Steve Palmer's Players Championship first-round preview, best bets, free tips
Byeong Hun An can get out of the blocks quickly for second consecutive year
When to watch
Sky Sports Golf, 11.40am Thursday
Byeong Hun An to win threeball
3pts Evens Betfred, Paddy Power, Sky Bet
Tommy Fleetwood to win threeball
2pts 11-10 Betfred, Sky Bet
Daniel Berger to beat Tyrrell Hatton
2pts Evens Betway (tie no bet)
Patrick Cantlay to beat Rickie Fowler
2pts 8-11 Coral, Ladbrokes
Dustin Johnson-Gary Woodland dual forecast
0.5pt 800-1 Ladbrokes
The Players Championship field always oozes quality and punters rarely get the chance to peruse such a strong set of threeballs as those on display for the Sawgrass showpiece.
A trio of great pals tee off at 12.46pm UK and Ireland time in the shape of Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, while the group of young guns in action at 5.18pm could be the future of golf – Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Matt Wolff are playing together.
The top three ranked players in the world – Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka – form the 5.51pm marquee match. But the best threeball wagers come even later than that – Byeong Hun An and Tommy Fleetwood are the most attractive day-one propositions.
An can be fancied to defeat Chris Stroud and Nick Watney in the 6.24pm contest. An followed ninth place in the Phoenix Open with fourth in the Honda Classic, building on a fine end to last year which featured third spot in the Sanderson Farms Championship, sixth in the CJ Cup, eighth in the Zozo Championship and 14th in the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The Florida-based Korean opened with a 66 on his way to 26th place in last year's Players, clearly appreciating the tournament being moved to March and the softer terrain that resulted, and a similar ping from the lids can be expected given his current form. Stroud has missed seven cuts in a row, while Watney has missed the cut in four of his last five visits to Sawgrass.
Fleetwood has a scoring average of 68.875 and form figures of 7-5 from his last two Players starts – and he fired a first-round 65 last year – so the Englishman can build on his third-place finish in the Honda Classic by contending for the event known as the 'Fifth Major'. Missing the Bay Hill cut was probably a blessing in disguise, affording him a breather before Sawgrass, and he should be odds-on to outscore Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk (6.02pm threeball).
Tyrrell Hatton was arguably flattered by his Bay Hill victory on Sunday – he took advantage of being on the right side of a significant draw bias over the first two rounds, falling over the line in front to edge out two players who were on the tougher side of the draw. and the Englishman said he intended to celebrate long into this week. It may be wise to not expect him to greatly improve on Sawgrass form figures of 41-MC-MC and Daniel Berger seems a good-value even-money outsider to beat Hatton over 72 holes.
Berger, a Floridian who lost a Honda playoff in 2015, finished fourth in the same tournament the week before last for this third consecutive PGA Tour top-ten placing. He was ninth in the 2016 Players.
Patrick Cantlay appears a much more solid option than Rickie Fowler in another 72-hole match, while the Dustin Johnson and Gary Woodland dual forecast is worth a small tickle at 800-1. Both are well suited to the March Sawgrass conditions and have welcoming Thursday morning tee-times from which to mount their challenge.
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