THE PLAYERS Championship – Gambling/DFS Preview 2023

TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) – Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Incredible finish last week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational and I had three guys that finished T4 or better, but couldn’t hit the winner. This week we have the strongest non-major of the PGA Tour year, THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

Course Breakdown

7189 yards, Par 72, Pete Dye course so its a placement course, you need to miss in the right spots, 3 of the 4 Par 5s are reachable in 2 by most so guys will get eagle looks, the 12th hole is also a risk/reward driveable Par 4 for eagle looks, 5 of the Par 4s are 450-500 yards, 17 water hazards (over 24 acres), 88 bunkers, overseeded Bermuda grass, narrow tree-lined fairways with trouble in play on pretty much every tee shot, a lot of mounds and undulation on the fairways, lots of different doglegs (a Pete Dye staple), average fairway % (~63%), bit below average GIR % (~63% vs. tour average ~65%), less than driver course like most other Pete Dye courses (average driving distance: ~278 yards vs. tour average ~283 yards), the rough has been grown up this year about an extra inch to 3 inches (2 inches in previous years), faster than average green speeds, very small and difficult multi-tier greens with a lot of undulation surrounded by water hazards and bunkers, most 3 putts of any non-major course on tour (only yearly course that beats it is Augusta)

Tournament Notes

  • The “fifth major”
  • With this being an elevated event now, the purse is the highest for any tour event ever at $25 million. The winner gets $4.5 mliion, second gets $2.7 million, the entire top 5 gets at least a million each and the T41 all make six figures
  • In 2019 this tournament was moved from May to March and the course plays a bit slower than it did later in the season and changes the direction of the prevailing winds on the course
  • Course history here could be tough to gauge on because if a player has one or two bad holes that could screw them for the whole week (like Paul Casey in 2019)
  • There is a ton of variance in the skill sets that could win this course, everyone could win here and bad putters are neutralized here
  • 10 of the last 12 winners have had a T5 prior to their win in the same calendar year that they won
  • The last 15 winners here had a T23 here at some point prior to their win
  • All but one of the last 38 winners here played this event at least once previously
  • The last 24 winners here made the cut in their previous start before their win
  • 17 of the last 19 winners ranked in the T45 of the OWGR
  • 9 of the last 11 winners ranking in the T45 in SG:ARG for the year leading up to their win
  • 16 of the last 18 winners ranked T35 in approach for the year leading up to their win
  • 10 of the last 12 winners had a T5 or better in a prior event that season on the year they won
  • 10 of the last 11 winners finished T22 or better in their previous start before the win
  • 9 of the last 11 winners had a T4 or better in a prior event that season on the year they won
  • The last six winners have had a T25 in their last PGA Tour start prior to their win
  • Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Jason Day are the only three golfers in the field this week that fit all ten of those trends
  • Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton, Keegan Bradley, and Chris Kirk fit nine of those ten trends
  • In 2021, seven of the 15 golfers that came T10 here finished Top 20 for the year in bogie avoidance
  • Usually elite players (Top 10/Top 20 in the world) win this tournament but there definitely are outliers like when Si Woo Kim won
  • No defending champ has ever gone back to back here
  • SG Approach is over 2.5x more important than SG: OTT and SG: ATG (0.43 per round) to T10 finishes over the last 7 years
  • Every winner here since 2010 (besides Si WOOOO Kim and JT in 2021) had either a T25 the week before or a T10 in their previous event played (Si Woo was 22nd, JT was 15th)
  • 12 of the last 15 winners were T60 in Scrambling for the season that they won (scrambling is a flawed stat vs. SG: ARG, which was why I didn’t include this in the ten trends I referenced above)

Key Stats

Approach, Par 4s Gained (450-500 yards), Bogie Avoidance

Main proximity distance range on approach: 200+ yards (22.1%)

Corollary Courses

  • Pete Dye courses: TPC River Highlands (Travelers Championship), TPC Louisiana (Zurich Classic), Austin Country Club (Dell Match Play), PGA West Stadium Course (The American Express), Harbour Town Golf Links (RBC Heritage) 
  • PGA National (Honda Classic) – similar Florida conditions at this time of the year with overseeded Bermuda
  • Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship) – 5 last 10 champs at the Wyndham also won THE PLAYERS (Davis Love III, Henrik Stenson, Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia), same fast greens, Bermuda grass and lots of laying up off the tee on a pretty short course


144 golfers – the best non-major field of the year

Last Year’s Champion: Cam Smith (-13) – will not be defending since he’s on LIV

Runner Up Last Year: Anirban Lahiri (-12)

One and Done: Max Homa

One and Done Considerations: Rory, Max, Scheffler, Cantlay, Day


Rory McIlroy: 11000: +1064 – 1st in my model (when isn’t he?), fits every trend for a winner of this event, former winner here in 2019 with four T10 finishes here, 33,MC,1,MC,35,12,8,6,8 finishes here since 2013, T2 last week at API, T2,T29,T32,1,4,1,T4,4,T2,1,T8 finishes in his last eleven events, 3rd in Approach, 7th in SG: OTT, 123rd in Fairways Gained, 27th in Proximity 200+ yards, 42nd in Par 3 Scoring, 7th in Par 4 Scoring, 4th in Par 4 Scoring: 450-500 yards, 1st in Par 5 Scoring, 2nd in SG: ARG, 73rd in Putting, 1st in Opportunities Gained, 2nd in Birdies+ Gained, 7th in Bogey Avoidance

Max Homa: 9900: +1900 – Second in my model, fits nine of the ten trends for the week led the field in approach and SG: OTT last week at API but lost the most strokes putting he’s had in an event since the CJ Cup in 2021, 14,2,39,1,3,23,20,1,5 finishes in his last nine events, 13 and MC finishes here the last two years, 10th in Approach, 43rd in SG: OTT, 40th in Fairways Gained, 13th in Proximity 200+ yards, 2nd in Par 3 Scoring, 3rd in Par 4 Scoring, 10th in Par 4 Scoring: 450-500 yards, 70th in Par 5 Scoring, 27th in SG: ARG, 10th in Putting, 22nd in Opportunities Gained, 3rd in Birdies+ Gained, 12th in Bogey Avoidance

Patrick Cantlay: 9700: +1800 – Fits nine of the ten trends for a winner here, MC,MC,MC,23,22 finishes here the last five years, 4,3,MC,26,16,2,7,1,57,2,8,4,13,14,3 finishes in his last 15 events, 22nd in Approach, 5th in SG: OTT, 40th in Fairways Gained, 4th in Proximity 200+ yards, 131st in Par 3 Scoring, 6th in Par 4 Scoring, 7th in Par 4 Scoring: 450-500 yards, 1st in Par 5 Scoring, 29th in SG: ARG, 49th in Putting, 2nd in Opportunities Gained, 11th in Birdies+ Gained, 10th in Bogey Avoidance

Jason Day: 8000: +2800 – Fits every trend for a winner of this event, former winner here in 2016 with four T10 finishes here with MC,35,8,5,60,1,MC,19,MC,6 finishes here dating back to 2011, 10,9,5,7,18,MC,16,21,11,8 finishes in his last ten events, 20th in Approach, 11th in SG: OTT, 24th in Fairways Gained, 95th in Proximity 200+ yards, 9th in Par 3 Scoring, 1st in Par 4 Scoring, 2nd in Par 4 Scoring: 450-500 yards, 23rd in Par 5 Scoring, 41st in SG: ARG, 9th in Putting, 116th in Opportunities Gained, 6th in Birdies+ Gained, 1st in Bogey Avoidance


Approach (25%)

SG: OTT (5%)

Fairways Gained (5%)

Proximity 200+ yards (5%)

Par 3 Scoring (5%)

Par 4 Scoring (5%)

Par 4 Scoring: 450-500 yards (5%)

Par 5 Scoring (5%)

SG: ARG (10%)

Putting (5%)

Opportunities Gained (10%)

Birdies+ Gained (5%)

Bogey Avoidance (10%)

Stats based on past 36 rounds

DraftKings/Betting Notes

  • Stack golfers starting on the 1st hole in Showdown slates on DraftKings for easier birdie streaks
  • Soft “major” pricing on Draftkings so don’t worry about leaving money on the table
  • 10 of the last 11 first round leaders here started in the AM wave
  • I have a smaller card this week because of the volatility of this event and because I’m taking four guys at the top of the board



.94u Rory McIlroy (+1064)

.56u Patrick Cantlay (+1800)

.54u Max Homa (+1900)

.36u Jason Day (+2800)

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