Players picks 2022: Why Collin Morikawa deserves more respect
Major or not, for gambling purposes we treat The Players Championship like one. DraftKings has its first $1 million first-place prize of the year for golf; One and Done pools will offer the most money for a correctly predicted winner ($3.6 million to first place!); and we’d bet pools with your co-workers or friends are flying with the excitement of the first big event of the year.
For all these reasons, we have taken extra care and precision with our picks this week. The Golf Digest betting panel has been on a hot streak—hitting three of the past six winners on the PGA Tour (Joaquin Niemann at 60-1 at Riviera, Scottie Scheffler at 29-1 at the Waste Management and Luke List at 70-1 at Torrey). It’s been a profitable year for our crew, but we know more people than ever will be betting with these picks—so we’re motivated to deliver another winner this week.
Our panel consists of an anonymous caddie; Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network/DraftKings; Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel; Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com; Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports and your two authors. Our caddie came real close with his two outrights (Viktor Hovland and Billy Horschel) last week. We’d like to think you’re reading one of the best collections of golf handicappers in the industry. If we hit a winner this week, we know you’ll agree.
Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2022 Players Championship.
Players Championship picks 2022: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Daniel Berger (34-1, FanDuel) — He and caddie Josh Cassell have a plan for getting past his putting struggles from Sunday at the Honda. Berger’s a good putter in general, so I believe he’ll figure it out. The rest of his game is a great fit for TPC Sawgrass … great irons, incredibly accurate driver and an underrated scrambler.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Collin Morikawa (16-1, DraftKings) — Based on his track record in big events over the past two years, you’d think Morikawa would be the favorite. Yet … again, he is not. Per usual, it will come down to the short game. If he hits his irons like normal and putts halfway decent, he’s going to be there on Sunday. Underrated too, among the favorites, Morikawa is the only one who rates inside the top 10 in this field in accuracy.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Patrick Cantlay (21-1, FanDuel) — Over the past year, Cantlay trails only Jon Rahm out of anyone in the world, even accounting for recency and strength of field adjustments. And he has started 2022 with four top-10s before his T-33 at Riviera. His odds are too long, unlike the rest of the top of the board.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Will Zalatoris (50-1, PointsBet) — Zalatoris is cut from the same cloth that propelled Justin Thomas to victory at this event last year. He’s an elite iron player who has gained strokes on approach in eight consecutive measured events, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. The path to victory often runs through the four par 5s at TPC Sawgrass. In his lone trip to this event, Zalatoris played the par 5s at a staggering 4.38 scoring average. That’s the best mark in the field for any golfer dating back to 2016.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Collin Morikawa (16-1, DraftKings) — TPC Sawgrass doesn’t fit any particular player because it’s a masterclass in designing a tournament course. Hit a draw off the tee, then a fade into the green. There’s nobody in the world more comfortable shaping shots each way than Morikawa. You might say this course is too long for him in the rain, and to that I say, didn’t he nearly win at Riviera, one of the longest tracks on tour? He’s fourth in Total Driving, so it’s not just irons for last year’s Open champion. Bet365 keeps offering these boosts on popular bets (he’s 19-1 there), and one of these days it’ll cost them.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Brooks Koepka (48-1, FanDuel) — Another week, another delicious Brooks number I cannot resist. If the weather promises to be as crazy as it is forecasted to be, Koepka is among the few who will keep his cool and relish the challenge. Plus, this tournament has become decidedly major-championship-y, no matter how much we resist it. We know how much he loves winning those. Don’t be that guy on Sunday evening that says, “Why the hell did I not bet on Brooks Koepka at 48-1?”
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Adam Scott (55-1, Bet365) — Scott’s solid approach game and ability to putt well on fast Bermuda greens results in an 11th-place ranking on FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking. He ranks first in SG/total at TPC Sawgrass in the past, backing up his standing on our course-suitability ranking. His current form is solid, too, ranking 18th for Opportunities Gained over the past two months.
Past results: Golf Digest's betting panel had another strong season in 2020-’21, correctly predicting 14 winners in the last 28 events of the year. We’re already off to a hot start in the new season, too, with Christopher Powers nailing Scottie Scheffler’s win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at 29-1 and then backing it up with Joaquin Niemann at 60-1 to win at Riviera. A few weeks earlier, Pat Mayo correctly predicted Luke List’s victory at Torrey Pines at 70-1. Rick Gehman also hit Sam Burns (16-1) at the Sanderson Farms Championship in the fall, as well as Viktor Hovland (19-1) at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Brandon Gdula also hit on Hovland at Mayakoba, and Stephen Hennessey cashed on Hideki Matsuyama (12-1) at the Zozo Championship.
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "Be Right," (below) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "Be Right" wherever you get your podcasts!
Players Championship picks 2022: Sleepers/Dark Horses
Caddie: Billy Horschel (55-1, DraftKings) — If there was a stat for strokes gained/grit or SG/grind out pars, Billy would be near the top. That should play a big factor this week with the forecast. His ball-striking has been world-class recently, and the tougher conditions plays right into his hands.
Mayo: Alex Noren (100-1, DraftKings) — The Swede has already notched top 20s here in 2017 and 2018, and his approach numbers have progressively gotten better over each of his past five starts, two of which resulted in top-10 finishes. He was one of the accuracy leaders at Honda, another water-logged course, and seems to thrive when conditions get worse.
Gdula: Russell Henley (75-1, FanDuel) — If we’re looking for players with accurate driving and great iron play, that’s Russell Henley. His odds are somehow still hanging at 75-1 at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Gehman: Beau Hossler (340-1, FanDuel) — As I mentioned above, par-5 scoring is crucial here. In four previous trips to The Players, he has played those holes at a 4.5 scoring average, 12th-best in the field. He enters the week with two straight top 20s at the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational. Over his past 20 rounds, he’s gaining 1.01 strokes per round. That’s the 33rd-best mark in the field and better than notables like Max Homa, Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Shane Lowry (50-1, DraftKings) — If there was a Strokes Gained/mudder stat tracked by sites like Fantasy National or DataGolf, you’d expect Lowry to be near the top. He’s eighth in this field in Bogey Avoidance, and though longer term he doesn’t rate out well in Fairways Gained, he was fourth in accuracy at the Honda Classic, where he also gained nearly seven strokes on the field in approach play. Lowry is a recent major champion who can win in these conditions.
Powers, Golf Digest: Jordan Spieth (50-1, PointsBet) — Not exactly triple digits, but semi-longshot territory for a player of Spieth’s caliber. Spieth appeared poised to feast at the Players for the rest of his career after finishing T-4 in his Sawgrass debut in 2014, but he’s since missed four of six cuts with a high finish of T-41 on the tricky Pete Dye design. I wouldn’t be too worried about that recent course form, though. He’s hardly the only one with a volatile track record at Sawgrass. Everything about his game—imagination, shot-shaping, running hot with the putter, etc.—screams Players win at some point in his career. Ideally, it’ll be this week at these tasty odds.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Cameron Young (130-1, DraftKings) — The PGA Tour rookie has gotten off to a great start this year. He’s first in Opportunities Gained over the past two months and 11th in this stacked field for SG/total. He has only two events on courses with a comparable setup to TPC Sawgrass, but he still ranks first in FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking—so we expect great things from him here.
Players Championship picks 2022: Players to Fade This Week
Caddie: Patrick Cantlay (21-1, FanDuel) — Cantlay is one of the best players in the world over the past eight or so months. But when it comes to TPC Sawgrass, there might be something that doesn’t suit his eye—because he’s never really played well.
Mayo: Webb Simpson (80-1, DraftKings) — Obviously, he’s not a betting favorite this week, but I’ll be fading Webb in head-to-head matchups and missed-cut props—whatever you can get your hands on. His injury has kept him out since January, and no warm-up event leads me to believe he has a better chance of a WD than being in contention.
Gdula: Collin Morikawa (13-1, FanDuel) — I actually love Morikawa for DFS this week, but as much as I like his upside, I can’t bet him at the same odds as Jon Rahm, who is roughly twice as likely to get the win. I’ll take anyone at longer odds instead.
Gehman: Dustin Johnson (30-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — It’s difficult to determine the state of Johnson’s game at the moment. On one hand, I believe his results have been better than most people would realize. On the other hand, he’s doing it in a way that doesn’t provide much comfort. Johnson’s weapon, his driver, hasn’t fared well over his last eight measured starts. He’s gained a total of 2.55 strokes off-the-tee during that stretch, well below expectation for a player of DJ’s caliber. The putter had carried him for the last year but not even that club is starting to cool off. These aren’t red flags but they are pink and that’s enough to allow me to spend my dollars in another place.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Patrick Cantlay (21-1, FanDuel) — It’s clear Cantlay is not a fan of the Florida swing. Since 2017, Cantlay hasn’t played an event in Florida other than The Players. (It’s odd because he lives in Jupiter, Fla., now—but he’s there for the great golf clubs and practice facilities, not the proximity to events like Bay Hill.) His form is very mixed at TPC Sawgrass, so I’d rather take a shot at any one else in this range other than Cantlay.
Powers, Golf Digest: Rory McIlroy (16-1, DraftKings) — We know how hard this tournament is to win twice and McIlroy is coming off a weekend of being battered and bruised by Bay Hill. I’ll pass.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Patrick Cantlay (21-1, FanDuel) — I am piling onto the Cantlay hate. He rates out poorly historically on fast, Bermuda greens and has missed his last two cuts here.
Players Championship picks 2022: Matchups
Caddie: Shane Lowry (+110) over Sungjae Im (Bet365) — I like Lowry as a plodder with good experience and form over Sungjae, who doesn’t have as much history at TPC Sawgrass—and his ball-striking hasn’t been as great over the past couple starts.
Mayo: K.H. Lee (-110) over Bubba Watson (DraftKings) — Bubba’s play is about as inconsistent as it gets, but you can usually count on him to play well at venues he has succeeded at in the past—and be awful at the same ones over and over. His career-best finish at TPC Sawgrass is a T-37 (2009 and 2013). Though he occasionally makes the cut, he tanks on the weekend. Lee made the weekend in his first appearance at TPC Sawgrass a year ago, tends to be much better at TPC layouts, and has missed only one cut since last summer’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Gdula: Rory McIlroy (-110) over Xander Schauffele (FanDuel) — McIlroy is playing very well right now and has good form at TPC Sawgrass. He’s carved out an edge over Schauffele over the past six months.
Gehman: Max Homa (-110) over Marc Leishman (DraftKings) — The stretch of golf for Homa to start 2022 has been nothing short of impressive. Specifically, his last three have resulted in three top-17 finishes, all in stacked fields. He’s driving the ball well, his approach play is well above tour average and his putter has been scorching. I actually think he has a great chance of contending this week, but I’ll take him over Leishman for the cash.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Sam Burns (-126) over Tyrrell Hatton (FanDuel) — Hatton has an awful history at TPC Sawgrass—he has missed the cut in his past three appearances here. He did have a great Sunday at Bay Hill, but Burns also had a redemptive type of weekend, too, a bit under the radar. Burns’ long-term driving stats make him a great fit for TPC Sawgrass on paper.
Powers, Golf Digest: Tony Finau (+100) over Gary Woodland (DraftKings) — Admittedly biased for two reasons: 1. I’m still shook from that Woodland debacle on 17 and 18 last weekend, and 2. We had Tony Finau on “Be Right” this week, and I’ve now convinced myself he’s winning, so I’ve bet him outright, top 10, and we’ll add this matchup. He’s also well-rested and he struck the hell out of his irons at Riviera, gaining 6.4 strokes on approach. Woodland, meanwhile, has been in serious contention back-to-back weeks on brutal Florida courses, which had to be both mentally and physically exhausting.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Scottie Scheffler (-108) over Patrick Cantlay (FanDuel) — Cantlay is my fade, and the matchup with Scheffler is a lopsided one in Scheffler’s favor. The winner of two of his past three tournaments ranks sixth in FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking. He also ranks first over the past two months for SG/total.
Matchup Results from the Arnold Palmer Invitational: Caddie: 1 for 1 (Bradley (+105) over Young); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Poulter (-120) over Van Rooyen); Powers: 1 for 1 (Fleetwood (-110) over Garcia); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Leishman (-110) over Casey); Mayo: VOID (Jason Day W/D); Gdula: 0 for 1; Gehman: 0 for 1
Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Powers: 13-4-2 (up 8.66 units); Mayo: 12-3-4 (up 8.26 units); Caddie: 10-7-2 (up 2.67 units); Hennessey: 9-9-1 (down 2.91 units); Alldrick: 8-10-1 (down 3.25 units); Gdula: 7-12-0 (down 5.48 units); Gehman: 5-11-3 (down 6.44 units)
Players Championship picks 2022: Top 10s
Caddie: Brian Harman (+1100, FanDuel) — The consecutive top-10s at this event speak for themselves. But I like him even better in the tougher conditions—the gritty lefty has shown he can show up on leader boards at U.S. Opens.
Mayo: Joel Dahmen (+1600, DraftKings) — In six career rounds at The Players, Dahmen has picked up eight strokes on the field on approach. Last year, he gained five strokes tee-to-green in just two rounds. Why only two rounds, you ask? He lost five strokes on the greens. Fortunately, Bermuda is his least bad surface for rolling it, and rumors are he’s been with a putting coach since the Genesis. Plus, if the weather is as bad as projected, Dahmen’s one of the few players who gets better the crappier the conditions.
Gdula: Sungjae Im (+490, FanDuel) — Im fits what we should be looking for this week: accuracy, irons, and a complete all-around game. We've seen him find success here last year with a T-17 and was 3-under through the first round of the 2020 Players before it was canceled.
Gehman: Cameron Young (+1000, DraftKings) — No matter how you slice it, Cameron Young is on fire right now. He’s gained at least three strokes off-the-tee in each of his last five starts. No surprise that all five of those have resulted in a T-26 or better. Those include stout fields at Torrey Pines, TPC Scottsdale, Riviera and Bay Hill. He isn’t flinching against the world’s best and his driver will be his weapon this week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Louis Oosthuizen (+650, FanDuel) — The South African hasn’t played much in 2022, so he’s going overlooked in the pricing. If you’re like many and scared to bet Oostie outright, betting him top-10 in a big event would’ve been quite profitable last year. Let’s go back to the well—he’s fifth in my model this week (yes, using a lot of older data), but his strong all-around skill set is better than these top-10 odds imply.
Powers, Golf Digest: Chris Kirk (+800, DraftKings) — We’ve hit on Kirk here in back-to-back weeks. Don’t jump off this train now. Somebody, cue the Josh Elliott clip.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Matt Fitzpatrick (+450, Bet365) — Fitzpatrick is an excellent putter on fast, Bermuda greens, ranking second in the field in that category. He also comes into this event in great form, ranking sixth in the field for SG/total over the past two months—and is looking to record his fourth top-10 in a row this week.
Top-10 results from the Arnold Palmer Invitational: Caddie: 1 for 1 (Viktor Hovland +240); Powers: 1 for 1 (Chris Kirk +550); Everybody else: 0 for 1
Top-10 results from this season: Powers: 8 for 19 (up 31.25 units); Alldrick: 4 for 19 (up 10.5 units); Gehman: 4 for 19 (up 1.7 units); Mayo: 2 for 19 (down 1.45 units); Hennessey: 4 for 19 (down 3.53 units); Caddie: 5 for 19 (down 4.75 units); Gdula: 1 for 19 (down 15.6 units)
Players Championship picks 2022: One and Done
Gehman: Jon Rahm — A staggering $20 million in the purse this week, by far the largest in all of golf. I’ll stick to the plan and play the No. 1 ranked golfer. Rahm has struggled more with his short-game in the last five starts more than any other stretch in his career. Despite that, he hasn’t finished worse than T-21 in any of those starts. His floor is basically a Top 10 finish and his ceiling is hoisting the trophy on Sunday. Don’t panic, play Rahm.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Kevin Na; Sanderson Farms Championship: Mito Pereira. Shriners: Abraham Ancer. CJ Cup: Louis Oosthuizen. Zozo Championship: Hideki Matsuyama. Bermuda Championship: Seamus Power. Mayakoba: Abraham Ancer. Houston Open: Sam Burns. RSM Classic: Scottie Scheffler. Sentry TOC: Sungjae Im. Sony Open: Corey Conners. American Express: Talor Gooch. Farmers Insurance Open: Tony Finau. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Daniel Berger. Waste Management Phoenix Open: Viktor Hovland. Genesis Invitational: Xander Schauffele. Honda Classic: Billy Horschel. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Rory McIlroy.
Hennessey: Cameron Smith — This is a huge week for one and done with bonus money awarded in a lot of formats, so major or not, it’s treated like one in one and dones. I already used Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland in this space, both of whom I will use in my contests. I’m going to save Rahm for the Masters, so I will actually get a little cute and go with Cameron Smith. I like his ability to shape shots and scramble his ass off.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Emiliano Grillo; Sanderson Farms Championship: Carlos Ortiz. Shriners: Abraham Ancer. CJ Cup: Collin Morikawa. Zozo Championship: Takumi Kanaya. Bermuda Championship: Seamus Power. Mayakoba: Aaron Wise. Houston Open: Sam Burns. RSM Classic: Brendon Todd. Sentry TOC: Xander Schauffele. Sony Open: Marc Leishman. American Express: Sungjae Im. Farmers Insurance Open: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Lanto Griffin. Waste Management Phoenix Open: Viktor Hovland. Genesis Invitational: Will Zalatoris. Honda Classic: Russell Knox. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Keith Mitchell.
Powers: Xander Schauffele — This 28-1 outright number on Xander is one of the best we’ve seen on him in quite some time. Unfortunately, my money is elsewhere, which makes me very scared that this is the week he shoves it in our faces.
Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Brendan Steele. Sanderson Farms Championship: Mito Pereira. Shriners: Aaron Wise. CJ Cup: Talor Gooch. Zozo Championship: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda Championship: Patrick Rodgers. Mayakoba: Jhonattan Vegas. Houston Open: Marc Leishman. RSM Classic: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Daniel Berger. Sony Open: Kevin Na. American Express: Seamus Power. Farmers Insurance Open: Luke List. AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Cameron Tringale. Waste Management Phoenix Open: Bubba Watson. Genesis Invitational: Adam Scott. Honda Classic: Billy Horschel. Arnold Palmer Invitational: Chris Kirk.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long- and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio.) Mayo (@ThePME) was named 2021 Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writing Association, while also being a finalist for Podcast of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year. Mayo won the 2020 FSWA Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award in 2020. He was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.