Golf Tips: Best bets for Players Championship and Kenya Open

  • Max Liu
  • 3:00 min read
The 18th hole at Sawgrass golf course
The PGA Tour heads to Sawgrass for the Players Championship this week

It's a big week with PGA Tour's 'Fifth Major' taking place so get our experts' best bets for the Players Championship and Kenya Open...

  • Steve Rawlings backs Thomas for Sawgrass success

  • Dave Tindall thinks Fitzpatrick has major chance

  • Matt Cooper says Frenchman will continue Kenya form

  • Long odds players to back and first round leader tips

  • Course info, player stats and ones to watch

  • The Players Championship: Thomas a fair price for another Sawgrass success

    Steve Rawlings says: "Sawgrass allows for all player types to prosper so the Players is a magnificent but very open tournament.

    "Jason Day ranked number one for Driving Distance when he won here in 2016 but the 2018 winner, Webb Simpson, ranked 71st. Simpson prospered because he found more fairways than anyone else. Day only ranked 54th for Driving Accuracy. And the 2019 result demonstrated perfectly how different players can fare equally well.

    "Rory McIlroy won the event ranking 5th for DD and 49th for DA, with the veteran, Jim Furyk, ranking only 72nd for DD but third for DA, finishing...

    "Justin Thomas was a bit disappointing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, finishing tied for 21st after being bang in-contention halfway through the third round, but the exchange market may have overacted fractionally.

    "The 2021 winner and reigning US PGA Champ is no bigger than 20/1 on the High Street and that's more reflective of his chances than the 27.0 available on the exchange."

    Steve's bet: Back Justin Thomas @ 27.026/1

    The Players Championship Each-Way Tips: Fitzpatrick has major chance

    Dave Tindall says: "As a world-class player in his 20s with the required mix of course experience and current form, Jon Rahm fits the trends this week. But at nearly four times the price, my main bet is another player who ticks all the right boxes - Matt Fitzpatrick.

    "Six of the last 10 winners of this event were already Major champions and Cam Smith has since gone on to win one.

    Matt Fitzpatrick in Italy.jpg

    "Fitzpatrick, of course, now belongs in that bracket after his superb US Open victory last summer. On first glance, his Sawgrass form is somewhat underwhelming. He's missed the cut in three of his six appearances and has just a single finish inside the top 40.

    "Now the better news. Two of the missed cuts were on his first two appearances while before last year's early exit he'd shot 12 straight rounds of par or better: no mean feat on this demanding par 72."

    Dave's bet: Back Matt Fitzpatrick each-way (12 places) @ 28/1

    Find Me a 100 Winner: Back debutant at 269/1

    Steve Rawlings says: "A compromise of sorts is always made when backing a huge outsider and the fact that Davis Riley is teeing it up at TPC Sawgrass for the first time is not an insignificant negative.

    "The aforementioned Perks, in 2002, is the only first timer to win here since Hal Sutton way back in 1983 so debutants don't have a great record but that was the case last week at the Arnold Palmer and it didn't stop Kurt Kitayama. The 30-year-old Californian was the first debutant to win at Bay Hill in 33 years!

    "While all eyes were on the enthralling finish on Sunday, Riley was quietly going about his business, firing the best round of the day - a six-under-par 66 - to climb into a tie for eighth.

    "Sunday's eighth place at Bay Hill was his best finish since he finished 13th at the Wyndham Championship back in August and that was an encouraging performance too."

    Steve's bet: Back Davis Riley @ 270.0269/1

    The Players Championship First-Round Leader Tips: Hoge has hope

    Dave Tindall says: "It might come as a surprise that Tom Hoge has held a piece of the first-round lead nine times in his PGA Tour career. He managed it on three occasions in 2022 and the second of those was here at TPC Sawgrass thanks to a 66.

    "Starting well at The Players Championship wasn't new to him either as 69s in both 2019 and 2021 had left him 13th and sixth respectively on the final Thursday leaderboard.

    "He's been a little hit and miss in 2023 and missed the cut at Bay Hill but prior to that Hoge had finished 14th at Riviera after entering the final round of that Genesis Invitational in the top six.

    "On the stats, his ranking of 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach and 38th in SG: Putting looks a good combination to do well here."

    Dave's bet: Back Tom Hoge each-way at 80/1

    The Players Championship: Course and current form stats

    Andy Swales: "Laid out just one mile from the Atlantic Ocean, the Stadium Course is one of golf's most iconic venues.

    "When the former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman purchased the land on which the course is built, he instructed Pete Dye to design a layout that would not suit any one particular type of golfer.

    "Its putting surfaces are slightly smaller than the Tour average, along with narrower than normal fairways.

    "In 2016, the course underwent a revamp with the aim of increasing the number of times water came into play during a round. This figure currently sits at 16 out of 18 holes, although the water hazards on the Stadium Course vary in size considerably...

    "Keegan Bradley is maybe not the first name you'd think of as a potential Sawgrass champion but, at No 20, holds his highest World Ranking position in almost nine years. Last October, he won his first PGA Tour title in over four years and he arrives at Sawgrass on the back of a top-10 finish at Bay Hill. Tied-fifth in the Players Championship 12 months' ago and an each-way finish is certainly on the cards this week."

    Andy's Player to Watch: Keegan Bradley @ 50.049/1

    Kenya Open: Spaniards and Scots backed at Muthaiga

    Steve Rawlings says: "Jens Fahrbring lost a playoff here in 2018, having trailed by 10 at halfway, and the 1997 and 2001 Challenge Tour winners, Jorge Berendt and Ashley Roestaff, like Wu 12 months ago, sat five adrift after 36 holes. But the other 11 course winners since 1996 have all been inside the top-five and within four stokes at the halfway stage.

    MUTHAIGA KENYA 2023 3.jpg

    "No first-round leaders have gone on to win since 1996 but six 36-hole leaders have converted.

    "Ewen Ferguson led by four strokes with a round to go 12 months ago (Wu sat tied second) but he eventually finished tied eighth and the last four course winners were all trailing with a round to go...

    "Adri Arnaus was eighth here 12 months ago, he was runner-up in this event at Karen Country Club and second at Valderrama in 2019, he has form at Crans reading 6-MC-9 and he arrives in fairly decent nick, with current figures reading 9-MC-13-6-MC.

    "If you can forgive his weekend off in Singapore last time out (and I can) anything around 30.0 looks more than fair."

    Steve's bet: Adri Arnaus @ 32.031/1

    Kenya Open Each-Way Tips: Langasque to continue fine record

    Matt Cooper says: "Frenchman Romain Langasque has the triple tick of altitude, tree-lined and country form.

    "He has eight finishes of T21st or better on the high veldt in South Africa including second at Randpark in the 2018 South African Open and ninth in the Joburg Open at Houghton last November.

    "He's also finished seventh at Crans in 2016 and fifth at Eichenried last summer. Among the trees he has top 20s at Valderrama, The Belfry, Royal Pines, Maxx Royal and Halmstad.

    "His record in Kenya is excellent and we get a slightly better price because he's playing Muthaiga rather than Karen."

    Matt Cooper says: Back Romain Langasque 1pt each-way @ 33/1

    Kenya Open: Course and current form stats

    Andy Swales says: "Muthaiga Golf Club, which is situated around five miles north of Nairobi city centre, is a lush parkland venue with tight tree-lined fairways and water hazards on eight holes. The course is laid out close to the Karura Forest and is undulating in places.

    "Muthaiga is slightly shorter than the majority of layouts used to host modern top level professional tournaments.

    "It was opened on New Year's Eve 1913, and is a symbol of Britain's former colonial past. There are plenty of testing dog legs to be conquered on a course which has hosted numerous professional tournaments over the decades...

    "Oliver Bekker, the South African, posted a top-10 finish here last year, since when he has come close to securing a maiden DP World Tour title. He recently claimed his eighth career victory on the Sunshine Tour."

    Andy's Player to Watch: Oliver Bekker @ 50.049/1

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