I'm not sure what the most unlikely tournament win in PGA Tour history is, but I feel confident saying that James Hahn's victory last week at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte has to be on the list of among the most unlikely this decade.
Was good karma with this guy or what? First off, he entered the tournament having missed eight straight cuts this season. He didn't break 70 in any of those events as you would imagine. His scoring average was 73.4, and he was 30 over par.
With a one-shot lead Sunday at the Wells Fargo, Hahn three-putted the 72nd hole to drop into a playoff with another largely unknown player, Roberto Castro. The players returned to the 18th tee, where Castro blasted his drive left of the fairway and into a creek. He dropped the ball on the side of a hill and had a very tough shot with the ball above his feet. He hit it over the green and into the crowd, where it smacked a fan in the head and landed inside someone's shoe! Obviously he got a free drop out of there, but why wasn't said fan wearing the shoes? Castro bogeyed the hole, and Hahn two-putted for his second career win (2015 Northern Trust Open). It jumped him from 120th to 26th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Third-round leader Rickie Fowler struggled to a 74 on Sunday and finished tied for fourth with Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Andre Loupe. Justin Rose had the lead as late as the 13th hole on Sunday but finished one shot out of the playoff in third.
I know of Hahn but obviously I didn't pick him to win last week. My value pick was Mickelson at +2500. I did get him at +240 for a Top 10 at a course he always plays well at, and also got McIlroy at -200 for a Top 10. I hit on McIlroy (-140) over Fowler (+110), Fowler (-125) over Adam Scott (-105), Rose (-110) over Henrik Stenson (-120), Mickelson (-120) over J.B. Holmes (-110), Paul Casey (-115) over Bryson DeChambeau (-115), and Hideki Matsuyama (-115) over Patrick Reed (-115). So pretty solid.
This week the Tour heads back to Florida for the "fifth major," the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, a course I have had the pleasure of playing in Ponte Vedra Beach. Alas, Tiger Woods isn't making his 2016 debut here despite some rumors to the contrary. I'd expect to see him at the Memorial early next month. He has won the Tour's flagship event twice, most recently in 2013. But it's a spectacular field with 29 of the world's Top 30 players. A total of 102 of the 144 players in the field have won on the PGA Tour in their careers.
The big story line this week will be world No. 2 Jordan Spieth, who tees it up for the first time since his Masters meltdown. Danny Willett also makes his first PGA Tour start since winning at Augusta. The defending champion is Fowler. He erased a five-shot deficit over his final six holes by playing those in 6-under last year. He finished at 12 under overall and in a playoff against Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner, the first three-hole playoff in tournament history. It used to be sudden death but was changed in 2014. Garcia was eliminated after parring all three holes, but Fowler and Kisner were still tied so they headed back to the famous 17th hole. Fowler birdied the hole and Kisner parred, handing Fowler his biggest win. No golfer has ever repeated at this tournament.
Golf Odds: The Players Championship Favorites
At Bovada , McIlroy is the +800 favorite. He had that solid result in Charlotte, a fourth Top 10 this season in nine starts. McIlroy missed the cut in his first three Players visits but has been no worse than T8 the past three. That's what he was in 2015.
Spieth and Day are +1000 and +1100, respectively. I'm certainly intrigued to see if Spieth is out of his own head after taking a vacation following Augusta. It's only his third time playing here. He was T4 two years ago and missed the cut last year. I don't like Day at all this week. Great player but has missed the cut here three times in the past five visits.
Fowler (+1800) and Matsuyama (+2500) round out the favorites. Bad news for Rickie: the last reigning Players Championship winner to finish in the Top 10 the next year was Scott in 2005. Matsuyama was 11th in Charlotte and has been 17th and 23rd in two trips to Sawgrass.
PGA Tour Picks: The Players Championship Expert Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like McIlroy (even money), Sergio Garcia (+225) and Stenson (+275). If you want to be more conservative, the site is offering Top 20 odds as well. Head-to-head, lean McIlroy (-125) over Spieth (-105), Fowler (+110) over Day (-140), Rose over Scott (-110), Matsuyama (-110) over Dustin Johnson (-120), Garcia (-115) over Stenson (-115), Patrick Reed (-110) over Mickelson (-120), and Zach Johnson (-115) over Louis Oosthuizen.
I don't recommend betting on a guy who has yet to win a PGA Tour event to do so here as it has happened only twice: Craig Perks and Tim Clark. The top American prop is interesting because guys like Johnson (+1400), Bubba Watson (+2000) and Mickelson (+2000) have struggled here of late. Spieth is naturally the +550 favorite. I'd probably go Fowler at +900.
Go McIlroy at +160 for top player from Great Britain & Ireland. For top Australasian, take Scott at +275. I like Stenson at -190 for top Swede. I'm going with Sergio at +700 as my top European and he's also my winner choice at +3000. He is the all-time earnings leader here, winning in 2008 and nearly so last year and in 2013.
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