Odds suggest fifth Major looks UK bound!
The PLAYERS Championship
Suspends Thursday 12:30 - live on Sky Sports 2 from 18:00
The prize money and the list of high profile golfer's make the Players Championship known as the unofficial fifth Major. The 7,215 yards, par 72 at TPC Sawgrass may not hold the prestige of St. Andrews or Augusta National but it certainly puts the best players in the world through their paces. Defending champion K.J. Choi became the event's fourth successive non-US winner, and helped demonstrate the shift in power in the game of golf by beating David Toms in last year's play-off.
After regaining his world number one tag, despite his play-off defeat to 23-year-old Rickie Fowler in last week's Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina, Rory McIlroy heads the betting at 10/1. We have seen shorter prices on the Northern-Irishman at the start of an event in recent times, however, Sawgrass is not the happiest of hunting grounds for the US Open winner. The 23-year-old missed the cut on two previous visits and has yet to break par on a course that is set up to reward caution rather than McIlroy's typically aggressive style of play. His tied 40th finish at The Masters is a recent reminder that Rory is still liable to crack under the pressure of favouritism, however, a player who has had only two finishes outside the top five in 15 starts since last August can never be written off.
For years Tiger Woods has put fear not only into his opponents but also into betting companies. His odds have consistently been shorter than what would be expected and has consistently led the pre-event betting market. At joint third favourite, alongside the now Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, odds of 22/1 appear huge on the 14-time Major winner. Like McIlroy, Sawgrass is not the world number seven's favourite track, but Tiger did win here back in 2001 and demonstrated with his victories at in Chevron World Challenge in December and the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, that there is still fight in the old dog yet. His go-to club in recent times has been the 2-iron "stinger", which although sacrifices length, will suit perfectly to the course in Florida. Having pulled out injured for the past two year's crowds will be hoping that Tiger makes the 72-holes this weekend, and if he does make the cut the former world number one could well be in contention.
UK golf continues to go from strength to strength and with McIlroy, Donald and Westwood leading the betting for the Players Championship there is much to be proud of. Of the three, Luke Donald has the game that most suits the demands of Sawgrass. Fourth here last year, his consistency from tee-to-green is bound to provide him with a hatful of birdie chances and therefore the 14/1 on him looks to represent slightly better value than the 14's about Lee Westwood to take the $1million prize fund.
The par 3 17th has to get a mention in the preview for this weekend. It maybe a mere 137-yard par three, however made up mostly by water it is an intimidating shot that causes drama late on and should be packed-full of spectators come Saturday and Sunday.
Webb Simpson at 17/5 about a top-ten finish is where my money will be going pre-event. The American narrowly missed out to Luke Donald on the money-list last year. He has made the cut in all eleven starts this term with four top-ten finishes already. The world number nine is bound to be there or thereabouts this weekend.