The Players Championship: Cantlay can shine at Sawgrass

American Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay impressed on his Sawgrass debut
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It's one of the big weeks of the year on the PGA Tour and Dave Tindall picks out three bets for the prestigious Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass...

"Now up to World No.34 he looks ready to land a big one and the Players Championship may well prove an ideal fit."

Back Patrick Cantlay e.w. @ 45/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 8 places

Main Bet: Back Patrick Cantlay e.w. (1/5, 8 places) @ 45/1

From World No.1 Amateur to winner to PGA Tour winner, Patrick Cantlay's career path looks to be pointing only one way.

Not that it's been an easy ride since he turned pro in 2012. The Californian was severely hampered by a back injury and made just six starts in 2014 before missing 2015 and 2016 completely.

He returned in early 2017 and in just his second comeback event posted solo second in the Valspar Championship, an early sign that Florida could be a good place for him.

Cantlay dropped plenty more hints and made the breakthrough with victory in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in November of last year, sealing the deal with a 67.

He ended 2017 with six straight top 20 finishes and has an unblemished record this season apart from a missed cut in the US Masters.

Either side, he showed his ball-striking prowess when fourth in the Genesis Open at Riviera and added T7 in the Heritage. Hilton Head, of course, is a Pete Dye track and it followed a third place there last season.

That brings us on to this week and Dye's most famous creation, TPC Sawgrass. Designed for plotters not bombers, Cantlay looks to have the perfect skill-sets to flourish on the par 72.

Now a Florida resident, Cantlay expressed his liking for the place in a Golf Channel interview last year: "I love the track. It's similar to Hilton Head but bigger, with more water hazards. I love it.

"There's definitely some thinking to be done on how far you want to press it up on some of the holes and if you want to lay back on it or not.

"You've got to play from the fairway and you cannot short-side yourself - classic Pete Dye themes."

Cantlay backed up his words with some excellent play for 54 holes on his tournament debut last year, shooting 69-70-72 to sit tied seventh with one lap to go. It didn't work out on that occasion but T22 was still an excellent first knock.

Now up to World No.34 he looks ready to land a big one and the Players Championship may well prove an ideal fit. He likes Pete Dye courses, he has Florida form of 2-22 in his two starts in the Sunshine State and his stats are ideal for Sawgrass - 10th Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee, 19th Green in Regulation and 4th Going For the Green.

Masters champion Patrick Reed paired up with Cantlay in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans recently and, for what it's worth, they finished T7 on another Pete Dye Track, TPC Louisiana.

Reed said of Cantlay: "Nothing seems to phase this guy. He's got ice in his veins."

That attitude will work well at TPC Sawgrass so Cantlay is my main pick at 45/1.

Next Best: Back Henrik Stenson e.w. (1/4, 5 places) without J Day, R Fowler, D Johnson, R McIlroy, J Spieth, J Thomas at 16/1

Henrik Stenson is 22/1 in the outright market and could easily win this event for a second time.

But there's another very appealing way to play the Swede.

Betfair have a market 'without Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas' for which Stenson is 16/1.

Removing the top six in the betting for a cut of just six points seems a fair trade off although we have to note that the each-way terms become 1/4 1,2,3,4,5.

One thing about Stenson, however, is that when he's on, he's on.

Take a look at his record in the majors. Down the years he's posted 11 top 10s but nine of those were actually top fives.

In this event it's a similar story with three of his top 10s also being top fives - his win in 2009, a third on debut in 2006 and a fifth in 2013.

In these big tournaments, Stenson has a proven record of staying up there all week rather than limping into tied ninth with a good closer.

His big moment at Sawgrass came in 2009 when he shot 68-69-73-66 to lift the trophy and he's posted four top 20s since then so owns one of the more consistent tournament records of the big stars.

Current form is just as encouraging - especially his tied fifth at the US Masters which represented a clear PB at Augusta National. In 12 previous starts at the course he'd failed to better T14.

Prior to the year's opening major, Stenson was tied sixth at the Houston Open and fourth in his previous Florida outing in Arnie's event at Bay Hill.

How he is doing it? By excellent tee-to-green play. The 42-year-old is ranked 1st in both Driving Accuracy and Greens In Regulation this season and that's perfect for Sawgrass.

The boost of his Masters top five and the current excellent health of his long game should put Stenson in line for another crack at the title.

Not all of the market leaders will challenge - they never do in this event - but you can certainly make decent cases for each of the six removed from this market.

Jason Day won last week and took the title here two years ago while Rickie Fowler has a win and a second.

Rory McIlroy has three top eights in his last five Sawgrass visits, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both have top four finishes at the course and Dustin Johnson is World No.1 and posted his best finish (T12) last year so perhaps is working it out.

I particularly respect Thomas and Fowler's chances and I'm happy to take that half-dozen out of the equation and back Stenson in the alternative market at 16s.

Final Bet: Back Luke List e.w. (1/4, 5 places) without J Day, R Fowler, D Johnson, R McIlroy, J Spieth, J Thomas at 55/1

I'm going to play that same market with Luke List.

Had we backed the American in the same way at February's Honda Classic, we'd have been celebrating a juicy-priced winner as the only player to finish in front of him was Thomas after a play-off.

That, like this one, was played on a tough Florida course and List really did impress with the way he handled himself on Sunday.

Since then, he's shown he can handle a much more strategic test by finishing third in the Heritage at Hilton Head (put a tick in that Pete Dye box) while he produced more strong greens in regulation figures when tied ninth in last week's Wells Fargo Championship.

List has form of 7-16-2-MC-17 in his last five Florida starts although, admittedly, the MC was at this event.

However, rather than say a pair of 74s, it's encouraging that he followed up his opening 78 with a Friday 69. List would have left Sawgrass knowing that he could score on it.

To make the Players Championship your first win is a very tall order - although Tim Clark managed it - so lowering expectations a little bit and playing List in this market at 55s compared to the outright 66s looks a good move.

He's fourth in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green this year and also 10th for SG: Around-The-Green and that looks a powerful combination on a layout where Scrambling skills are needed too.

Asked to describe his year so far, List said at Hilton Head: "Very consistent. I feel like I've played all different types of golf courses really well. It's a testament of the hard work. And again, (the win) it's coming. I'm really excited for it, whenever that will happen

"It's nice to play golf courses that I haven't thought I played traditionally very well."

So why not one of the ultimate tests in Sawgrass? He's a better putter on Bermuda green than his overall SGP stats suggest and he's clearly one of the PGA Tour's form horses.

Webb Simpson is another worthy of consideration in this market at 55/1 while I quite like a lot of the Europeans too. That ranges from the obvious Francesco Molinari (6-7-6 the last three years at Sawgrass) to the classy Tommy Fleetwood and Alex Noren and even, as a wild outsider, Alexander Levy.

Tiger Woods? He's won this event twice (2001 and 2013) but both times when playing out of his skin that season; he won five times in 2013 let's not forget.

In other words, that's a lot of years when he didn't win and, in fact, didn't even contend. I'm struggling to see that this this will be the scene of the great TW comeback win.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £760
Returned: £1209.84
P/L: +£449.84

(After the Wells Fargo Championship)

P/L: +£1179.89

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