The opening round of The Players Championship is always one of the most anticipated 18 holes of golf on the calendar and it takes place on Thursday when the field of star-studded players grace TPC Sawgrass in competitive action for the first time this year.
This is now a huge event so everyone teeing it up will be eager for a fast start to set themselves up nicely for a big finish come the end of the week. All the way round though the presence of hole 17 will have their attention. This should be a great day of golf.
First Round Leader
The first market we look at when previewing the opening round of this tournament is the first round leader one. As ever we need to check the format and the weather. The format is a morning and an afternoon wave off the first and tenth tees. The weather is fairly consistent in terms of little breeze throughout the day but early storms are forecast so it might be the later starters have the edge but at the same time they could be completing their round on Friday morning.
I’ll take a couple of players this week and as luck would have it they lead the first round scoring on the PGA Tour this season. Patrick Cantlay doesn’t have a great record around here but his elevated status in the game will surely have this pure ball striker shooting low rounds at TPC Sawgrass soon. Cantlay is in fine form this season and has already fired opening rounds of 66, 62, 66 and 67. While his record here isn’t fantastic he opened with a 66 in 2018 and if he can post that here as a much better player now he would have a huge chance. Billy Horschel is second on the first round scoring average on tour this season and he’s in excellent form. He loves Florida being a local man and he’ll be right up for a big week here off the back of decent spins in Phoenix, at The Honda and last week at Bay Hill. His last five opening rounds have been 65, 63, 67, 68 and 67. Horschel has no problem leaving the traps as the lids open and has opened with 68 here three times previously. He only needs to take one off that to have a real chance here.
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Thursday 3 Balls
As ever in a full field golf event the players teeing it up on Thursday will go out in three balls. Some will go off the first tee and others off the tenth and there is half the field out in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Conditions will be interesting. They have the sub-air system here but if the storms come and leave plenty of rain we’ll get a soft track which might suit the bombers a little more as it will soften the greens and widen the fairways. The marquee morning group features Viktor Hovland, Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm who go out at 12.51 GMT while the pick of the later groups is the one which contains Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas which tees off at 17.56 GMT. I’ll tread carefully without knowing the conditions and course setup but there is one three ball bet I like.
Lucas Glover/Shane Lowry/Matthew Wolff
Match tees off at 13.24 GMT
The bet I like comes towards the end of the opening wave off the tenth tee when the former US Open champion Lucas Glover goes out alongside The Honda Classic runner up Shane Lowry and the tournament debutant Matthew Wolff.
That Wolff takes on this test for the first time is a huge disadvantage, particularly as he is out with a couple of TPC Sawgrass regulars. The common consensus is that you need to have tasted this track a few times before you can claim to have mastered it. Glover has been here 13 times but only twice has he broken 70 in the opening round and if the course is soft to begin with then his lack of length isn’t going to help him too much. I think this three-ball is all about Lowry. I’m still wondering how on earth I didn’t collect on him at The Honda Classic when he was the winner all ends up until Sepp Straka powered past him from nowhere but in the three toughest rounds in terms of conditions Lowry carded nine under par on a tough course which will have set him up well for this test. Lowry began with a 68 here last year and 65 in 2016 and he’s in the sort of form that he should dominate this three ball.
Back P.Cantlay First Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back B.Horschel First Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back S.Lowry to beat L.Glover & M.Wolff for a 3/10 stake at 2.10 with Coral
Back him here: