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Players Championship 2024: Why I was encouraged by Hideki Matsuyama’s Tuesday practice session

Editor's Note: This article is published in partnership with Read The Line, a Golf Digest content partner.

March 12, 2024

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One of my rituals you will soon learn is my love for sunsets and “closing time” at the practice areas. In my 20-plus years as a PGA professional, I’ve learned there’s something very enlightening about the golden hour around a golf course.

As the sun set on Tuesday evening at The Players Championship, Matsuyama was putting in extra time on the practice green. Prior to winning last month’s Genesis Invitational, Matsuyama has faced many injury questions in recent months.

Stooped over his putter on Tuesday, he put in an extended practice session on TPC Sawgrass’ putting green. He practiced short putts and longer lag putts. Matsuyama is a noted grinder early in the week of tournaments, but given his stellar play recently, gaining an average of four strokes on average in his past four starts against elite fields, his game is clearly in a great place. But I believe he has some unfinished business on property, hence the late-night putting practice. In 2020, Matsuyama opened The Players with 63 and the first-round lead. The pandemic cancelled his run that year.

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If a player’s neck, back, or arm is ailing, I don’t see him hitting putts late night two days prior to round one. Despite the concern Hideki has caused in the past with the DFS and betting community with some late injuries, it appears the Japanese star is in a good place health-wise—and I believe he will contend this week.

We discussed our favorite bets—which include the 2021 Masters champion—on a bonus episode of The Loop’s podcast this week:

‘Closing Time’ Fade:

Also on the range late on Tuesday was Matti Schmid, who was diligently testing fairway woods. The ball flight wasn’t consistent. He repeatedly switched back and forth until he settled on a club.

The Stadium Course is a fairway-wood heavy test off the tee for many. The average driving distance for the field is 278 yards (significantly six yards shorter than the tour average, 284 yards). Pete Dye’s design causes players to show patience. For most that means a bunch of fairway woods off the tee.

In either case, for betting value, DFS or otherwise, I’d shop elsewhere. Schmid has talent—but he doesn't appear to be in a confident place with a crucial club off the tee this week.

Keith Stewart is a five-time award-winning PGA professional, a betting contributor and content partner with Golf Digest and founder of Read The Line, the premier on-site live golf betting insights service covering the LPGA and PGA TOUR. Subscribe to Read The Line’s weekly newsletter here and raise your golf betting acumen. Keith's winning content can also be found on Sports Grid, Bleacher Report and The Sporting News. Follow him on Twitter @readtheline_.