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The Players Championship has long been seen as golf’s unofficial fifth major championship. And with the largest winner’s check in PGA Tour history on the line this week, the 2023 edition will certainly once again have that major feel to it.

Despite the absence of defending champion and world No. 5 Cameron Smith, who’s now a member of the LIV Golf roster, the field at famed TPC Sawgrass is ridiculously strong as 49 of the top 50 players in the FedEx Cup standings and 43 of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking will tee it up one of the most challenging layouts on the PGA Tour.

The field is headlined, of course, by the top three players in the world: Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Rory McIlroy. And as a treat to golf fans everywhere, the PGA Tour has paired them all together for the first two rounds as one of several monster groupings for Thursday and Friday.

You’ve also got the trio of Max Homa, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Thomas. Teeing off just ahead of them is another strong threesome featuring Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, and the winner of this past weekend’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, Kurt Kitayama.

Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, and Tom Kim comprise another entertaining group, and you’ve also got Collin Morikawa teeing it up with a pair of past champions in Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler.

So how will this 2023 edition of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass play out?

2023 Players Championship predictions

2023 Players Championship predictions
2023 Players Championship predictions | Mike Calendrillo/Sportscasting

Here are a few predictions for the 2023 edition of The Players Championship from Sportscasting golf experts Luke Norris and Jack Dougherty.


Luke Norris: Max Homa

With a trio of top-three finishes in five starts in 2023, including a win at Torrey Pines, Max Homa comes into The Players Championship hotter than just about anyone in the field. And, seriously, isn’t this the type of event the current world No. 7 seems destined to win?

This tournament was designed to celebrate the players, right? And is there any player on the PGA Tour right now more likable than Homa?

It’s hard to base anything on what transpired here a year ago, as the tourney went five days and featured almost every type of weather imaginable. Nevertheless, the California native tied for 13th, shooting a final-round 66 to get to that point. And he may need another one of those this year to win. But if there’s anyone who knows how to close, it’s this guy.

Homa has become an absolute superstar, and his ascension continues this week.

Jack Dougherty: Collin Morikawa

Back to the well with Collin Morikawa, even though he isn’t making me feel too confident in this pick with two missed cuts in his last three starts. The issue in both of those duds, unsurprisingly, was his putter. When picking Morikawa to win a tournament, you just have to flip a coin and hope he lucks out on the 10-15 footers he usually misses.

As for this week, TPC Sawgrass is an ideal venue for Morikawa to succeed. It’s a short golf course that emphasizes precision off the tee and approaching the green, which just happen to be his greatest strengths. Morikawa will be a Players champion at some point in his career. Why can’t it happen this week?

Biggest sleeper

Luke Norris: Brian Harman

Okay, so Brian Harman hasn’t had a great start to 2023. Since the calendar turned, the 36-year-old has just one top-30 finish and has missed the weekend in three of his last four starts.

However, in two of the last three editions of The Players Championship, obviously not including the canceled 2020 event, Harman has finished eighth or better, including a tie for third in 2021, when he shot 67-71-69-69 to finish just two back of Justin Thomas. Not bad for a guy going off at 150-1 this week.

Jack Dougherty: Seamus Power

Seamus Power got chewed up and spit out by Bay Hill on the weekend to finish dead last among the 72 players who made the cut, and that’s pushed his odds to win the Players up to 150-1. Are we just forgetting what he did all season before last week?

In his previous seven starts, Power recorded a win, three top-five finishes, and didn’t finish worse than T25 over that span. The Irishman has also fared well at TPC Sawgrass with two top-35 finishes in two starts.
Throw last week out the window. Power can contend at The Players.

The Players Championship signage
The Players Championship signage | David Cannon/Getty Images

Most likely bust

Luke Norris: Scottie Scheffler

Perhaps it’s wrong to pick against a guy who hasn’t finished worse than 12th in his last eight starts, a stretch that includes a victory and three other top-fives. But I simply don’t like Scottie Scheffler’s chances this week.

A year ago at this time, he was even hotter, having won two of his previous three starts. But he came to TPC Sawgrass and tied for 55th. And in his debut at this tournament in 2021, Scheffler didn’t even make the cut. Of his six official rounds on the Pete Dye design, the current world No. 2 has only broken 70 once, that being a third-round 68 a year ago.

That certainly won’t get it done this week.

Jack Dougherty: Jon Rahm

All of you laughed when I picked the hottest golfer on planet earth to bust at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week. Well, who’s laughing now?

Jon Rahm started off hot with a blistering 65 to take the first-round lead, but two straight 76s knocked him out of contention and saw him limp to a T39 finish. The problem for the world No. 1 was off the tee, where he lost 1.39 true strokes throughout the tournament. That’s the worst mark of his entire career, per Data Golf, and it’s not remotely close, either.

With water on 17 of the 18 holes at TPC Sawgrass, it’s not a great time to lose confidence in your driver. Rahm also has just one top-10 at The Players in five career starts, and I think he’s ripe for another disappointing finish this week.

Make-or-break hole

Luke Norris: No. 18

While the 17th is clearly the biggest draw at TPC Sawgrass, don’t sleep on the closing hole of Pete Dye’s famous design, as the 462-yard, par-4 18th has become one of the most fantastic finishers in golf.

Reminiscent of the 18th at Pebble Beach, the 18th at TPC Sawgrass is a sweeping dogleg left that features water running up the entire left side while trees and mounds line the right side. So accuracy off the tee is critical. As for the approach, you’ve got a collection of grass bunkers short and right and a lone sand bunker long and left.

Are birdies possible here with the Sunday pin? Sure. But they’re not normal. At last year’s Players Championship, the top 12 finishers combined to shoot 1-over on the 18th in the final round.

Jack Dougherty: No. 17

I mean… duh. The par-3 17th at TPC Sawgrass is arguably the best penultimate hole in golf. Only the Road Hole at St. Andrews can be mentioned in the conversation.

The Players Championship can be decided on the island green alone on Sunday afternoon. We’ve seen players such as Sergio Garcia lose the tournament here, just as we’ve seen players such as Rickie Fowler win it here. You must play the 17th hole cleanly all week if you want to become a Players champion.


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