The “Fifth Major” Starts This Week – Who Wins The Players Championship?

By Ian John
March 6, 2023

March is always a key month in the golfing calendar as it is the month when we see a number of prestigious events taking place and the build-up begins to next month’s Masters at Augusta National.

The Masters is traditionally the first of the four Majors to be contested in the golfing year, but after a recent change in the calendar, the tournament that is called “The Fifth Major” by players is now contested around a month before.

The Players Championship, held at the famous TPC Sawgrass course in Jacksonville, Florida, is one of the biggest paydays on the USPGA Tour, and the field that competes in the event is often as strong, if not stronger, than any Major field.

YouTube video
TPC Sawgrass Preview

This past weekend, Kurt Kitayama secured his first title on the USPGA Tour when he held off a challenge from Harris English and Rory McIlroy to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational which is held each year at Bay Hill in Orlando Florida.

However, with the non-participation of a number of stars from the LIV Golf Tour, this means that there is a slightly weaker field to be in place in Jacksonville as they seek to land one of the biggest tournaments of the year.

Bet365 Sport currently has the familiar names at the top of their Outright Winner for the event (with Each Way bets paid out on the top five places), Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are the co-favourites at 11/1, with Justin Thomas and Scottie Scheffler the 14/1 shots. Collin Morikawa is 18/1 and at 20/1 there is Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth.

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Let’s now begin with a preview of the 2023 Player’s Championship to discover what makes it one of the biggest non-Major weeks of the year.

The Players Championship 2023

Held each year at the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach in North East Florida, close to the city of Jacksonville, the 2023 tournament will take place from the 9th March through to the 12th March.

A total of 144 players will be in the field on Thursday for the opening two rounds of action before the field is cut for the weekend’s final two rounds.

A total of $25,000,000 is up for grabs in the tournament and the winner of the tournament receives 80 points for their World Ranking, the largest number of points you can win outside of one of the four Major tournaments.

Last year’s winner Cameron Smith is unable to defend his title having joined LIV Golf and he is one of a number of players including Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson who won’t be showcasing their talents in the event.

The record score to win the tournament is 264, 24-under-par, which was shot, ironically, by the current leader of the LIV Golf Tour, Greg Norman.

  • TPC Sawgrass – Stadium Course

Famously used in a number of popular golf games on consoles and computers, TPC Sawgrass has become one of the most instantly recognisable courses and its signature hole is the famous (or infamous for some) 17th, with its instantly recognisable island green.

Many a players dreams have been shattered on this very short par 3 hole as the only options are to get the ball on the green, in the fringe or bunker, otherwise your ball is 99% certain to be finishing up in the water.

Sawgrass has held the tournament every year bar the first three years of its existence, taking over in 1977 at the now supplanted Sawgrass Country Club and moving in 1982 to the newer TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.

The Stadium Course plays 7,245 yards from the professional tees and the course record is 63, which has been shot by a long list of players; Fred Couples, Greg Norman, Roberto Castro, Martin Kaymer, Jason Day, Colt Knost, Webb Simpson, Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.

Originally lambasted by players that played in the 1982 event, Ben Crenshaw called it “Star Wars golf, designed by Darth Vader”, changes were made for the 1983 event which saw players react much more positively to the Pete Dye and Alice Dye designed course.

Perhaps one of the greatest idiosyncrasies of the course is that its most famous hole, the Island Green 17th, was not supposed to be an Island green in the original design.

Pete Dye had designed the green to be partially surrounded by water, but the consistency of the land around the course and the lack of sand in the area (used for the swampier parts of the course), left a large crater around the green which Alice Dye suggested should just be filled with water to make it an island green.

Pete wasn’t happy with the idea but relented and in doing so, created one of the most famous holes in professional golf and certainly one of the most dramatic.

  • Past Winners

Jack Nicklaus leads the honours roll with three wins in the event, while five players have won the tournament twice, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Hal Sutton, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods.

Unfortunately, Tiger Woods announced last week that he will not be playing at the tournament this year and he is most likely to play again at The Masters in April.

Players likely to be in the field this week that have won the event include Justin Thomas (2021), Rory McIlroy (2019), Jason Day (2016), Rickie Fowler (2015), Matt Kuchar (2012) and Adam Scott (2004).

Only two British players, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Sandy Lyle of Scotland (in 1987 – the first non-American to win the event) have lifted the trophy in its history.

Despite dominating the event in its early years, American players have won just five Players Championship tournaments since 2008.

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Who Will Win The 2023 Players Championship?

Picking a winner to a golf tournament is hard, with 144 players competing in the event and only around half of those likely to make it through to the final two rounds, it is generally also pretty rare for a player to win back-to-back tournaments, so it is not like form is going to help you narrow things down.

However, Rahm and McIlroy deserve to be amongst the favourites with the Spaniard in particular in superb form over the course of the early part of the season.

I do think that each way bets are the best way to go for this tournament and the players I would back each way for a top five finish with bet365 Sport are as follows:

  • Scottie Scheffler (14/1)
  • Xander Schauffele (20/1)
  • Justin Rose (66/1)
  • Tyrrell Hatton (70/1) and
  • Kurt Kitayama (150/1)

Good luck If you are having a bet on the outcome of the tournament!

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