2023 Players Championship odds, picks by Chris “The Bear” Fallica

“Bear Bets” are real bets that Chris “The Bear” Fallica is making.

The Players Championship may be seen as the “big five” by some, but I’ve found it to be one of the hardest events to limit. Each of the last three editions has been won by elite players, and major champions, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Cam Smith. But unfamiliar names like Fred Funk, Tim Clark and KJ Choi have also emerged victorious at TPC Sawgrass.

To make things even more cloudy, it’s hard to factor in much recent history, as last year’s event was riddled with inclement weather and a 36-hole Saturday cut. Here’s the kicker, last year’s winner Cam Smith isn’t even here to defend his title as he’s gone to the LIV Tour.

I’m not going to go crazy with a ton of picks, but since this is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, here are some bets I’m making for the event.

RELATED: PLAYERS Championship Odds at FOX Bet

The best options

Patrick Cantlay +1400 to win (bet $10 to win $150 total); +180 Top 10 (bet $10 to win $190 total)

Cantlay just can’t seem to figure it out, and the fact that he’s missed the cut here in each of the last three trips probably doesn’t offer much confidence. But his first two rounds were respectable top-25 finishes, and there’s no doubt he’s in form, coming in third at Genesis and fourth last week at Bay Hill. So you can shrug off concerns that Cantlay is better suited to win in the West Coast Swing.

If you look at his stats, it all makes sense why he’s so successful right now: fourth in Greens in Regulation (GIR) and second in Birdie Average. The only players with shorter odds than Cantlay this week are Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, so a win wouldn’t be a surprise.

Viktor Hovland +2500 to win (bet $10 to win $260 total); +280 Top 10 (bet $10 to win $38 total)

Last year Hovland played quite well this part of the season, finishing in the top 10 at the Genesis, Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players. A 75 on Sunday pushed Hovland out of contention in a crowded leaderboard at Bay Hill, but his game appears to be on trend as he has made improvements over last year in Strokes Gained (SG): Full accuracy and driving

He’s also someone you might want to consider as a first-round leader, as he’s eighth on tour in first-round scoring average. Hovland is always an adventure around the green, but there’s a lot to like about other parts of his game.

Long shot sprinkle

Rickie Fowler +5000 (bet $10 to win $510 total); +230 Top 20 (bet $10 to win $33 total)

The 2015 Players champion has been ticked off with his irons this year, ninth in SG Approach, after finishing 150th and 157th the past two years. Fowler already has three top 10s this year (he had two combined in 2021 and 2022) and has shot an opening-round 68 in each of his last two events, so he’s been there from the start. Obviously asking for a win is a lot, but it’s not the worst stab, not nearly 2.5 to 1 to finish in the top 20.

Matchup Play

Keegan Bradley -110 vs. Matt Fitzpatrick

Bradley could have won this event last year and hasn’t been outside the top 30 here since 2017. He’s played well on some of the toughest courses and toughest courses this year, finishing second at Torrey and 10th last week.

Fitzpatrick has also had a solid week at Bay Hill, but has also been battling a neck injury and missed cuts at Riviera and Pebble Beach. At this price, I like Bradley in this matchup.

Chris “The Bear” Fallica has covered sports for nearly three decades. While college football has been his focus, he also enjoys the NFL, soccer, golf, tennis, MLB, NHL and horse racing, with an “occasional” bet on these events. Chris recently won the inaugural Circa Football Invitational and finished in the Top 10 of the Golden Nugget Football Contest. He is a multiple-time qualifier for the NHC Handicap Championship. Remember, “The less you bet, the more you lose when you win!” Follow him on Twitter @chrysphallic.

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