The Players Championship kicks off on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass, and while there’s no Tiger Woods in the field, there’s plenty of other firepower in what will be golf’s biggest event of the season thus far. Can Rory McIlroy repeat? Will we crown a first-time Players champ? Our staff makes its picks to win.
Picks to win the Players Championship
Sean Zak: Jon Rahm’s worst performance in the last FIVE months was a T17 at Riviera. The guy contended at Sawgrass last year. He’s the easiest bet to win. Yes, Rory included.
Josh Sens: Rory McIlroy. Forget about his hiccups on Sunday at Bay Hill. That was a brutal day for almost everyone. The World No. 1 is in fine form. I’ll take him to become the first repeat champion at Sawgrass since, well, ever.
Zephyr Melton: Sungjae Im. Yes, it might be ambitious to pick a guy who only recorded his first PGA Tour win two weeks ago, but Im is legit. The 21-year-old has missed just one cut on the season and leads the FedEx Cup standings after his third-place performance at Bay Hill last week. Plus it wouldn’t be the first time a 21-year-old Korean-born player won at TPC Sawgrass (Si Woo Kim, anyone?), and Im is much more polished than Kim was at this age.
Nick Piastowski: Patrick Reed. Give me a hot player, a hot putter and a hot personality. Like everyone else, Reed was chewed up by Bay Hill on Saturday, firing an eight-over 80, yet he still finished T15. He won two weeks ago at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, and he is also No. 2 on the PGA Tour this season in putts per round (27.70). And, of course, Captain America relishes the stage, and this is certainly one.
James Colgan: Rahm has been flat-out dominant for six months. He’s seemingly forgotten how to finish outside the top 10 in 2020 (four in five appearances). His strokes gained average is third on Tour, behind only Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton (with Hatton’s stats inflated from playing fewer rounds). And in theory, he’s learned a thing or two about dealing with pressure since his Sunday stumble at last year’s Players. He’s still only 25 years old and in the very early stages of his career. The time feels right for a coming-of-age win.
Dylan Dethier: Patrick Cantlay. He’s going to fairway-and-green this place to death. Can work it both ways, can hit it hard, stays pretty level and we haven’t seen him in a month, so people will be sleeping on him even more than usual. The main lesson about picking players at TPC Sawgrass is that there’s no real rhyme or reason to who will perform well here, but Cantlay definitely feels like he’ll be in the mix come Sunday.
Luke Kerr-Dineen: Webb Simpson isn’t the sexiest pick in the world, but it’s certainly the most sensible. He’s in the midst of the best stretch of his career, and he has a good history here. It’s no secret why: His accurate and consistent ball-striking are tailor-made for a course like Sawgrass. With the way he’s rolling the putter, there’s no better value pick at 30/1.
Josh Berhow: Luke is right. In Webb’s last three starts at Sawgrass he’s won and finished T16 twice. He’s accurate enough off the tee where he’ll find fairways and then cash in with his ball-striking and putting. He’s also on a major heater right now so let’s keep it rolling with him.
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