The Players Championship: Cantlay can start fast at Sawgrass

American Patrick Cantlay
American Patrick Cantlay can start fast again

After full place payouts at 110/1 and 50/1 last week, Dave Tindall looks at the opening round of The Players Championship at Sawgrass and has three picks to shine early...

"Cantlay was one of the six Thursday co-leaders at Sawgrass last year, shooting a 66. He'd also opened with a 3-under 69 on debut in 2017 so knows a thing or two about starting fast in this prestigious event."

Back Patrick Cantlay each-way @ 50/1

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

Weather forecast for Ponte Vedra, Florida: Temperatures start at around 63 degrees and rise to a peak of 76 around 3pm. Winds also pick up as the day goes on, the morning wave getting 8-10mph but the afternoon starters having to deal with 12-13mph gusts.

First-round leader history:

2018 - 66 Webb Simpson, Chesson Hadley, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Alex Noren, Patrick Cantlay
2017 - 67 MacKenzie Hughes, William McGirt
2016 - 63 Jason Day
2015 - 67 Kevin Na, Hideki Matsuyama, Charley Hoffman, David Hearn
2014 - 63 Martin Kaymer
2013 - 63 Roberto Castro
2012 - 65 Martin Laird, Ian Poulter
2011 - 64 Nick Watney

Strategy: The extra foot traffic and slightly higher winds will make it tougher for the p.m. wave so I'm leaning towards the early starters even though they'll have slighter cooler temps. Historically, there's been no advantage. Of the 18 above players who've had a piece of the R1 lead, nine were morning starters and nine teed off in the afternoon. Secondly, a lot of talk in the build-up is focusing on the course being much softer than in May. The ball isn't rolling out so big hitters should have a greater advantage. So, long drivers with an early tee-time are my focus.

Pick Patrick to burst from the blocks

Patrick Cantlay was one of the six Thursday co-leaders at Sawgrass last year, shooting a 66.

He'd also opened with a 3-under 69 on debut in 2017 so knows a thing or two about starting fast in this prestigious event.

Arguably, the conditions this year will suit him even better.

The American is ranked fifth in Driving Distance this season (312.6 yards) so will be coming into these tough greens with shorter clubs than most.

Cantlay was tied sixth at the WGC-Mexico Championship on his last start and made the top 15 at Riviera the week before that.

Fresher than most, he twice held the R1 lead in 2018, also occupying top spot in last year's Genesis Open.

He'll look to post another low Thursday score from his 9:04am tee-time.

Glover can go low early

Lucas Glover is one of the form picks right now and I've taken him at 50/1 in my outright preview.

He comes to Sawgrass on a run of three straight top 10s and in the middle of those he opened with 66 to sit second after 18 holes at the Honda Classic a fortnight ago.

One of the many PGA Tour stats is Early Round 1 Scoring Average and Glover has ranked 15th and 8th on that chart in the last two seasons.

He's once again averaging in the 60s in that category in the current campaign while at Sawgrass he was second after day one in 2011 when opening with 65 while, in the last two years, he's been T18 and T13 following Thursday's play.

He gives it a good bash off the tee and has a 7:50am tee-time so let's hope all the ducks are in a row.

Take Tyrrell to top R1 leaderboard

Let's add a European Ryder Cup star in the form of Tyrrell Hatton.

Some things to like about the Englishman:

He's 45th in Driving Distance, 31st for Early Round 1 Scoring Average with 68.75 and tees off in the opening group from No.1 at 7:40am.

Hatton hasn't quite cracked the code here although three of his six rounds have been under par and he showed he could play well in Florida with top fours in the 2017 Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational.

A Saturday 66 helped him finish T29 at Bay Hill last week and while his patience may be tested over 72 holes here, I like him to flourish over the first 18 - especially with the best of the morning conditions.

Latest Thursday scores show him inside the top six on the R1 leaderboard in two of his last four starts - the WGC-Mexico and the Waste Management Phoenix Open after rounds of 67 and 66 respectively.

The industry-high 85/1 certainly appeals give the eight each-way places.

Dave's 2019 R1 leader P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)

Staked: £300
Returned: £312
P/L: +£12

Dave Tindall,

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