Honda Classic: How to Bet the Third Round
© Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Carnage is the name of the game after two rounds at the Honda Classic.
Some windy conditions combined with a difficult golf course at PGA National have made birdies tough to come by.
Just 10 of the 144 players are under par at the halfway point, led by Luke List and Jamie Lovemark at 3-under. List and Lovemark are among the favorites at +1200 each, but a couple of big names just off the pace are at the top of the betting sheet.
The Bear Trap strikes again.
72 water balls in Round 2.
Here's a few. ?? pic.twitter.com/oZuALcFweW
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 24, 2018
Justin Thomas, who’s two back at 1-under par, is the favorite at +500. Tommy Fleetwood is next up at +600 and is just one stroke off the pace at 2-under par.
We have another half dozen or so players in that +1000 to +1800 range, including Webb Simpson, Russell Henley, Daniel Berger, Tiger Woods, Louis Oosthuizen and Thomas Pieters.
I like what we’ve been seeing from Fleetwood and Oosthuizen the most among this group of favorites. Both have been fairly consistent from tee to green — Fleetwood ranks sixth this week, while Oosthuizen is ninth in strokes gained. Both have been capitalizing on those opportunities as well, gaining ground on the field with the putter.
But this tournament is really wide open, even more than usual PGA event at 36-hole mark. That’s because there is no guarantee the lead will move forward. We saw the two overnight leaders, Simpson and Alex Noren, both shoot over par. In the process, the lead score dropped from 4-under to 3-under. Lovemark and List aren’t the strongest players either, so it’s perfectly natural to expect them to fade in tough conditions on Saturday. If that happens, we’d be looking at a guy like Fleetwood at 2-under as the player to catch.
With more wind in the forecast, any score around par will have have a golfer picking up strokes on the field. And if a player can find a round of 3- or 4-under, he’ll shoot to the top of the board regardless of current position.
That leads me to take players farther down the board. My suggestion would be Scott Piercy at +5000. Piercy shot even par both days to sit three strokes back, and he’s been putting on a clinic with the irons. He’s currently second in the field in strokes gained: approach despite being 111th in putting after two rounds. In other words, he’s one of the few guys getting birdie looks on this course. If the puts start dropping on the weekend, Piercy will be right there in contention.
With the wind playing such a factor this week, ball striking is even more important than usual. Heading into the weekend, there are a few third-round plays I think we can exploit by targeting the guys striking it well and fading the hot putters.
The first is Patrick Rodgers over Kiradech Aphibarnrat at -110. This is a fade of Aphibarnrat, who is third this week in strokes gained: putting, but has lost over a stroke per round with his approach. Meanwhile, Rodgers’ approach game has been his strongest asset this week. He’s gained 2.74 strokes against the field in the tournament thus far.
Next is Morgan Hoffmann over Kelly Kraft at -125. Hoffmann is another guy playing solid in all areas, but he’s really thrived with the irons, gaining nearly two strokes per round on the field. Kraft is the top-ranked putter this week, gaining a little over five strokes on the field, while losing a half stroke tee to green.
Two others I like in a similar mold are Matt Every over Corey Connors at even money and Tommy Fleetwood over Rory Sabbatini at -200. Connors had the hottest putter on the course Friday, gaining 3.55 strokes, so that’s a fade spot for me. Fleetwood is the favorite to win the tournament in my mind, so I expect him to hold his own against the veteran Sabbatini. I’ll be looking for another matchup to parlay it with, but don’t mind paying the price for a player of his caliber if I can’t find one.
All odds via Bovada on Feb. 23.
Top Photo: Tommy Fleetwood
Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports