2023 The PLAYERS Championship: Jason Day, Sahith Theegala Among Potential Live Plays
Pictured: Jason Day. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — It’s still early. Very, very early.
That’s what we need to keep telling ourselves after the first day of The Players Championship.
Collin Morikawa (+350) and Scottie Scheffler (+450) are near the top of the odds board and it’s easy to believe one of them will eventually claim this title, but there’s a lot of golf left to play and if we’re seeking value, we’re not going to find it from a player at a sub-5/1 price.
Instead, with Chad Ramey leading (8-under) and 21 players yet to finish the opening round, let’s examine four players further down the board who make for intriguing possibilities entering Friday’s play.
Jason Day (2-under 70): +1800
If you don’t have a Day pre-tourney ticket, you’re not one of the cool kids this week.
The 2016 champion was one of the more popular outright plays entering the opening round, which drove his odds down to +2500 in the final markets.
Following a round that included five birdies, a bogey and a double, he’s a half-dozen strokes off the pace while only getting seven points shorter.
Fresh off four consecutive top-10s, there’s a reason why everyone was playing Day and he didn’t give us any reasons to fade him in the opening round.
Max Homa (Even-par 72): +3500
Thursday’s round was a whole lot of meh from Homa, who posted three birdies, three bogeys and — on the surface, at least — never really got much going.
And yet, there’s still some reason for optimism.
He gained strokes with his driver and irons, was just about even with the field average around the greens and only lost strokes with his putter. That’s a good sign moving forward, especially coming off a week at Bay Hill in which he led the field in strokes gained with his approach shots.
If you’re like me and you liked Homa pre-tourney, there might be some reason to re-up now that he’s nearly twice as long as he was 24 hours ago.
Sahith Theegala (2-under 70): +4500
Lesser players than Theegala have earned their first career PGA Tour victory at The Players. We’ve long known that the 25-year-old is destined for stardom and it shouldn’t come as a total surprise if his initial win comes in a big-time event.
On Friday, Theegala ranked third in strokes gained from tee to green, picking up a whopping 5.11 strokes on the field — a number which trailed only Morikawa and Taylor Pendrith, who are second and third on the leaderboard, respectively.
Like Homa, the worst club in Theegala’s bag in the opening round was his putter, as he lost 2.34 strokes on the greens (12th-from-last in the field).
It can’t get much worse than that — we hope — so banking on his ball-striking to continue could wind up being a smart play.
Billy Horschel (1-over 73): +35000
Did you really think I’d get through this piece without listing a massive long shot?
Look, I get it: Horschel has been downright dreadful this year with three missed cuts in six starts and nothing better than a 30th-place finish.
Perhaps his ball-striking woes will continue here, but gaining 2.67 strokes with his irons in Round 1 at least offers some hope. There’s also no place he’ll feel more comfortable, as he often practices at TPC Sawgrass and his swing coach, Todd Anderson, is the director of instruction at this course.
Do I think he’ll suddenly find some magic and fire three great scores to capture this title? Probably not, but at 350/1, I’m willing to place a small wager on the possibility.
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