5 picks I love at the Players Championship, according to a professional gambler

hideki matsuyama swings

Do you like Hideki Matusyama this week? Our expert does.

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Here’s a safe bet: at some point in the coming days, someone will describe the Players Championship as the “fifth major.”

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.

Either way, though, this week’s tournament is a big event for gamblers, featuring the strongest field in golf on an iconic course, with 22 hours of coverage on NBC and Golf Channel, and oodles more on the PGA Tour’s live streaming platforms.

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Justin Thomas is the defending champ. Along with Jon Rahm, he’s also a favorite on the betting board, followed by Collin Morikawa, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay, and . . .

The roster of A-listers runs deep. Even in the absence of Bryson DeChambeau, who has withdrawn due to injury, 47 of the top 50 players in the world will be on hand, making it a tough contest to handicap. That the forecast calls for volatile weather only adds to the vagaries.

Good thing we’ve got help from Erick Lindgren, GOLF.com’s expert prognosticator. After a narrow miss last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where his wager on Hovland to win fell one stroke short, Lindgren is back at it under the same conditions: we’re giving him a $1,000 gambling budget (just play money), and he’s giving us his top 5 plays for the tournament, which kicks off Thursday at TPC Sawgrass, in Ponte Vedra. 

(Looking to play any of these bets yourself? We teamed with BetMGM and the online sports book is offering a Risk-Free Bet of up to $1,000.)

Hideki Matsuyama to win, +2,800 (wager: $300)

Lindgren has long been high on Hideki, especially since Matsuyama’s win at the Masters. “He just doesn’t seem to have off weeks anymore and his putter looks so much better,” Lindgren says. “He has the history and the ability to deal with the conditions to bring this one home.”

Corey Conners to win, +5,000 (wager: $100)

Despite a slow start last week, Conners still worked his way into the mix at Bay Hill, only to be derailed by a few untimely swings. The Canadian is going to break through before long. “Let’s take a shot on him here,” Lindgren says.

Zach Johnson, top 20, +700 (wager $200)

Wet, windy, and cold conditions should favor grit and gumption, and few players have more of both than Johnson, who — let’s not forget — captured his green jacket in foul weather.  “This is a good time to back the 2023 Ryder Cup captain,” Lindgren says.

Si Woo Kim, top 10, +600 (wager: $200)

In golf, the past is often prologue. A former winner here, Kim, Lindgren says, has a strong history on Dye courses, and he arrives at Sawgrass in fine form.

Alex Noren, top 5, +1,600 (wager: $200)

Lindgren is all in on grinders this week, and Noren fits that bill. “His game is rising at the right time,” Lindgren says. “Let’s take advantage of the long price here.”

Josh Sens

Golf.com Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.