Sobel’s Tour Championship Matchup Bets: Bank on a Justin Thomas Rebound in Round 2
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Justin Thomas
ATLANTA — What a difference one day can make.
At the start of Thursday’s opening round of the Tour Championship, one player led by two strokes, two others were within three of the lead, and five were separated by five shots.
By the end of the day, three players were tied for the lead, four others were within three, and a whopping dozen were separated by five shots.
Let’s get to the second-round matchups, where a fall into a share of the lead should spur a certain someone to play better on Friday.
Justin Thomas (+105) over Rory McIlroy
It shouldn’t surprise us if Thomas was suffering Thursday from the seldom-seen (never-seen?) syndrome known as leader’s remorse.
Stick with me here: There’s got to be some subconscious guilt when you finally win your first tournament of the year just a few days earlier, and the PGA Tour installs you as a multi-stroke leader over players who decidedly enjoyed more productive campaigns.
I’m not suggesting JT tanked or didn’t try his best or anything like that. He would’ve preferred to extend that lead and run away with this thing. What I’m saying is that it must’ve been awfully difficult mentally to wrap his mind around the fact that he was leading without ever hitting a shot.
Well, now that issue has corrected itself, as Thomas sits in a share of the lead with Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka. And while I never feel too confident fading McIlroy, I think Thomas will be better prepared now that they’re all on equal footing.
Paul Casey (-105) over Hideki Matsuyama
One week ago, at the BMW Championship, Matsuyama produced the best single-round putting performance of his career, gaining more than five strokes on the field.
On Thursday, he nearly equaled it. Hideki led the field on the greens, gaining more than four strokes this time, while posting a 66.
There are three potential conclusions here for Friday:
1) Hideki is suddenly a great putter and deserves more respect on the greens; 2) Lightning will strike for the third time in a week, as he continues holing an enormous number of putts; or 3) The law of averages evens things out, as he fails to sustain this type of performance.
I’m banking on that third option — especially against Casey, who owns a nice track record at East Lake.
Jason Kokrak (+125) over Webb Simpson
I supported a Simpson fade last week. I just thought that after three runner-up finishes in his previous six starts, he was due to hit the wall and suffer a down week. Instead, he finished a just-fine T-24 in the 69-man field.
I thought this week would be a better one for him, but as it turns out, I might’ve been one week off on the fade.
In the opening round, Simpson lost more than seven shots to the field from tee to green. That’s right — seven!
Not only is that ugly, it’ll be tough to rebound from that type of ball-striking. Kokrak, on the other hand, is hitting the ball as well as he ever has. At plus-money, I love him in this matchup.