Golf picks: The Players Championship predictions & best bets from Diane Knox Balas

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Diane Knox Balas


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Diane Knox Balas loves golf (she’s Scottish, so of course she does) but let’s just say she’s much better at analyzing golf than playing! The same cannot be said for her brother, Russell Knox, who’s a 2-time winner on the PGA Tour and fueled Diane’s initial passion for the sport. A seasoned TV and radio host, Diane has given out 8 outright winners since joining the Pickswise team in April 2022. Her general rule is she has to have three stand-out reasons for each pick and spends her time studying stats, playing form and little nuggets of information from golfers’ lives on Tour. Diane lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Garrett, son Greyson and two English Bulldogs Bowser & Barkley. You can follow her antics on Twitter @KnoxyDiane and Instagram @dianeknoxbalas.

It was great to see Kurt Kitayama get his debut PGA Tour victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational over the weekend – what a display on Sunday with the world’s biggest names all around him. After seeing Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler win the other three designated events we’ve had on the Tour schedule (ie. the tournaments with lots more money up for grabs), it was really refreshing to watch a rising star reach the top.

This week is a big one. It’s the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The Players Championship, at TPC Sawgrass. The purse has been accelerated to a whopping $25 million with the winner taking home $4.5 million and 600 FedExCup points (but who really cares about points when the dollar amount is that ridiculous).

Last year, Cameron Smith put on a clinical display on the greens in his hometown of Ponte Vedra Beach to clinch the title, but he won’t be back to defend having ventured to LIV. He did say he might walk around as a fan this week, however. Wouldn’t that be a treat!

After his runner-up finish last week in Orlando, 2019 champion Rory McIlroy is the favorite this week, alongside World No. 1 Jon Rahm, at +900. This is also my hometown event and I’m excited to spend the week out on the course.

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TPC Sawgrass: What you need to know

TPC Sawgrass (Stadium Course) is a classic Pete Dye design measuring 7,275 yards and playing as a par 72. In typical Dye fashion, the layout is so intimidating off the tee, with water hazards and sand traps looming, combined with tight doglegs and undulated greens. Also, let’s not forget the infamous island green on 17, the scene of utter turmoil for many last year when the weather wreaked havoc on the scoring.

There are some really interesting holes. First up, the par-5 9th hole has a new tee box this year, offering up a 602-yard beast before guys make the turn. Plus, the water up the right towards the green is more prominent, and avoiding the left side trouble is even more important now with the added length into the green. It’s going to be fun to watch.

No. 12 is a drivable par-4 and is a real risk/reward hole for the field. It’s one of my favorite places to sit and watch the action. The rough seems to be really up right now and is particularly thick and juicy around the greens. Accuracy has always been key around TPC Sawgrass, and there’s an even bigger premium on an accurate second shot this year.

The fairways look soft right now and the greens firm, but one of the biggest factors will be the wind and its ever-changing direction. With a slightly cooler front moving in on before Thursday, the wind looks to switch over the weekend.

Knox’s Knockout The Players Championship Picks

Collin Morikawa (+2800)

Available at FanDuel Sportsbook

I said it last week in my write-up – the Arnold Palmer Invitational can beat guys up before a big week like this. This pick of mine missed the cut, therefore didn’t have to endure the tough conditions over the weekend and is coming to Ponte Vedra fresher than some. Collin Morikawa is a phenomenal iron player and has consistently gained strokes on the field in the last 10 events he’s played. He’s never really done anything here before, with a T41 and missed cut on his record, but when he’s dialed in on the approach he’s dangerous. Plus he’s 3rd on the Tour in accuracy right now.

Jason Day (+3300)

Available at BetMGM Sportsbook

I picked Day last week for the API at the same odds, and he finished in a tie for 10th. He’s stepping up – again – this year and his game seems to have been cranked up a gear. He’s had five top-10 finishes this season, an additional four top-25s and won this tournament in 2016. He clearly knows his way around TPC Sawgrass, racking up an additional two top-10s since then. Great odds for a past champion.

Keegan Bradley (+5000)

Available at FanDuel Sportsbook

Keegan had a great chance to win this tournament last year before going +3 on his final two holes. I’m sure redemption will be on his mind as he stands on the 17th tee! Since then, Bradley has lost 30 pounds and worked on getting in the best shape possible – and it’s paying dividends. He’s had four top-10s this season, including a win at the ZOZO Championship and a runner-up at Torrey Pines. Last year, his improved off-the-tee and approach stats were the ones that accounted for his run, and that’s still the trend in his game. I like him at these odds.

Joel Dahmen (+28000)

Available at FanDuel Sportsbook

If you’ve watched “Full Swing” on Netflix, guaranteed you’re a fan of Joel Dahmen (if you weren’t already). I couldn’t leave him out of my picks this week. Joel is within the top 10 in driving accuracy and having a great season, sitting at 38th in the FedExCup standings. With three top-10s early in the season, he’s coming off two missed cuts in these big, designated events which no doubt pushed his odds up. However, I like his game on this course and he has a T12 in ’19 to improve on. I’m also taking Joel for a top-10 at +1800.

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The Players Championship Prop Bets

Harris English top-10 (+750)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

After battling injury and slowly making his way back, it was great to see Harris English finish runner-up at Bay Hill last week. The hard work is paying off, especially on the greens where he gained over two strokes on the field last week, and at the Genesis a few weeks ago, where he finished T12. He hasn’t made a cut here since 2013 (what?!) but I’m betting on him to turn it around with that flat-stick after a hot week.

Thomas Detry top-20 (+600)

Available at Bet365 Sportsbook

Thomas Detry is having a brilliant rookie season on the PGA Tour with five top-25s, including a runner-up in Bermuda. Yes, that was against a significantly weaker field, but last week’s T24 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational should act as a great confidence boost heading into another big week. He handles the expected windy conditions really well.

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The Pickswise golf handicappers are on hand with expert Golf Picks and Golf Predictions as well as tournament previews and analysis throughout the PGA Tour, including all of the majors.

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