Sobel’s St. Jude Round 3 Preview and Matchup Picks: Koepka Can Catch Todd
Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Brendon Todd
In my second-round preview for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, I wrote about Brooks Koepka moving from +3500 pre-tournament to +225 after an opening 8-under 62.
There was no value in that number, obviously, but there might – might – be now.
The defending champion posted a 1-over 71 on Friday, the only player inside the current top-20 who failed to shoot even-par or better in the second round, the result of losing nearly five strokes to the field on the greens.
Now in a share of third place, four shots behind leader Brendon Todd, Koepka has moved back to +550 with 36 holes remaining.
If you loved him after the opening round, but couldn’t pull the trigger at that price, maybe you’ll be enticed now that he owns some longer odds.
Need further enticement? Try this: In last year’s edition of this event, Koepka was exactly four strokes off the lead entering the weekend, then closed with rounds of 64-65 to claim the title.
It’s not a play I would – or will – make right now, personally. I still think the four-time major champion can’t go from 0 to 60 (or, ahem, 62) this quickly. I don’t expect a repeat of last year.
But if you were kicking yourself Thursday evening for not betting him outright earlier, well, now you have a chance to get in at a somewhat more palatable price.
Round 3 Matchups
Justin Thomas (-152) over Webb Simpson
Just as has been the case for the past few months, JT is once again coming close, but lacking in one specific area.
On Friday, it was his putter which let him down, as he gained 3.37 strokes tee-to-green, but lost 3.35 strokes on the greens, resulting in an even-par 70.
My pre-tourney pick to win, I still think Thomas can make a run at this thing, but it’s gotta start with a low one on Saturday in this matchup against Simpson.
Ryan Palmer (+135) over Tony Finau
I’m still in the early stages of handicapping next week’s PGA Championship, but I expect that each of these players will figure somewhere in my plan.
For this week, though, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Finau was still running on fumes after another title contention last week. At plus-money and swinging it well, I’ll take my chances on Palmer in this one.
Keegan Bradley (+120) over Matt Kuchar
Over the years, Kuchar has rightfully earned a reputation as a solid, steady performer who rarely plays spectacular golf, but almost always plays well. Recent results, though, show us that isn’t quite the case right now, with finishes of MC-41-39-32 since the restart.
On Friday, he lost nearly four strokes against the field from tee-to-green, which makes him an easy fade against Bradley, whose reliable ball-striking should keep him in most head-to-head matchups.