on Bermuda carpet as 4 of his PGA Tour titles have been on the surface and his record at TPC Sawgrass is also testament to that: 8th on debut in 2005, Johnson came closest to victory here in 2012 when he finished 2nd to Matt Kuchar. He’s also finished 16th (2007), 12th (2011), 19th (2013) and 13th (2015) here which shows a definite suitability for the challenge and he’s always played nicely on Pete Dye designs. 2nd (2012) and 6th (2007) at Harbour Town, 3rd (2004) and 6th (2015) at TPC River Highlands and an unlikely 3rd at the 7,500+ yard Whistling Straits hosted PGA Championship (2010) show a quality player who can understand the nuances of Dye tracks. It’s also easy to forget that Zach can mix it at the top However at a tournament where clear World Number 1s Tiger Woods and Jason Day have been the only players to win at short prices since 2009, I’m looking down the market this week for Rickie Fowler have all won this title after distinct winless periods and if the 2016 Ryder Cup star wants to feature this term in Jim Furyk’s France-bound squad then he’ll need to use the momentum garnered at the Valero Texas Open and bag a large pile of qualifying points this week at a course which suits. RESULT: T75

Adam Hadwin 1pt EW 100/1 with

Adam Hadwin makes up the final member of my 2018 Players Championship squad. Not the best wind player in the world, Adam has reasonable form at TPC Sawgrass. A 7th on the Valley Course at the Tour Championship in 2014 makes a lot of sense to us and as far as the Stadium Course goes, Hadwin has a record of MC (2015), 39th (2016) and 30th (2017). But you just know with Hadwin that he’s becoming increasingly comfortable on the PGA Tour and at golf’s biggest tournaments, which makes him a great triple-digit option this week. Comfortable moving the ball both ways, it’s worth remembering that he captured his first PGA Tour title last year at Copperhead. That came after finishing 2nd at PGA West – a result he backed-up with 3rd place this year. Naturally the CareerBuilder features the Dye-designed TPC Stadium course so we know his game shapes up well to the rigours that Dye throws at players. 5th at WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone last August, 2018 has seen the Canadian finish 6th at Riviera, 9th in the WGC in Mexico, 12th when defending at Copperhead and he was unbeaten at the WGC Dell Match Play in April. 24th at Augusta was his best Major result to date and after some downtime Hadwin fired in a -6/65 at Quail Hollow last week to be 11th after 54 holes. Quail is ultimately too long for Hadwin, but the Stadium Course with little wind this week will be right up his street. RESULT: T57

Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:00BST 7.5.18 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

* Paddy Power offer: New customers only. Limited to one per person. If you’ve previously had a Paddy Power account, you will not qualify for the offer. Place your FIRST bet on any sportsbook market and if it loses Paddy Power will refund your stake in CASH. Max refund for this offer is £/€20. Only deposits made using cards or PayPal will qualify for this promotion. T&Cs apply, 18+|Gamble Aware – claim your offer here using promo code YSKA01 during registration.

** Betfred New Customer Offer – Significant Terms: Only available to new customers from UK & Northern Ireland. You must stake £10 or more at single/cumulative odds of Evens (2.0) or greater on your first bet. Free bet balance of £30 credited within 48 hours of your first bet being settled. Free Bets expire after 7 days. E-Wallet restrictions apply. Minimum 5 game rounds. Game restrictions apply. Maximum 30 Free Spins on selected games. Free Spins expire after 7 days. Full T&Cs apply.