McIlroy to lead Britain and Ireland’s hopes in Florida

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Americans Tiger Woods and Adam Scott head up the pre-tournament Players Championship betting as the 7/1 and 16/1 first and second favourites respectively.

And, with Tiger in imperious form of late, it is clear to see why the 2001 champion is attracting all the early attention.

However, a look over the past few years reveals that just one of the last five winners at TPC Sawgrass has hailed from the United States – a fact that will boost the confidence of the British and Irish contingent heading to Florida.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy has failed to live up to both his own high standards and the expectations of his fans of late.

If the dip in form is down to the added pressure of his big-money sponsorship move to Nike is up for debate, but the 24-year-old has shown glimpses of his former self of late and should not be discounted here.

McIlroy secured a third-straight top 25 with a T10 finish at Quail Hollow last time out and displayed his accuracy by leading both the total driving and greens hit stats last week.

The County Down native has never ventured past the cut in this competition but his second place at the Valero Texas Open and impressive GIR numbers show he is not far away from a much-needed victory.

McIlroy ranks fourth for GIR this year with an average of 71.16 per cent and boasts a top eight placing with 4.24 birdies per round, making his 16/1 billing a tempting investment.

If not Rory, then English duo Lee Westwood and Luke Donald look the most likely candidates for a British win as both have proven capable at Sawgrass in the past.

Donald’s best finish to date is the T4 he secured in 2011, but his sixth place showing last year shows he can mix it with the front runners in Florida.

The 35-year-old has claimed three top six finishes from seven cuts in his last eight outings and with an average score of 69.93 in 2013 is showing a consistency that belies his 20/1 price.

Fellow Englishman Westwood has also tied for fourth in the “unofficial fifth major” – back in 2010 – and after finishing in the top ten at each of his last three tournaments, the 40-year-old could prove good value as a 25/1 each-way shout.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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James Curtis

After studying for a degree in journalism and gaining his NCTJ, James contributed to a wide range of papers, online publications and broadcasters including the South London Press, Press Association and Sky Sports News before joining the Ladbrokes News team.