Live Betting THE PLAYERS: 10 Outright Options to Consider Following First Round
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: Matthew Fitzpatrick.
So, how’s your betting card look after the opening round at THE PLAYERS Championship?
No matter how ugly it is, I’ve got some good news for you: Unlike Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele or Tony Finau, at least you still have a chance at a profitable weekend.
If you thought it was hard to pick a few early contenders, that’s nothing compared to how difficult the actual golf is going to be over the final three rounds. Already, we’ve seen a firm, fast TPC Sawgrass, with the two famed final holes doing much of the damage; their water hazards seemingly owning a magnetic pull for golf balls.
Tournament officials will surely attempt to keep the conditions from getting nearly unplayable — like what happened during the third round of this event five years ago when conditions were inherently firmer due to its May date instead of March. But it’s already been announced that the grounds crew is done mowing for the week, so the rough will continue growing, while the lack of any rain means the greens should keep baking.
As such, when looking for potential additions to the card, we should focus not just on ball-strikers, but on those who tend to play their best golf when conditions are toughest.
Whether you’re sitting on a Sergio Garcia ticket or chasing dead money, there’s always room to add a few live outrights along the way.
I’ve identified 10 players worth consideration with 54 holes left — and no, you’re not supposed to play all of ‘em. These are just options.
(I’ll reiterate that for the inevitable Twitter replies from those who read the headline and didn’t bother to click the link. You’re. Not. Supposed. To. Play. All. Of. ‘Em.)
Let’s get to an admittedly wide-ranging group of these options entering the second round.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (4-under 68): +1200
If there’s a general rule of thumb to golf betting, it’s this: Check out my favorite outright from the previous week, then hammer him. I loved Fitz at the API, where he finished an admirable T-10, but I like him right now for the same reason — he gets going when the going gets tough. Granted, 12/1 is a little too short for a guy who’s yet to win as a professional on U.S. soil, but the talent is certainly there. If he drifts to the 20/1 range without moving much more than the three strokes from the lead he’s at now, I don’t mind pulling the trigger.
Jordan Spieth (2-under 70): +1400
Proceed at your own peril here. I think a lot of bettors will notice that Spieth turned a weakness into a strength on Thursday, leading the field in strokes gained off the tee, and deduce that if he can keep that up — with his iron play and putting — he’ll be a serious contender. That could be the case, but it’s more likely his driving regresses to the usual. I’m not chasing him — certainly not at this number. If you really want to throw some cash on a Spieth ticket right now, you might be better served making it a Masters futures play for next month.
Collin Morikawa (1-under 71): +1600
Second to only Fitzpatrick in strokes gained tee-to-green, Morikawa picked up 5.21 strokes with his ball-striking, but lost 2.41 on the greens. Ordinarily, that would be about par for the course for him, but just two weeks ago, we witnessed a brilliant putting display that helped him win the WGC-Workday. If this tourney does indeed become a contest of approach games, it’ll be tough for anyone else to beat him.
Justin Thomas (1-under 71): +1600
Much of what I wrote above for Morikawa can go for JT, as well, though his splits weren’t nearly as drastic in the opening round. I still think odds are a bit too long on him, just as they were prior to Thursday. Look at it this way: He was 20/1 in most books, posted an under-par score and you didn’t have to pay much to get a sense of how he’s playing, as he’s only dropped a few points.
Jason Kokrak (2-under 70): +4000
During one of the early-week practice rounds, my SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio co-host Michael Collins walked nine holes with Kokrak and was so impressed by what he saw that he picked him to win this week. Sometimes players will balk at such a prediction, but Kokrak loved it — and he loved what he saw from the course, calling it “so pure.” Through one round, he’s gained strokes in every major category and could be primed for a serious contention.
Sungjae Im (Even-par 72): +6600
One year ago, the Honda Classic featured both a tough setup and difficult weather conditions — and it was Im who came out on top for his first career victory. He’s been playing well lately, though not great, which is why he remains under the radar right now. Im also tends to play his best golf in the state of Florida, so don’t be surprised to jump on, as that seven-shot differential can disappear pretty quickly on this course.
Patrick Cantlay (2-over 74): +8000
Look, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it: My favorite pre-tournament outright this week was extremely mediocre in the first round. That’s especially worrisome since he leads the PGA TOUR in R1 scoring average this season, as his score jumps nearly two strokes higher for each of the final three rounds. But I’ll stick to my original assessment that Cantlay checks all the boxes this week: He owns a solid all-around game, he’s ready to win a bigger event and he’s in good form (or at least he was until Thursday). If you were willing to take a chance on him at 22/1 pre-tourney, then it might be worth another shot at 80/1 if you think he can bounce back.
Paul Casey (1-over 73): +8000
If Morikawa’s tee-to-green vs. putting splits (7.62 differential) looked divisive, then check out Casey, whose ball-striking was 7.74 strokes better than his putting. No doubt he was kicking himself after this one, which had a chance to be something special. He missed a five-footer on 11, a two-footer on 14 and an 18-incher on 9 (his last hole), while posting a quad at 17 with two water balls. There’s no room for coulda/shoulda/woulda on the scorecard, but if he made those three putts and just doubled 17, he’d be tied for third place right now.
Marc Leishman (1-under 71): +10000
In the opener, the big Aussie striped his irons better than anyone other than Garcia, gaining 3.39 strokes on approach shots. Just as importantly, if this course gets much firmer, Leishman is a noted low-ball hitter who likes using the ground to his advantage. A proven veteran, he’s a very intriguing option at 100/1 right now.
Chris Kirk (Even thru 15 holes): +15000
One of my favorite darkhorse selections entering this week, Kirk has been playing well ever since clinching his full-time status at the Sony Open two months ago. He’ll return to TPC Sawgrass on Friday morning hitting his third shot on the 16th hole from 114 yards out in the fairway, which means there’s a decent chance he could be under-par by the time you wake up. He’ll then play 17 and 18 in the most benign wind and softness that anyone has seen ‘em so far. There’s a chance he could get into the house with a 70, which makes the current price a nice bargain.