PGA Tour Picks: The Players Championship Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
Amazing comeback by reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando. When the Italian teed off Sunday, he was five shots out of the lead - and starting his round two hours before the last group. Molinari fired a 64, including a brilliant 44-foot birdie putt on No. 18, to finish at 12 under, two shots ahead of Matthew Fitzpatrick. It was the second year in a row that a European star shot a final-round 64 to come from behind and win Arnie's tournament - Rory McIlroy did it in 2018.
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Molinari, whose 64 was the best round of Sunday by two shots, now has three PGA Tour wins in his past 12 starts on that Tour (the British Open counts on both the PGA and European Tour). Molinari also joined Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Gary Woodland with the most final rounds (four) of 64 or better on the PGA Tour since the start of the 2016-17 season. Fitzpatrick, the 54-hole leader, shot a 71 on Sunday. McIlroy started the day one back of Fitzpatrick's lead and shot a 72.
I did get McIlroy for a Top 10. Also liked Jason Day for one but he withdrew during Round 1 with a back injury. Ian Poulter was my winning choice but he finished T23.
This week, the Tour stays in Florida and heads to Ponte Vedra Beach outside Jacksonville for the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. This is the PGA Tour's flagship event and often called the "fifth major," although no players think of it that way. It does now have the biggest purse on the PGA Tour and comes with added benefits for the winner, including a five-year extension.
The Players Championship was moved from May to March this year to accommodate the PGA Championship moving to May. The Tour wanted an "anchor" tournament each month from March through August (Players, Masters, PGA Championship, British Open and FedEx Cup/Tour Championship) before ending the season as football begins. The Tour Championship had been held in March before moving to May in 2007.
TPC Sawgrass' Stadium course has hosted since 1982 and is a par 72 measuring around 7,200 yards. It's of course known for that island par-3 17 th. Bovada usually has an "over/under" of total balls hit into the water there during the tournament. It was 54 last year. The record is 93 in 2007.
As I write this, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Day are all expected to play. Woods withdrew before the Arnold Palmer Invitational but is in Ponte Vedra Beach and it's looking good for him. Mickelson missed the cut at Bay Hill and frankly doesn't like Pete Dye-designed courses so he was making noise about skipping. Lefty reportedly will decide after Tuesday's practice round but it sounds as if he will play. Day reportedly is feeling much better and also likely to play. Too much money at stake here!
No player has ever repeated at the Players Championship, so I wouldn't recommend betting on Webb Simpson (+5000) to win. He finished at 18-under 270 last year, four ahead of three guys. Adam Scott and Hal Sutton are the only two winners to finish in the Top 10 in their chance to repeat.
If there is a playoff here (last in 2015), it's three-hole aggregate. That's a fairly new change from sudden death.
Golf Odds: Players Championship Favorites
Dustin Johnson and McIlroy have opened as +1200 Bovada favorites. Neither has won here. Johnson comes off a victory in Mexico, his second of the year (other on the European Tour). He hasn't really contended here, though. McIlroy has made five PGA Tour starts this year and finished no worse than sixth in any. He missed the cut at the 2018 Players but had Top 10s from 2013-15.
Justin Thomas is +1600 with world No. 1 Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler both at +2000 - Fowler won in a playoff in 2015. Rose doesn't have a good track record here, while Thomas had a third in 2016. Woods, a two-time winner, is +2200. Lefty, who won in 2007, is +6600. Day is +4000. He won in 2016.
Golf Odds: Players Championship Picks
Like McIlroy (+130), Sergio Garcia (+275) and Tommy Fleetwood (+265) for Top 10s - just a coincidence all are from overseas. Go Thomas (+1000) as top American, Sergio (+425) as top continental European and Fleetwood (+900) as top European overall.
Head-to-head, bet Thomas (-125) over Rose (-105), Matt Kuchar (-110) over Simpson (-120), Garcia (-115) over Patrick Cantlay (-115), Fowler (-120) over Brooks Koepka (-110), and McIlroy (-115) over Johnson (-115).
Fleetwood is my winner at +2800. The Englishman is off a T3 in Orlando and was T7 in his second Players Championship appearance last year.
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