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PGA Tour: The Players Championship Preview

Golf’s unofficial fifth major always provides plenty of entertainment. Admittedly most of it centres around the engrossing 17th island green, but this years event features a stellar field, the McIlroy-Spieth duel that will define golf for the next 20 years, and also the opinion splitting Tiger Woods.

The Course

TPC Sawgrass.  That’s all.  One of the world’s most famous got courses, featuring arguably the world’s most famous hole.  Putting the course’s shortest hole aside (the incredibly challenging and unmissable 17th), Sawgrass is a 7,215 yard, par 72, Pete Dye creation.  The course features one of the most challenging finishes in golf, and also features the quirky trait of having no two consecutive holes play in the same direction.  The real hero though, is the 17th, a green surrounded by water and only a small path at the back.

The Sound Bites

“So 17 doesn’t see eye to eye with me. I think I’ve played it well over par. The first couple years when you’re playing here, you get juiced up, you get pumped up, so the ball goes a little farther. I’ve hit sand wedge over the green” – Bubba Watson describing the thrill of playing 17 at Sawgrass.

“It’s very nerve-wracking. That’s probably not a very exciting answer but it is nerve-wracking because one of the things you sense there is you sense how much the crowd really wants you to mess up. The crowd wants you, wants you, to hit it in the water” – Stewart Cink when answering the same question.

The Defending Champion

Martin Kaymer went coast to coast last year in a dominant display that was only ever under threat during a nervy final four hole stretch.  A brief rain delay when Kaymer was up by three unsettled the Germans rhythm and he made a horrible double on 15 to give Jim Furyk a sniff.  In the end, a clutch 30 footer for par on 17 and a safe par on 18 gave him a one stroke win – a first in 28 months.  Wonderkid Jordan Speith lurked for much of the tournament as did previous champion Sergio Garcia before finished 3rd and 4th behind Furyk.

The Contenders*

Rory McIlroy – A win last week at the Matchplay would have added to McIlroy’s already extreme confidence.  Scrambled brilliantly last week and has finished inside the top 8 in his last two trips to Sawgrass – $8.00

Jordan Spieth – Although he was eliminated at the Match Play he still reeled off the most number of birdies before the knockout rounds.  He was also without a bogey here in the first three rounds last year – $8.50

Henrik Stenson – Has a game well suited for the Sawgrass design  Hit’s it straight and ranks first in stores gained putting – $19.00

Justin Rose – In form after a win at the Zurich Classic and one of the most risk averse players on tour.  That bodes well for such a tricky layout – the player who makes the fewest mistakes is often the player hoisting the trophy at the end of the week (e.g. Bubba will never win this event).  Seriously consider – $21.00

Sergio Garcia – Has an incredible record at this course – one of the few players who consistently puts himself in contention at Stadium – $29.00

Lee Westwood – Could just be the best money in the field.  Three top 10’s in his last 4 starts at Sawgrass and coming off a solid week in San Fran where he defeated FedEx Cup leader Jordan Spieth – $36.00

*Players Championship odds available at Sportsbet.

The Winner

Hard to go past the best player in the world.  We’ll have McIlroy to go back to back.

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