2011 The Players Championship Expert Picks – Favorites to Win and Golfers to Bet On at the TPC at Sawgrass: The Players Championship is known as the “Fifth Major” in the golfing world, and the massive purse usually brings out all the big names to TPC Sawgrass. However, two of the hottest players in the game won’t be in the field when the tournament begins Thursday. Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are both skipping the event, and although the field is still stacked, it definitely isn’t as deep as in past years.

This year’s course puts an emphasis on the short game of the players. Unlike the Masters, hitting it long off the tee isn’t going to be necessary to win. Ball placement both on the fairways and the greens is going to decide this tournament. Putting, chipping and approach shots are all going to be vital, which gives the top all-around players the edge.

The Favorites

At +1400, Phil Mickelson enters the Players Championship as one of the odds on favorites to win the event. He already has one win to his credit in the unofficial major, which came in 2007, but only three players have won the event multiple times since it moved to Sawgrass. That being said, Mickelson has one of the top short games in the PGA today, making him a perfect fit for this year’s course.

He has a chance to become the No. 1 golfer in the world with a strong showing in the Players Championship, and Luke Donald has the game to do just that. The knock on Donald has been his lack of length off the tee, but the course at Sawgrass won’t expose his weakness. Donald has more than enough control with his irons and accuracy with his putter to contend for the win, which is a big reason with the oddsmakers have him at +1400.

It seems like every tournament Matt Kuchar is finishing in the top 10 and contending for wins, and he enters the Players Championship with +3000 odds. Kuchar has emerged as one of the most well-rounded players on the Tour today, and his versatility should have him in the mix for yet another win.

Potential Sleepers

When you think of the top golfers in the PGA today, the name Ben Crane doesn’t immediately come to mind. However, he has played exceptionally well at Sawgrass, making him worth a look with his +2700 odds. Crane just seems to be comfortable at this course and in the Players Championship, and his last three finishes in the event are sixth, fifth and fourth.

Two veterans that could make some noise in the Players Championship are Jim Furyk and Davis Love III. Furyk (+3000) has the added motivation of playing in front of his family and friends and his home course in Sawgrass. It hasn’t translated to a win yet, but he has finished in the top five on multiple occasions. Love III (no line) has won the event. In fact, he is one of only three golfers to win the Players Championship at Sawgrass twice. Heck, he even finished tied for fourth last year.

Golfers to Avoid

According to the oddsmakers, Tiger Woods is the favorite to win the Players Championshop at +1200. While he certainly has the talent to win the event, the odds aren’t exactly in the favor of bettors to back a guy that isn’t winning tournaments right now. Couple the losing streak with his nagging injuries and possible knee issues, and Woods has a lot of risk for a minimal reward.

Thanks to his strong play lately, Adam Scott is at +3200 to win the Players Championship this year. However, ongoing questions about his putter make Scott anything but a sure thing. A change in the style of his putter has helped him to a degree, but bettors might not want to back a guy known for having issues putting in an event where the pressure will be plenty high.

Check the latest odds and picks to win The Players Championship from NSAwins.com’s expert PGA handicappers.

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