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The Players: Hovland to thrive at TPC

Viktor Hovland

Viktor Hovland

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour heads to TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship. I’d imagine it will be hard for TPC to deliver the drama that Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational produced. It was a Sunday finish that saw at least 10 guys within two strokes of the lead and the eventual winner Kurt Kitayama etching his name in history as a first-time PGA Tour winner. Despite not picking the winner, API was good to me. Derivative bets went an outstanding 5-0, all higher than -105 odds. As a Floridian, I take pride in my knowledge of these Florida Swing courses. Like last week, this week, I will have boots on the ground at Sawgrass, looking for live betting angles and cheering on my pretournament selections.

The Player’s Championship is another PGA Tour Designated Event with a massive $25 million purse. The field is strong, with 144 of the best golfers in the world. Due to his decision to join the other tour, defending champion Cam Smith will not be back to defend his title. The Jacksonville resident said he might come out and mingle with the crowd. If that happens, I’m 100% buying the man a beer for all the money he has won me. Nonetheless, even without the Aussie’s absence, this week should be full of entertainment and drama.

TPC Sawgrass is a 7,275-yard par 72 Pete Dye-designed championship course. The fairways are narrow, and the greens are firm. Much like Bay Hill, missing the fairways here invites big scores on the scorecard. This is a ball striker’s paradise. Strength off the tee and on approach separates the contenders from pretenders.
Most importantly, TPC Sawgrass is freaking hard. Don’t be upset if you’re favorite golfer misses the cut this weekend. Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth have missed 9 of 13 cuts here, and API runner-up Harris English has missed six straight cuts. The guys I’m betting on this week to win either set up well at this course, have great prices or I trust with my money.

Key Metrics Correlated to Success:

  • Strokes Gained: Off the Tee
  • SG: Approach
  • SG: Ball Striking
  • SG: Putting
  • SG: Par 5
  • Par 4: 450-500
  • Bogey Avoidance

Viktor Hovland +2700 0.5 units

This week I’ll probably go about eight golfers deep with two or three units risked in the outright market. The first of those golfers I am excited to suggest as a betting option is Viktor Hovland. Hovland had himself a wonderful API but was unable to finish on Sunday. Thursday, he had a hole out from the fairway, and Friday, he had a hole-in-one. Despite massively struggling around the greens and on the putting surface, he was a threat to win. He gained +6.5 strokes off the tee and another +3.7 on approach. Throughout the last three events, he’s been gaining an insane amount of strokes ball striking. His short game is still a work in progress, but improvements have been made. Just as Justin Thomas did when he won here in 2021, he must continue to gain a ton of strokes ball striking and gain about one stroke putting. This task shouldn’t be too much to ask for, considering he gained +1.2 strokes on the putting surface at API. Until I see a dip in how well he’s hitting his irons, I will keep betting on him at +2500 or higher.

Keegan Bradley +5500 0.25 units

If you want to bet on an Air Jordan-wearing, firecracker golfer, Keegan Bradley is just the guy. If you can stomach sweating the occasional mid-tournament blow-up round, getting a guy playing this well at +5500 is just like stealing. In his last four events, he has a T2, T20, missed cut, and T10 finish. Finding great ball strikers at great prices is the name of the game at TPC Sawgrass. Only a few golfers priced under +1500 have won this event since 2013. Those golfers were Tiger Woods, who won in 2013 at +900, Jason Day at +1200 in 2016, and Rory McIlroy at +1400 in 2019.

Bradley has been a ball-striking machine. Outside of his lack of success at Genesis, he’s been gaining at least +2.5 strokes on approach in his last four events. I try not to put too much stock into tournament history at this course, given how volatile this course is, but Bradley has had quite a few excellent results here in the past five years. He’s cut all five years with a T7 in 2012, a T16 in 2019, and a fifth-place finish in 2022. After winning the ZOZO Championship, he’s proved he can still be a winner on Tour.

Tom Kim +4100 0.5 units

I’ve promised myself not to get overly excited about betting on Tom Kim this week. His game makes total sense for this course. Outside of Tom Hoge, he’s gained the most strokes on approach over the last 36 rounds. He’s deadly accurate off the tee, and despite the thought of him not being long off the tee, he’s long enough to be dangerous. I mean, the man is hitting drives 305; that’s plenty long to be effective at Sawgrass this week. If he keeps hitting fairways at a 70% rate, he will have the upper hand against most of the field.

Kim isn’t coming into this week in the best of form. The once scorching hot Kim has cooled down a bit. He lost strokes on approach in back-to-back events. He gained +2.7 strokes in approach last week but lost -0.9 strokes putting. Gaining strokes on approach is a promising sign. I can forgive him for missing putts at Bay Hill. Those baked greens were difficult, especially for a first-timer. Kim’s not the best putter on Tour, but he is one who can get hot with the flat stick. That’s all we need if he’s gaining a ton of strokes on approach.

Jason Day +3700 0.25 units

Guys like Rickie Fowler and Jason Day are back to playing great golf and making us golf bettors money. While neither is quite back to their 2015 form, betting either of them to win this week isn’t something I’m going to argue with. When I was building out my models, I was a bit surprised to see Day third on the list. I had every intention of finding a playable price in the derivative market, but when I dug more, I felt it was necessary to bet him to win outright.

Day is top 11 in SG: OTT, SG: BS, SG: P, P4: 450-500, and Bogey Avoidance. He’s driving the ball exceptionally, and his putter is rolling. Since his missed cut at the RSM, he’s gained over +3.5 strokes in five straight events. His four consecutive top 10 finishes shouldn’t go unnoticed. He’s back to playing well, he’s won this tournament, and he is finally healthy. He’s worth betting, on because he will win sooner than later.