2021 Zurich Classic of New Orleans Round 3 Best Bets: Buy the Aussies of Marc Leishman & Cameron Smith
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Cameron Smith.
The fun of Four Ball was gone on Friday at TPC Louisiana as the Foursomes format brought the teams back to reality. We went from every team under par in Round 1 to an over-par scoring average as alternate shot tested everyone in the field.
Former European Ryder Cup partners Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson handled the new format the best as they went out with a 4-under 68 to set the pace. They took the lead at 11-under before the afternoon wave started and were then matched on their low round by Cameron Champ and Tony Finau. The long-hitting Americans will play from the final group at 13-under, which was matched by the Norwegian duo of Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura.
Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler will join Rose and Stenson in the penultimate pairing on Saturday afternoon, and two other teams will start the day another shot behind them. There were exactly 33 teams that made it through the cut, which makes the leaderboard jammed up beyond the lead pack. There should be a lot of scoring as they go back to best ball on Saturday, before finishing out back in alternate shot.
Let’s take a look at the best betting opportunities heading into the weekend at the Zurich Classic.
Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman +1400 (BetMGM)
The Australian team of Smith and Leishman caught the worst of breaks on Friday as a perfect drive down the center of the fairway rolled up to the base of the tree in the middle of the 13th, leaving them completely stymied. They had to take an unplayable lie from that fairway, leading to a bogey which took a solid one-under start back to even par. Then a water ball on the 17th had them teetering on the cutline, as they started to make the turn to their final nine holes.
They played a better round today than the score indicated, and while the Aussies will start four shots back of the lead on Saturday, I’m buying in now. I think their combination of poise and scoring ability sets them up to contend the rest of the way at this event.
Jason Kokrak and Pat Perez +3500 (BetMGM)
One of the most popular teams coming into the week at TPC Louisiana was the ball striking duo of Kokrak and Perez. They have lived up to the billing through two rounds and excelled in alternate shot on Friday with a 3-under 69.
They have passed all the tests for me thus far this week, and should be in position to keep pace on the scoring front in Four Ball on Saturday before going back to what I think is a strength in Foursomes. One of the biggest pluses here is that Kokrak has now paired his elite ball-striking game with a newly found strong putter, which balances the same issue for Perez. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these two make a run this weekend and be in contention down the stretch on Sunday.
Peter Malnati and Chris Baker Top 10 +1000 (DraftKings)
One interesting aspect of this event is that just the top 33 and ties were set to make it through the cut to the weekend. It turned out that exactly that number made it, with 10 of them at 6-under par. That creates quite a logjam at the bottom of the weekend leaderboard, but they are just two shots off the lead.
I am going back to Malnati and Baker here as they were four shots up on Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen through seven holes, before a few missed putts derailed their round. They finished with an unfortunate water ball on their final hole, the Par 3 9th, leaving them on the cutline. Both players have been better than the score suggests and showed early today that they can be strong in alternate shot as well. I’m taking a shot at double digits in a short field for a team just to make up a couple of shots the rest of the way.