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Opinion & Analysis

2017 The Players Championship: Odds, Picks, and Prop Bets

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The PGA Tour’s “fifth major,” The Players Championship, has arrived. By all accounts, the Players has the strongest field of the year. Forty-eight of the world’s top-50 players will be in attendance, including the top-5 ranked golfers in the world for the first time in 2017.

Defending Players champion Jason Day looks to hold off Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth to become the first player to repeat at TPC Sawgrass. Also in the field is Sergio Garcia, who will be making his first start since winning the Masters. He hopes to add to his streak of 14 made cuts at The Players.

  • Tournament Record: 264 by Greg Norman in 1994
  • 18-Hole Record: 63 shared by Fred Couples (1992), Greg Norman (1994), Roberto Castro (2013), Martin Kaymer (2014), Jason Day (2016), and Colt Knost (2016).

The Course

The Players Championship returns to TPC Sawgrass this week for the 36th time. The par-72 Stadium Course, playing at 7,189 yards, is a challenge to all parts of the game. The short game and driving will be both be put to the test, but the Stadium Course will challenge the mental game most of all.

There aren’t many places on the course where the players can lose focus without being severely punished. The architect, Pete Dye, is a master of misdirection and that’s perfectly displayed this week. Even the holes that seem to be straight forward have small twists that can get in a player’s head. There are several tee boxes that aim directly at trouble, water hazards that gradually jut into fairways, and tough club choices off the tee.

Featured Holes

No. 12, 358 yards, Par 4: The new No. 12 is a perfect risk-reward hole; the redesign has made it a drivable par-4 with the green and fairway sloped toward water. Laying up of the tee requires an accurate shot with several pot bunkers and a long fairway bunker protecting the landing area. It’ll take a lot of guts to go for it off with the driver, but it may be necessary coming down the stretch.

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No. 17, 137 yards, Par 3: Not much needs to be said about the Island Green. It’s among the most famous golf holes in the world, and it has been a source of endless entertainment. Thirty-six balls found the water here last year, which is great for making the fans feel good about their game. It’s also the sight of memorable heroics like Rickie Fowler’s birdie en route to his Players Championship victory in 2015.

Odds

Past Champs in the field:

  • Adam Scott +4000
  • Phil Mickelson +5000
  • Sergio Garcia +1800
  • Henrik Stenson +3300
  • KJ Choi +35000
  • Matt Kuchar +5000
  • Martin Kaymer +5500
  • Rickie Fowler +2000
  • Jason Day +2200

Favorites:

  • Dustin Johnson +700
  • Rory McIlroy +1000
  • Jordan Spieth +1400
  • Sergio Garcia +1800
  • Hideki Matsuyama +2000
  • Jon Rahm +2000
  • Rickie Fowler +2000
  • Justin Rose +2500
  • Justin Thomas +2800
  • Brooks Koepka +3300

Picks

My Pick: Dustin Johnson (+700) may not have won last week, but he shook off the rust on the weekend with two 67’s to finish T2, so I’m sticking with him. Outside of his freak injury, he’s been on an incredible run. Since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, Dustin Johnson has only been beaten by three players; he’s finished 3-1-1-1-T2 in his last five starts. It’d be a mistake to pick against anyone in that kind of form.

Value Pick: It’s not often you get Justin Rose at +2500, so I’m taking him as my value pick this week. He hasn’t won yet this year, but he has been playing great golf and is due for a W. His game is as well rounded as anyone’s, and he ranks 9thin Shots Gained: Total. His biggest question mark is always the putter. If he can manage to sink the short ones (Rose ranks 162nd in putting from inside 10 feet), he should be in contention on Sunday.

Long Shot: I’m going with Jason Dufner (+8000) as my dark horse this week. He doesn’t have a great record at the Stadium course but lately, he’s been around the top of the leaderboard too often to ignore. He has eight top-25s in his last nine starts and has been a birdie machine. He ranks 35th in Strokes Gained: Putting and 26th in birdie or better percentage.

Props

Balls in the water on #17 – I’m going with 41-50 balls in the water (+325) this week. The tournament average is 39.5 over the last 14 years. The 2016 total fell just short of that with 36, so I’m hoping it will even itself out this year.

Hole-in-One on #17 (Yes, +350, No -500) – I’d usually stay away from this since it’s specific to one hole, but it’s the Island Green at Sawgrass so I can’t help myself. I’m going with “Yes” this week despite the track record. There have only been seven aces here since it began hosting in 1982, but with this kind of field on a 137-yard hole, it seems hard to believe nobody will hole out.

You can follow me on Twitter and let me know who you’re picking this week.

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Twitter @NickRitaccoGolf

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  1. TCJ

    May 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    First!

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Opinion & Analysis

The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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Podcasts

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf: “Are pro golfers actually underpaid?”

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Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX editor Andrew Tursky argue whether PGA Tour players are actually underpaid or not. They also discuss Blades vs. Cavity backs, Jordan Spieth vs. Justin Thomas and John Daly’s ridiculous 142 mph clubhead speed.

Click here to listen on iTunes.

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Podcasts

Legend Rees Jones speaks on designing Danzante Bay in Mexico

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Hall-of-Fame golf course architect Rees Jones talks about his newest course design, Danzante Bay at Villa Del Palmar in Mexico. Also, Jeff Herold of TRS Luggage has an exclusive holiday discount offer for GolfWRX listeners!

Click here to listen on iTunes.

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