Find Me a 100 Winner: Try this trio in search of a Sawgrass shocker

Golfer Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter's Sawgrass pedigree is well established
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Paul Krishnamurty came within a whisker of a 309-1 winner at last year's Players Championship. Check out his three best outside picks for this year's renewal...

"Australian Open champion Matt Jones is always worth considering around a tough course with fast greens, where scrambling is at a premium."

Back Matt Jones 0.5u @ [640.0]
Place order to lay 8u @ [25.0]

It is the strongest field and, due to the nature of the challenge at TPC Sawgrass, arguably the most competitive event of the year. The 'Fifth Major' is arguably better to watch. Personally, I prefer it to the Masters and USPGA but it will never beat the two Opens.

Dye masterpiece is very open to shock winners

In keeping with other Pete Dye courses, Sawgrass doesn't place a huge premium on any one particular stat, or favour a particular type of player. So, besides previous course form, what should we be focusing upon?

It strikes me that past champions and contenders can be (albeit simplistically) placed in one of two categories. First elite, world-class types - see defending champ Rory McIlroy or Tiger, Fowler, Day over the past decade - who start nowhere near our price range.

Accurate, experienced scrappers do well

Alternatively, steady, accurate, resilient, experienced types. Jim Furyk came close to landing a 309-1 miracle for this column last year. Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, KJ Choi, Tim Clark all won in this prestigious title over the past decade.

As always, Steve Rawlings has the comprehensive lowdown regarding the nature of the course, important statistical indicators and in-play trends in his tournament preview. He particularly notes the importance of scrambling and I'll add a few more, based on related logic.

Bogeys, even disasters, are inevitable around Sawgrass. You won't win playing par golf but bogey avoidance, or at least scrambling well to keep the score down, is critical. So too are 'bounce back' and 'par four birdies'. Naturally good scoring on the quartet of par-fives is essential but I would argue a few red numbers on the tough par-fours is as important.

Poulter's course pedigree a big plus

In such a strong field, naturally there are countless outsiders about whom a case could be made. However my shortlist was whittled to six relatively quickly. Here's the three selections, followed by a word or two about the discarded trio.

Back Ian Poulter 1u @ [250.0]
Place order to lay 10u @ [15.0]

Back Ian Poulter for a Top Ten Finish 1u @ [16.0]

Poulter could be this year's Furyk. Mega-experienced, with plenty of Sawgrass pedigree, too short to contend on most courses nowadays yet still competitive. He was runner-up for a second time in this event as recently as 2017 and finished 11th the following year.

With that lack of power in mind, this season's results read well enough - top-20s in Dubai and Saudi, 27th and 32nd in the last two Floridian events. Last year's numbers were consistent, including a couple of top-eights in WGC events and 12th at the Masters. Poulter's game, and temperament, is made for scrapping around a tough course.

Back Rafa Cabrera Bello 1u @ [310.0]
Place order to lay 10u @ [20.0]

Back Rafa Cabrera Bello for a Top Ten Finish 1u @ [17.0]

Next another European with encouraging numbers here. In four visits, RCB has finished fourth and 17th. Again, his game is built for tough courses and he was third at another Florida track, Bay Hill, last year.

His form isn't all that eyecatching but top-17s at Riviera and in the Mexico Championship read well enough. So does his record at Sedgefield - top-11 in two out of three visits - where Steve notes a useful correlation with Sawgrass. Rafa also ranked second in par-four birdies last term and has decent bogey avoidance numbers historically in Europe.

Back Matt Jones 0.5u @ [640.0]
Place order to lay 8u @ [25.0]

Back Matt Jones for a Top 20 Finish 1.5u @ [12.0]

Whilst hardly a regular contender at this level, Australian Open champion Matt Jones is always worth considering around a tough course with fast greens, where scrambling is at a premium. He's made the top-20 on two of six attempts at Sawgrass.

Jones ticks a lot of statistical boxes for this test. 24th for scrambling among these over the past year. Last term he ranked eighth for strokes gained: around the green and bounce back. Since landing a second Aussie Open title, he's finished fifth at Pebble Beach. Notably he led midway through round three of the 2015 USPGA at another Pete Dye course, Whistling Straits.

Consistent Todd is first reserve

Were it not for a poor effort last week at Bay Hill, Kevin Kisner [250.0] would have made the staking plan. He's been runner-up here before, on debut following a poor start in 2015, and sat seventh at halfway last year. Kisner also has cracking numbers on correlating courses - Sedgefield, Harbour Town, Austin.

First reserve is Brendon Todd at [350.0]. Whilst not in quite the same form that yielded back-to-back wins last autumn, he's on a long run of cuts made, thanks to accurate driving, good scrambling and bogey avoidance.

Finally Adam Hadwin [270.0] strikes me as liable to improve here at some point. He's won in Florida before, putts better on Bermuda greens and also scores respectably for bogey avoidance and par-four birdies.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

Profit/Loss

2020: -10.5 units
2019: +70.5 units

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