Find Me a 100 Winner: Three cracks at finding another Sawgrass winner

Scottish golfer Russell Knox
Russell Knox's game is tailor-made for Sawgrass
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Twelve months ago, the 'Fifth Major' produced a 999-1 winner in Si Woo Kim. Paul Krishnamurty looks for this year's best outsider bets...

"Considering Na was runner-up at Riviera as recently as February, [340.0] seems like a big over-reaction about a player who has finished top-seven on three his last seven visits."

Back Kevin Na 2u @ [340.0]
Place order to lay 10u @ [40.0]
Place order to lay 15u @ [10.0]

Of all the big PGA Tour events, the Players Championship is probably the likeliest one to produce an upset, and that isn't just because we saw a [1000.0] winner last year. Si Woo Kim was merely following in the footsteps of many a huge-priced outsider to either win or contend. This century Martin Kaymer, KJ Choi, Tim Clark, Stephen Ames, Fred Funk and Craig Perks have all won the 'Fifth Major' from a starting price within our odds range of 99-1 or better.

Unlike most championship courses nowadays, short-hitters are perfectly capable of contending at Sawgrass, as that list illustrates. Indeed the beauty of this course is more than just the drama. As Steve Rawlings explains in his comprehensive preview, this is a place where all sorts of types have contended and the stats are not easy to prioritise. In short, almost anyone can win.

The inevitable upshot is a much longer shortlist than I'd have for most events. In such an elite field, there are numerous likeable types ranging from [100.0] to [150], some of whom are discussed below. However because it will take a lot to get contenders laid back anywhere near single figures this week, I've plumped for the following trio, available to back from [250.0] upwards, with a view towards laying back for profit at relatively unambitious targets.

Laird is in his best form since last contending here

Back Martin Laird 2u @ [250.0]
Place order to lay 10u @ [25.0]
Place order to lay 15u @ [10.0]

First an in-form player who was runner-up and fifth here in the 2012 and 2013 renewals. As a former Arnold Palmer Invitational champion, Laird evidently has Florida potential when at his best. That has rarely been the case in recent seasons, which may explain his subsequent failure to achieve much in the Sunshine State.

This year's form is highly encouraging, though. His last six solo starts yielded top-11s in the Genesis, Phoenix and Texas Opens. Critically, he's driving accurately, averaging 69% of fairways in the last three months. Early in his career, Laird's attitude really impressed and he nailed three PGA Tour wins very quickly for somebody of his status. The last was five years ago but another is perfectly possible.

Accurate Knox ticks all the right boxes for Sawgrass

Back Russell Knox 2u @ [280.0]
Place order to lay 10u @ [30.0]
Place order to lay 15u @ [10.0]

This event may be famously wide-open but there are distinct angles to explore. Hitting fairways is essential, as is good scrambling around the small, fast Bermuda greens. Form on other Pete Dye courses offers a clue. Certain players seem bound to contend at some stage, including another Scot who actually partnered Laird last time out at the Zurich, where they finished seventh.

Top-20 on two of his four visits to Sawgrass, Russell Knox is a former champion at Dye's River Highlands and has a fine record at another of his, Harbour Town. He's extremely solid from tee to green and has twice finished top-three in another tough Florida event - the Honda Classic. Whether this year or not, I'm convinced he'll build a good record here over the long-term.

Always keep Na onside in Florida

Back Kevin Na 2u @ [340.0]
Place order to lay 10u @ [40.0]
Place order to lay 15u @ [10.0]

Next a Florida and Sawgrass specialist, dismissed by the market on the basis of very recent form. Sure, three straight missed cuts is a concern but, considering Na was runner-up at Riviera as recently as February, [340.0] seems like a big over-reaction about a player who has finished top-seven on three his last seven visits.

Very short and accurate off the tee with a brilliant touch around the greens, Na is only ever likely to be a factor on certain courses but he's a specialist at several. Five times top-11 at Harbour Town. Thrice top-three among four top-tens among elite company at Riviera. Five top-14s at Bay Hill. He's clearly one to keep onside in Florida, especially at these odds.

Now for those alternatives. At around [140.0], both Kyle Stanley and Daniel Berger came in for very strong consideration. The former was fourth last year and is ultra-reliable from tee to green right now. Berger very much strikes me as a future winner. Solid off the tee, a cracking scrambler with an excellent record at River Highlands. He was ninth here at the second attempt in 2016.

Dave Tindall makes a strong case for Luke List at 55/1, each-way without the top six, and he's a [110.0] chance on the exchange. Given the aforementioned history, don't be afraid to look much further down the list, especially for experienced players.

Two that catch the eye there are Steve Stricker and Rory Sabbatini, both at around [540.0]. This was never one of the former's favourite tracks but he's got the right profile and these odds are an insult. Rory was sixth in 2015 and didn't play badly when carrying our cash last week. Finally, purely on the stats, [750.0] about Austin Cook is attractive. The RSM winner is very accurate off the tee and a respectable 15th on the scrambling stats. Sawgrass on debut is tough but stranger things have happened. Ask Craig Perks.

Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

2018 Profit/Loss

-21 units

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