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2022 Players Championship – Field Breakdown, Outright Favorites, + Long Shot Picks

Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, and Rory McIlroy headline a loaded field at the 2022 Players Championship this weekend.

The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2022 Players Championship kicks off on Thursday morning at TPC Sawgrass down in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Most of the PGA Tour’s elite players will get together for the first time in 2022, putting together a majoresque field with names like Jon Rahm (+1000), Justin Thomas (+1000), Collin Morikawa (+1400), Rory McIlroy (+1600), and plenty more. Plus, with a hefty $20 million purse on the line (largest this season), the field strength for this week may be greater than ever.

Scottie Scheffler (+2000) — coming off a victory last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational — will take part in the tournament as well, along with runner-up Viktor Hovland (+2200). Reigning FedExp Cup champion Patrick Canlay (+2000), 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama (+2500), and Olympic Gold Medalist Xander Schauffele (+2500) round out the top betting favorites coming into the 2022 Players Championship.

Let’s get into it!

Photo: pgatour.com

Field & Course Breakdown

TCP Sawgrass, an infamous track designed by golf-genius Pete Dye, ranges 7,189 yards, nearly 200 yards shorter than last week’s tournament at Bay Hill. Driving accuracy will be a key stat once again though, with plenty of water surrounding the course. There are 88 total bunkers, and various out-of-bounds areas. Per usual, the 2022 Players Championship serves as a par-72.

Another key stat for this week will be Strokes Gained: Approach, which tends to be most significant at Dye’s courses in particular. Over the past six years at The Players, approach shots have proven to be nearly THREE TIMES as important for top-10 finishers than Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Strokes Gained: Around The Green. With TPC Sawgrass having such small greens (another Dye trend), it only makes sense that the top finishers tend to find them consistently with their irons and wedges.

While the field size shrinks from 154 players in 2021 to 144 this time around, all but three of the world’s top-50 will be in attendance at TPC Sawgrass. Bryson DeChambeau and Harris English will not play this week due to injury, while Phil Mickelson remains M.I.A following his comments on the Super Golf League. Probably for the best, Phil.

Aside from the elites, other notables like Brooks Koepka (+3000), Adam Scott (+3000), Daniel Berger (+3000), Cameron Smith (+3000), Dustin Johnson (+3500), and Jordan Spieth (+4000) will be part of the field this week. Will Zalatoris (+4000), Shane Lowry (+4000), Sergio Garcia (+4000), and Matthew Fitzpatrick (+4500) round out the group of high-end players currently listed below 50/1 odds.

Past Winners:

2021: Justin Thomas (-14)

2019: Rory McIlroy (-16)

2018: Webb Simpson (-18)

2017: Si Woo Kim (-10)

2016: Jason Day (-15)

2015: Rickie Fowler (-12)

Outright Favorites

Jon Rahm (+1000)

‘Rahmbo’ comes into this week ranking first on Tour in both Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Off The Tee in the past 24 rounds. I’ve already emphasized how important approach shots are to contend at TPC Sawgrass, and while off the tee does not tend to be crucial, a gain in that department certainly would not hurt this week.

The main issue for Rahm so far in 2022 has been his chipping and putting, which is atypical for the world’s No. 1 player. Rahm has lost strokes putting and around the green in each of his past three starts. However, over the course of 112 career events, the 27-year-old Spaniard has gained an average of 0.9 strokes putting and 0.5 strokes around the green per event. Seems like Rahm is due to bounce back in both departments rather soon.

Also, in terms of ball striking, no one has even come close to Rahm in the past 24 rounds. Over that time frame, Rahm has gained 53.6 strokes, while the next best, Zalatoris, has gained 37.3. Clearly, Rahm is the top ball striker in the world right now, which should play a massive factor during yet another tough Florida tournament.

In his past two outings at The Players Championship, Rahm has finished 12th (2019) and ninth (2021) but found himself in contention on Sunday on both occasions.

Look, the odds for Rahm are never ideal, but +1000 is not something you see very often for the PGA Tour’s top player. Take ‘Rahmbo’ this week and hope the chipping and putting figures itself out. Even with those recent woes, Rahm has yet to finish outside of the top 21 in any of his six starts in 2022 so far.

Collin Morikawa (+1400)

Despite being only 25 years old, Morikawa is right there with Rahm in the world rankings at No. 2 and +1400 seems generous. I still don’t think everyone has grasped just how special of a young talent the 2021 Open Championship winner truly is.

Morikawa is known for being remarkable with his irons (probably best in the world), which goes hand-in-hand with what TPC Sawgrass requires. Also, Morikawa is one of the most accurate drivers off the tee — another key stat for this week. If the winds end up gusting around 30-40 mph on the weekend like the forecast projects, then Morikawa could have an even greater advantage with the driver.

While Morikawa has not been very active in the United States recently, his past five results dating back to October are unbelievable. Morikawa has placed inside the top seven in all five events, including four top-five finishes. How can you pass up +1400 knowing that?

Even though Morikawa finished T41 in his debut last year at The Players, he did post a final-round 66, indicating that he figured out the course after a couple of days. Morikawa’s elite ball striking is simply too good to pass up, especially if the course winds up playing as difficult as expected.

Patrick Cantlay (+2000)

PATTY. ICE. Cantlay capped off the 2020-21 season with back-to-back wins at the BMW and Tour Championship to take home the FedEx Cup. Since then, Cantlay hasn’t looked back.

While yet to win in 2022, Cantlay has three top-five finishes and four top-10 finishes in his last five PGA Tour events. Cantlay also leads the 2022 Players field in strokes gained total over his last 36 rounds and possesses one of the best short games in the world. The 29-year-old UCLA grad currently ranks 25th on Tour in both Strokes Gained: Around The Green and Strokes Gained: Putting.

Cantlay has proven himself in mega-elite fields like this in the past. While he has missed the cut in each of his last two trips to TPC Sawgrass, that was before he was ranked No. 4 in the world.

+2000 almost feels disrespectful to Cantlay. Take Patty Ice and cross your fingers that he puts like its the PGA Tour Playoffs!

Longshot Picks

Sungjae Im (+5000)

I was on Sungjae last week at API — which looked GREAT until Friday — and you can bet I am going to be on him again for The Players.

Sungjae won back in October at the Shriners Children’s Open and has since added three top-10 finishes at the CJ Cup (T9), Tournament of Champions (T8), and Farmers Insurance Open (T6). Im has also finished inside the top-20 at the Houston Open (T19), The American Express (T11), and the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T20).

The irons were terrible for Sungjae last week at Bay Hill, but he still finished 4th in putting among the field to salvage a top-20 placing. If Sungjae can repeat that performance on the greens, odds are, he’s going to respond with his irons — and finish near the top of the leaderboard.

Sungjae currently ranks 79th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, which could be a cause for concern. That said, he is also inside the top-20 in Strokes Gained: Around The Green, Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, Strokes Gained: Tee To Green, AND Strokes Gained: Total. Im is just too good of an all-around player to pass up at a whopping +5000!

Plus, Sungjae has the track record down in Florida with a win at the 2021 Honda Classic and top-four finishes at the API and Valspar Championship. So far in his career at TPC Sawgrass, Sungjae missed the cut in his debut in 2019 and finished T17 last year. However, Sungjae did post two rounds of six-under 66 in 2021 and shot three under in 2020 before the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19 after the first day. Sungjae’s Im-pressive (LOL) track record in Florida is even better than most folks realize.

Gary Woodland (+8000)

Woodland was oh so close to picking up his first win since 2019 during the Arnold Palmer Invitational. It was just not meant to be.

The 37-year-old Woodland has now finished fifth in each of his last two events after missing the cut at the WM Phoenix Open. Woodland has been playing some solid golf since the PGA Tour headed to Florida, and while his past results at TPC Sawgrass are not too encouraging (average finishing position of 53rd), I believe he will keep it going once again this week.

Woodland is known for his ball striking and putting, both of which could be tremendous assets if the conditions get tricky. Woodland enters the 2022 Players Championship ranked 30th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting so far this season, and 28thin Strokes Gained: Total.

Also, if the wind becomes an issue, than Gary can go to his patented Woodland stinger from off the tee!

Summer of Gary? How about Spring of Gary! Take a flyer on Woodland +8000 and hope he keeps rolling!

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