The Players Championship: Former winner Stenson has perfect mix for Sawgrass success

Henrik Stenson - Dave's top each-way selection at the Players Championship
Stenson ticks all the Sawgrass boxes

Dave Tindall brings us his each-way tips for this week's PGA Tour showdown in Florida

"Stenson's Florida form is sensational with a second and two fourths this year and, going back a bit further, four top fives in his last five starts in the Sunshine State."

Favourites - best bet: Henrik Stenson @ 21.020/1(Each-way terms: ¼ odds, 6 places)

Each-way terms: ¼ odds, 6 places

Favourites - best bet: Henrik Stenson @ 21.020/1

It's fair to say that you need both current AND course form to do well at Sawgrass.

Here are two stats relating to previous Players Championship winners:

Seven of the last 10 had banked a top 25 in their previous strokeplay tournament and all 10 had made the cut.
Eight of the last 10 had finished in the top 15 in one of their two previous Sawgrass starts.

Using those filters whittles the field down to 12 players, that dozen including the first six in the betting - Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods.

That doesn't exactly help my job of picking out one of the market leaders but, at the prices, I'll side with Stenson because an each-way return (and there are six payout places) on the Swede will guarantee we break even.

Stenson's Florida form is sensational with a second and two fourths this year and, going back a bit further, four top fives in his last five starts in the Sunshine State.

He won this tournament in 2009 when knocking it around the par 72 with his 3-wood while a third in 2006, a fifth in 2013, a 10th in 2008 and a couple of other top 25s make him a course specialist and, in this tournament, there are very few.

The negatives are that you don't get many repeat winners here while he also had health problems prior to the Masters. That hurt his Augusta hopes (although he battled through to make the top 20) and after a forgivable early exit at the WGC-Match Play he said: "All in all I'm actually pretty happy where I'm at. And I've got something to build on and hopefully I can come game ready at Sawgrass next week."

Stenson, somewhat remarkably, is 1st in both Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green as well as Strokes Gained: Putting so he offers punters the full package, making the 20/1 not look too shabby at all.


Mid-range - best bet: Kevin Na @ 67.066/1

At the mid-range prices, the three who tick the statistical boxes (top 25 on last start; top 15 in one of last two Sawgrass starts) are Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Kevin Na.

Sergio still appears to be talking himself out of believing he can win big events again while Westwood's win record in America is poor even though both are each-way options at 33/1 and 40/1 respectively.

Na struggles to win but he's useful to have onside in the each-way market and on this course he could be a big runner.

On his last but one start at Sawgrass he led into the final round before slipping to seventh after a closing 76. That was the time in his career when he just couldn't pull the trigger and he spent most of the day being heckled by the crowd who found his excruciatingly slow play tiresome.

To be honest, it was some feat to get himself in that position in the first place and you can't say Na lacks mental strength.

The testing par 72 isn't everyone's cup of tea but the Korean-American said in 2012: "The course is an awesome golf course. If I'm driving the ball well, this is a place where I feel like I have a chance. I played well in '09 finishing third, and every year I come here I look forward to it."

That third place six years ago included a second round 66 while he's only shot over par four times in his last 16 rounds there which is good going.

As for recent strokeplay form, Na was T12 at Augusta (joint best finish), T20 at the Texas Open, T6 at Bay Hill, T10 at the Valspar and T9 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. The latter three were in Florida so he really does like the feel of these courses.

Tim Clark was a similar "struggles to win" type but he captured this title in 2010 so maybe Na can do the same.


Long-shot - best bet: David Hearn @ 151.0150/1

The three long-shots who have a top 25 on their last start and a top 15 at Sawgrass in at least one of their last two visits are David Hearn, Brendon de Jonge and George McNeill.

De Jonge admits he's not really a fan of Pete Dye courses (his best here is a T15 so he only just qualified for consideration) while McNeill's Sawgrass form is MC-MC-58-64-MC-13 so he doesn't inspire too much confidence either. He was T12 at the Zurich last time but hasn't had a top 10 since July.

Hearn is interesting, though, even though I was hoping for at least 200/1.

The Canadian has made three starts at Sawgrass, improving his finish each time. He was T68 on debut in 2012, T26 in 2013 and took sixth place (enough for the each-way money) last year.

In his last eight rounds at Sawgrass he's broken par seven times and matched it once.

As for current form, he was sixth in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last time out and two starts before that made the top 25 in the Houston Open.

In New Orleans, he said after an opening 65: "I felt like my game has been close for a while now."

He's no world-beater but has made the top 75 in the FedExCup standings in each of the last three years.

If Craig Perks can win this...

Dave's 2015 P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection)

Staked: £450
Returned: £161
P/L: -£289

(Includes last week’s Match Play)

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