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World no. 1 Dustin Johnson the man to beat at Sawgrass

DUSTIN Johnson is the hot tip to take out the 2017 Players Championship, which kicks off Thursday, May 11 at TPC Sawgrass in Florida.

Online bookmaker is offering +750 on the world number one, who heads to Ponte Vedra Beach this week in the richest of form.

Although he missed the US Masters in April with a back injury, Johnson has finished in the top three on each of his last five starts on the PGA Tour.

That run includes a hat-trick of consecutive wins at the Genesis Open, the WGC Mexico Championship and the WGC World Matchplay.

The 32-year-old American came within a whisker of making it four on the trot, finishing a single shot behind Brian Harman at the Wells Fargo Open last weekend.

The galleries at TPC Sawgrass could be in for a real treat on the Thursday and Friday, as Johnson will be paired with Rory McIlroy for the opening two rounds.

The Northern Irishman, who penned a US $100 million (AUD $136m) deal with club manufacturer TaylorMade this week, holds the second line of betting at +1100.

The Players Championship will mark the competitive debut of McIlroy’s new kit, which includes the M2 driver and fairway woods, a blend of Tour Preferred irons and prototype blades, custom Milled Grind wedges and TaylorMade golf balls.

“I tested different combinations, a lot of different stuff, and I came to the conclusion that this was the best way forward for me to try and improve, try and win more, try to get back to world no.1, try to win more majors,” the former Nike man told reporters at Sawgrass.

“So I’m really excited about that.

“I tested quite a few balls and the one that I landed on was really it; the ball was what led me to this point because this is the best ball I’ve ever hit.”

McIlroy joins an elite group in the TaylorMade stable, including Johnson, Masters champion Sergio Garcia and rising Spanish star John Rahm.

Another is Jason Day, who is looking to kick-start his season by toppling the world number one and two at Sawgrass.

“Dustin is playing pretty well,” he told the press on Tuesday.

“It’s pretty hard to keep up when [he] hits it 350 yards, flicks it on with a wedge and holes all the putts.

“But I’m trying to focus on getting back to that winning form, the practice workload I was doing and hopefully the results will come after that.”

Day has endured a rocky start to his 2017 campaign, which was somewhat derailed by his mother’s cancer diagnosis in the lead-up to the Masters last month.

After confessing he had momentarily “lost the desire to be world number one”, the Queenslander insisted he was back on track and determined to defend his title at Sawgrass.

“It’s obviously pretty special to come back as defending champion,” said Day.

“This feels like a major to me, so my expectation is heightened when when I come into an event like this.”

Day, ranked third in the world, is the pick of the Australian contenders at +2400.

The other Aussies in the field include former champ Adam Scott (+3500), Marc Leishman and recent tour winner Cameron Smith (+9000 each), Aaron Baddeley (+25000), Rod Pampling (+50000) and Greg Chalmers (+75000).

2017 Players Championship betting

+750 – Dustin Johnson

+1100 – Rory McIlroy

+1400 – Jordan Spieth

+1800 – Sergio Garcia, John Rahm

+2000 – Rickie Fowler

+2200 – Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose

+2400 – Jason Day

+2800 – Justin Thomas

+3300 – Brook Koepka, Henrik Stenson

+3500 – Adam Scott

+4000 – Paul Casey, Kevin Chappell

+5000 – Kevin Kisner, Francesco Molinari

+6000 – Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed

+6600 – Russell Henley, Martin Kaymer

+7000 – Daniel Berger, Jason Dufner

+8000 – Tommy Fleetwood, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton, Pat Perez, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood

+9000 – Patrick Cantlay, Marc Leishman, Ryan Moore, Cameron Smith

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