Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Webb Simpson
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — I was wrong. Dead wrong.
I’ll admit it, I’ll own it, I’ll wear it as a badge of shame.
At the end of Friday’s second round of The Players Championship, I wrote a piece outlining all the reasons why Webb Simpson’s five-stroke lead didn’t make this tournament a foregone conclusion.
Well, Simpson posted a third-round 68 to extend his lead to seven strokes. How inevitable is his victory? Try this: He’s now a -1400 favorite. That amounts to a 93.3% implied improbability, the kind of number most guys have on the final tee, not the night before.
So … now it’s a foregone conclusion.
(Or maybe I’m just writing that it’s over in hopes of giving it the ol’ reverse jinx. You know, nothing against Simpson or anything.)
Just because this tournament currently has all the excitement of watching dried paint (Get it? Even less exciting than watching the actual paint dry?), that doesn’t mean your Sunday must also be boring.
Let’s delve into some final-round prop bets to keep the weekend interesting.
Jon Rahm (-165) over Ross Fisher
It’s not just because Rahm is a much better player, and it’s certainly not because his 71.63 final-round scoring average is anything special. It’s more that Fisher’s average of 74.67 on Sundays is so putrid that he’s ahead of only four other players on that list. Fade away.
Alex Noren (Even) over Sergio Garcia
In contention until his third-round 77 (well, as much contention as anyone can be in with Simpson running away), Noren will pair with Garcia, who — how can I put this nicely? — tends to not play his best golf when he’s not in the mix on Sunday. Case in point: a final-round 78 here last year.
Patrick Reed (-165) over Keegan Bradley
Check out these numbers: 69-69-71-71-68. Those are Reed’s final-round scores during a recent run of top-10 finishes (including the two-man Zurich, not including the Match Play). Expect the Masters champ, who’s tied for 26th, to dig down and put together another nice one.
Adam Scott (-130) over Steve Stricker
During his third-round 73, the 50-year-old Stricker looked like he was running out of gas. Meanwhile, Scott is ultra-motivated to earn enough points over the next month to reach top 50 in the world and qualify for the U.S. Open and other big events. This is an important round for him, and I expect him to show up.
Other Players I’m Buying on Sunday
Perpetually underrated despite winning two tourneys last year — including the Tour Championship — it feels like Schauffele’s under-the-radar persona helps keep a chip on his shoulder that should serve him well in the final frame. At T-4, don’t expect him to back up.
Consistent without yet putting together a super-low round this week, I think Fleetwood The Flusher could ball-strike his way to a 65 and move up from T-9 without anyone really paying attention.
The way Thomas’ scores are trending — 73-70-68 — suggests a low one could be coming. We all know he’s capable. I like him to make a big improvement on his T-33 position.
Spieth is paired with Tiger Woods on Sunday in what will be must-see TV. Spieth’s overall game looks more ready to back up his stellar third round than Woods’ does. Something in the neighborhood of 66 or 67 from Spieth wouldn’t surprise me. Just not sure Tiger has another one in him that low.