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Players Championship picks 2024: The Justin Thomas bet our experts love

March 12, 2024
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - MARCH 10: Justin Thomas of the United States hits a tee shot on the 14th hole during the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard at Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Golf Course on March 10, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Brennan Asplen/Getty Images)

It’s been a weird year betting golf. Scottie Scheffler finally broke the long run of longshot winners with his dominant performance at Bay Hill. But as a heavy favorite last week, it’s unlikely most golf bettors were dipping into the Scheffler outright market. Before that, the lowest odds for a champion was Jake Knapp (40-1) in Mexico. Some folks hit Hideki Matsuyama at the Genesis, but aside from that, most of us have been cold when it comes to golf bets.

Should You Bet Scottie Scheffler at The Players?

There’s reason to believe that should change this week. Though TPC Sawgrass tends to provide a ton of variance each year, we’ve had a run of favorites win The Players Championship since its move to March in 2019 (Scheffler last year at 11-1, Cameron Smith in 2022 at 33-1, Justin Thomas in 2021 at 20-1 and Rory McIlroy in 2019 at 14-1). We won’t say this tournament is predictive: But we’re confident that the winner is one of the bets our experts have made below.

Our betting panel is comprised of a caddie reporting anonymously from the grounds of TPC Sawgrass, Pat Mayo of Underdog/Mayo Media Network, Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel, Andy Lack of RunPureSports.com, your two authors and Keith Stewart, the CEO of Read The Line. Stewart, our newest member of the panel, is our new betting content partner as well, and he joined us for a bonus episode of Golf Digest’s Loop podcast that we encourage to listen to. Stewart is on-site this week at the Players—his fifth event of 2024. His insights will help our betting content immensely, though Mayo is on a bit of a heater—hitting Knapp outright in Mexico and going on a 9-1-0 run on matchup bets thus far. Mayo is one of three experts to be on a particular outright this week at TPC Sawgrass.

Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2024 Players Championship.

The Players Championship picks 2024: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Scottie Scheffler (+550, DraftKings) — I know this is terrible value at +550, but he is just the best golfer in the world. And no one else comes close. One week with a new putter has him back to being a world beater. I wouldn’t be surprised by a Tiger-esque runaway victory this week.

Pat Mayo, Underdog/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Justin Thomas (22-1, DraftKings) — JT has been close to getting his first win since the 2022 PGA but has been plagued by a few terrible nines. Why not return to the winner’s circle at the site of his 2021 Players victory. Since missing the playoffs last year, he’s reeled off top-12 finishes in five of his past six with the only hiccup coming a month ago at Riviera. And he’s posted all these results without any spike weeks with his iron play. He’s been good, just not winner great. But it seems like he’s building toward a great week.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Justin Thomas (22-1, DraftKings) — Thomas’ form since returning from injury really started to stabilize in the late stages of 2023. Since 2024 began, he’s been pretty much back to JT of old. Since January 1, Thomas is fourth in strokes-gained per round, according to datagolf, and he has a win at TPC Sawgrass to his name (2021).

Keith Stewart, Read The Line: Will Zalatoris (35-1, DraftKings) — I believe we all think Will Zalatoris is ready to complete his comeback. Thirteenth at Farmers, second at Genesis and fourth at API—he’s healthy and returned to the top of all ball-striking categories. On Saturday, he held a five-shot lead at Bay Hill. I’m aware he didn’t win, but if we need somebody to keep pace with Scheffler’s strokes gained, there is no better candidate than the superstar Zalatoris.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Hideki Matsuyama (40-1, FanDuel) — This number doesn’t make sense to me. He’s the eighth highest-priced golfer on the DFS slate, but way down at 40-1 outright—running away from the field at Riviera with the second-most impressive performance of the year (outside of Scottie Scheffler last week). He played great last week, finishing 12th, and he’s top 10 in this field SG/tee to green over the past 20 rounds, per RickRunGood.com. Hideki could easily cement a Hall of Fame legacy with a victory at The Players this week. The price is too good to pass up.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Will Zalatoris (33-1, FanDuel) — If there were ever a course that could cool off Will Zalatoris’ hot streak, it would be TPC Sawgrass, which remains the most volatile venue on the PGA Tour. But I’ll gladly walk into that trap. It’s been wildly impressive to watch him bounce back so quickly after that rough week at the Hero World Challenge, and the fact he’s now gaining strokes with his putter on a consistent basis should scare everyone not named Scottie Scheffler.

Andy Lack, Run Pure Sports and Inside Golf podcast: Justin Thomas (22-1, DraftKings) — As we approach the two-year anniversary of Justin Thomas’ last victory on the PGA Tour, it’s put up or shut up time for the two-time major winner. It’s hard to believe that Thomas has won just twice in the last three years, but both victories came at the Players Championship and PGA Championship. Now Thomas returns to familiar stomping grounds and a golf course that typically brings out the best in him, in some of the best form he’s been in during this winless draught. Thomas has now recorded four top-15 finishes in five starts this year, and he is coming off a 12th-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he gained strokes in all four major categories. With his approach play now firing again on all cylinders, I expect JT to finally find his way back into the winner’s circle.

Past results: Ding, ding, we have a winner. Pat Mayo cashed our first outright ticket of the year with Jake Knapp (40-1) at the Mexico Open. Now it’s time for us to get HOT.   

The Players Championship picks 2024: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win

Caddie: Shane Lowry (40-1, DraftKings) — Few players enter TPC Sawgrass with as much confidence as Shane Lowry. His big week at Bay Hill catapulted him up into the top 40 in the world, likely cementing a spot in the Masters. Now he should be freed up to play for a win. You shouldn’t be surprised to see the Irishman with one of the final tee times on Sunday.

Mayo: Emiliano Grillo (100-1, DraftKings) — Four T-20 finishes so far in 2024, including a top 10 at the API a week ago, and no missed cuts show a level of consistency unfamiliar for the Argentinian. He remains one of the most accurate drivers on tour, a big bonus at TPC Sawgrass, and the iron play has been incredibly solid. But it’s the putter that has elevated his game. As many of who’ve been betting on Grillo for years know, the dude can putt himself out of a tournament very quickly. But since last year’s API (when he dropped -9.2 strokes over four rounds) he’s among the best putters on tour. In eight starts in 2024, he’s lost strokes just once with the flat stick, gaining nearly 1.9 strokes/putting on average per start over his last five. Warning: He can most definitely still chip himself out of this tournament.

Gdula: Corey Conners (60-1, FanDuel) — With Russell Henley and Si Woo Kim both shortening, I’ll turn my attention to Conners in the sleeper market. Conners is a top-10 ball-striker and a top-20 fairway finder over the last 50 rounds on Tour, per datagolf. He also has a streak of 11 straight events with positive SG/approach going.

Stewart: Sahith Theegala (65-1, FanDuel) — When a player describes a new shot they are using in tournament play, listen to their voice. During a walk and talk during the broadcast at Bay Hill, Sahith Theegala explained his new fairway-finder swing to the analysts while playing the 16th hole. The talented Theegala loves the low hard fade and has gained in three straight with the big stick. Combined with his amazing ability to score from around the green and putting, he is talented enough to take down the stars at the top with one special week.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Sahith Theegala (65-1, FanDuel) — Theegala’s playing great golf in big events this year—runner-up at The Sentry, fifth in Phoenix and sixth last week. I love what Keith brings up about the off-the-tee shot he’s trusting more and more. That was crucial with the missed penalty for missing fairways at Bay Hill, and that will be essential to contending at TPC Sawgrass. His creativity isn’t something quantifiable by stats, but it’s the kind of trait we saw Cam Smith ride to a win at this course—and with this price, it’s worth taking a shot on the young gun.

Powers, Golf Digest: Sahith Theegala (65-1, FanDuel) — Two top-six finishes in his last three starts. Already has a win this season. Also, a key fact Keith Stewart pointed out on our betting edition of The Loop podcast this week, TPC Sawgrass’ greens are Bermuda overseeded with Poa trivialis. Sahith is a Cali boy who loves him some Poa.

Lack: Corey Conners (60-1, FanDuel) — As one of the most accurate drivers of the ball, and a great overall approach player, Corey Conners fits the exact player mold that I am looking for this week. One of the strongest indicators of success at the Players is recent approach form, and Conners has now gained over five strokes on approach in back-to-back starts. Even more encouraging, the Canadian significantly raises his baseline on over-seeded Bermuda greens.

The Players Championship picks 2024: Players We’re Fading

Caddie: Rory McIlroy (12-1, FanDuel) — The chatter among some European caddies seem to think Rory is actually considering a jump to LIV. That’d be a shock, yes. Even if that’s just a 10-20 percent possibility, it seems like his headspace isn’t all there. So I believe he will not contend this week.

Mayo: Viktor Hovland, (22-1 DraftKings) — Despite leading the field in SG/total on Florida courses over the past two years, something just seems to be off right now with Viktor. Specially, the driving isn’t at its usual elite level, and his short game has reverted back to bottom of the barrel. Unless he magically gets it all back together this week, winning is probably out of the question.

Gdula: Rory McIlroy (12-1, FanDuel) — McIlroy is still golfing well, so I don’t want to overreact. However, he’s not golfing 12-1 well in a field this good at a course with this much volatility. The form here since a 2019 win is two missed cuts and a T-33, as well.

Stewart: Xander Schauffele (18-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — In his press conference this week, Xander Schauffele was asked about his recent struggles at TPC Sawgrass. He mentioned the change on the schedule and how the course plays much differently. Here’s Schauffele: “It's just a completely different property. So just need to adjust to the play style, and I know I can do it, I just need to do it.” The date change came in 2019 and we’re still waiting for the adjustment.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Patrick Cantlay (22-1, Bet365) — This number is drifting up to 30-1 in some places, which tells you books aren’t afraid of Cantlay here, despite his strong Pete Dye history. We know the trend that 11 of the past 12 winners have finished 22nd or better in their previous start (kudos to @PGASplits101 on Twitter and BetSperts.com), and Cantlay had a rough go at Bay Hill, finishing T-36. Worse, he lost more than three strokes on approach, and he’s lost in every start but one this year. Cantlay won’t be getting my money this week.

Powers, Golf Digest: Rory McIlroy (12-1, FanDuel) — The driver is peaking right now but you can’t overpower TPC Sawgrass off the tee. Irons must be sharp, and McIlroy admitted they were anything but at Bay Hill, particularly on Sunday. One does not simply “figure out” their approach play at Sawgrass.

Lack: Patrick Cantlay (22-1, Bet365) — I’ve touched on the importance of recent approach form as a key indicator of success at TPC Sawgrass, and I have serious concerns about the state of Patrick Cantlay’s irons. Cantlay has now lost strokes on approach in five of six starts this year, including last week, where he lost 3.5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. While Cantlay is always a threat, TPC Sawgrass is exposes sub-standard approach play more than nearly any course on tour. I just don’t think he’s sharp enough with that part of his game to contend.

The Players Championship picks 2024: Matchups

Caddie: Shane Lowry (+100) over Collin Morikawa (DraftKings) — I don’t need to reiterate the form Shane Lowry is in, but I will say Morikawa missed the cut at a virtual no-cut event last week. Shane Lowry at even money versus a guy who hasn’t showed any form in Florida yet is very good value. Don’t be surprised if Morikawa misses another cut this week.

Mayo: Tony Finau (-111) over Sahith Theegala (Bet365) — No one believes Finau can do anything this week. Hence his tumble down the odds board. However, the ball-striking is still among the best in the field over the past two months. You could argue he’s never better with his driver or irons. He just happens to not be grazing the hole on three-foot putts now. Not great. But at a course with higher variance, his ball-striking makes his floor to make the cut fair higher, and though he’s going through struggles with the flat stick, he has gained on these greens four of the past years. 

Gdula: Shane Lowry (-125) over Wyndham Clark (FanDuel) — Clark’s distance might not help him a ton at TPC Sawgrass, and Lowry has a big edge in driving accuracy. Combined, they’re similar ball-strikers, too. Lowry has two straight top-five finishes due to irons and fairways. He also has two top 15s in the past three years at Sawgrass.

Stewart: Shane Lowry (+100) over Collin Morikawa (DraftKings) — Sweet-swinging Shane Lowry is enjoying the Florida swing. The 2019 Champion Golfer of the Year just finished fourth at PGA National and third at Bay Hill. Collin Morikawa has two bad MCs in his past four starts (Farmers, API). Morikawa has lost strokes to the field in three of last four starts off the tee, and two of his last three starts on approach. While Lowry keeps going low, take the Irishman and celebrate another win on this special Sunday.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Min Woo Lee (-139) over Matt Fitzpatrick (Bet365) — These are players trending in opposite directions. Fitz has missed the cut in two straight small-field signature events (only him and Adam Schenk can boast this poor fact). Uncharacteristically, he’s lost strokes on approach and off the tee at both those events. That’s a bad sign for TPC Sawgrass. Min Woo, on the other hand, has gained strokes in the ball-striking the past two weeks, including a runner-up at PGA National. And he now returns to TPC Sawgrass where he contended last year.

Powers, Golf Digest: Chris Kirk (+105) over Harris English (DraftKings) — A true DAWG eat DAWG play here. English is certainly trending but his history at TPC Sawgrass is downright shocking (English has missed seven straight Players cuts). Kirk, on the other hand, has fared well at this event with three top-15s to his name.

Lack: Corey Conners (-120) over Adam Hadwin (DraftKings) — This is an easy one, as I’m getting my favorite longshot pick as a short favorite over a player that I simply do not believe is in the same class as him. Hadwin has certainly played some solid golf this season, but he is not remotely the iron player that Conners is, and I have some very legitimate concerns about his accuracy off the tee.

Matchup Results from the Arnold Palmer Invitational: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Schauffele (+105) over Hovland); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Rodgers (-130) over Moore); Hennessey: PUSH (Young (-120) over Day); Gdula: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1; Lack: 0 for 1; Stewart: 0 for 1

Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Mayo: 9-1-0 (up 7.97 units); Gdula: 6-2-2 (up 3.3 units); Powers: 6-3-1 (up 2.97 units); Lack 5-5-0 (up 0.09 units); Hennessey: 4-3-3 (up 0.31 units); Caddie: 5-4-0 (up 0.26 units); Stewart: 4-6-0 (down 2.37 units)  

The Players Championship picks 2024: Top 10s

Caddie: Wyndham Clark (+450, DraftKings) — Wyndham has proven he plays better under tough conditions. I know he is taking some heat (well-deserved) for his comments about closing the tour to 100 players, which makes me think he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder this week. I believe this is the best play of the week at +450.

Mayo: Tom Hoge (+600, Bet365) — The path is pretty simple for Hollywood Hoge: Maintain the same level of ball-striking (he ranks first in SG/approach over his past 24 rounds) but not chip himself out of this tournament (118th in SG/around the green over the last 12 rounds). He showcased how low he can go at Sawgrass after his Saturday 62 a year ago, and he enters in far better form this time around. If he keeps up that same approach play, theoretically, he won’t have to chip that often. And if he does, there are enough areas around the course to utilize the Texas wedge if needed.

Gdula: Collin Morikawa (+300, FanDuel) — Morikawa blew up last week in the wrong way but heads to TPC Sawgrass, where he is a natural course fit. He was T-13 here a year ago after leading the field in SG/approach.

Stewart: Hideki Matsuyama (+333, Bet365) — In 2020, Hideki Matsuyama was the first-round leader at The Players with a 63. The tournament was cancelled the next day due to the pandemic, and I believe that edge has not gone away. The Masters champion is very comfortable getting around this tilting design, and his ball-striking is back to being elite. Also note that his last top 10 before Riviera was right here. One skill that always sits under the radar is Matsuyama’s short game. In eight starts around the Stadium Course, he has six top 25s and three top 10s.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Byeong Hun An (+600, Bet365) — Credit to Rick Gehman for this tidbit: Benny An has gained the third-most strokes in all the signature events this year, right behind Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay. That’s an elite level for Benny. He’s coming off an eighth-place last week at Bay Hill, and I’d expect him to keep this stellar run of play going.

Powers, Golf Digest: Sungjae Im (+650, DraftKings) — Sungjae finally came back to life last week at Bay Hill and somehow didn’t get his price slashed in half for this week. I’m in. Likely a late Wednesday night FOMO outright bet as well.  

Lack: Si Woo Kim (+450, DraftKings) — Si Woo Kim’s success at TPC Sawgrass should not be much of a surprise, as his skill-set fits the Pete Dye design to a tee. Kim is quietly one of the most accurate drivers of the ball on tour, a great overall approach player, and he possesses an incredibly underrated touch around the greens. Coming off a week where he gained over 4.5 strokes on approach at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, I expect Kim to continue his strong play at a familiar venue.

Top-10 results from the Arnold Palmer Invitational: Mayo: 1 for 1 (Wyndham Clark +450); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Wyndham Clark +450); Lack: 1 for 1 (Will Zalatoris +280); Everybody else: 0 for 1

Top-10 results from this season: Mayo: 3 for 10 (up 6 units); Gdula: 2 for 10 (up 0.5 units); Hennessey: 2 for 10 (up 0 units); Lack: 2 for 10 (down 3.7 units); Caddie: 1 for 10 (down 4.5 units); Powers: 1 for 10 (down 7.1 units); Stewart: 0 for 10 (down 10 units)

About our experts   

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME. 

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. Follow him on Twitter: @gdula13. 

Keith Stewart is a five-time award-winning PGA professional, a betting contributor for 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_.    

Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also the head of golf content for Run Pure Sports, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for RickRunGood.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports