Assuming he can get up and down a flight of stairs without suffering a freak injury, Dustin Johnson will go off as the favorite this week. He’s back and playing great golf again.
Johnson was in dominant form before a back injury forced him to withdraw from the Masters in early April. Few players are in his class this year. Jon Rahm is one of those players.
“One guy you can bet every week and he’s going to give you a run for the money is Rahm,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said.
Johnson is the 7-1 favorite in The Players Championship at Sawgrass, one of the country’s iconic courses mostly because of its island green on the 17th hole. It’s a treacherous track with deep roughs, a ball striker’s course that does not give the longest hitters a significant advantage. This tournament is the unofficial fifth major, so all of the elite players tee it up.
Johnson is tailed on the odds board by Rory McIlroy (10-1), Jordan Spieth (12-1) and Masters champion Sergio Garcia (15-1). One of those four might win, but there’s little value in betting the favorites at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.
Jason Day was the wire-to-wire TPC winner last year, following Rickie Fowler’s win at Sawgrass in 2015. Day and Fowler are each posted at 20-1 odds.
Course history is a key handicapping element. Day and Fowler obviously have it, and so does Garcia, a two-time runner up at Sawgrass and the winner in 2008. Garcia, a longtime unlucky loser, reshaped his image by pulling a rabbit out of the hat to outduel Justin Rose down the stretch at Augusta National.
“This is one of Sergio’s better courses,” Sherman said, “and his confidence is at an all-time high.”
Justin Thomas, who swept two events in Hawaii to open the year, owns the field’s lowest scoring average (with a minimum eight rounds played) of 70.1 at TPC. Thomas is an attractive betting option at 30-1 odds.
“He has played the course well,” said Brian Blessing, a Las Vegas radio host and handicapper. “Thomas was the kid winning all the tournaments early in the year, and he’s kind of out of sight, out of mind now.”
Rahm is never far from the top of the leaderboard. The 22-year-old from Spain blossomed into a college star at Arizona State and earned his first and only PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January.
Since his breakout performance on the beach north of San Diego, Rahm has recorded finishes of second, third, fourth, fifth and 10th. He narrowly lost a final-match showdown with Johnson at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. Rahm never has played Sawgrass, where Johnson does not have a strong track record.
In last week’s Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina, Johnson tied for second, one stroke ahead of Rahm.
“Rahm is a machine,” Blessing said.
Golf bettors who stick with Rahm might eventually find him to be a cash machine. In next month’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, the course will favor big hitters, so Johnson and Rahm will be popular picks.
Best bets: Day (20-1), Rahm (20-1), Fowler (20-1), Thomas (30-1).