PGA Tour Picks: The Players Championship Odds and Expert Betting Predictions
Good to see noted good-guy Jason Day back as a weekly contender on the PGA Tour after he went through a rough patch for a while with his mother being diagnosed with cancer and his own self-described burned out feeling with the game of golf in generally.
Day credited an inspirational text message from buddy Tiger Woods on Saturday night and shot a final-round 69 at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte to outlast Nick Watney and Aaron Wise by two shots for his second victory this season. Day was rather up-and-down on Sunday, which he began with a two-stroke lead and was up as many as three. Following a bogey-bogey stretch at Nos. 13 and 14, he dropped into a tie for the lead with Wise (the 2016 NCAA champion from Oregon). But Day birdied 16th hole and nearly aced the 17th, finishing with a birdie to win at 12 under. Day led the field overall in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and was second in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Day, who won the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year after a winless 2017, started the week ranked 14th in the world but is now up to seventh in the latest rankings (and No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings). It's his first return to the Top 10 since a T2 at Pebble Beach in February and Day's highest ranking since September when a fourth-place showing at the BMW Championship moved him to sixth. Day has made no secret he wants to be No. 1 in the world again.
Tiger shot a final-round 74 in Charlotte after failing to make a birdie. It was just his 11th birdie-less round on the PGA Tour as a professional. He finished T55 at 2-over 286 and blamed his putting. My pick to win was Rory McIlroy, but he finished T16 thanks to a second-round 76.
Now we move on to the "fifth major," the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course (par 72 at 7,189 yards) outside Jacksonville. Of course, even non-golf fans know all about the island green 17th hole, which players actually think is hokey. A whopping 69 balls found water last year at 17, the second-highest total since the Tour began keeping count 15 years ago.
There are a few story lines this week. For one, it's the last time the Players will be held in May; as part of some schedule changes it will shift to March next year and for the foreseeable future to open up space for the PGA Championship moving to May. The Players originally moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1977 and was played in March through 2006.
In addition, Dustin Johnson has been the world No. 1 since February 2017 but is in jeopardy of losing that spot this week. In fact, he will need at least a T11 to have a chance. Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose all can unseat him. Finally, it's the first time every player in the world's Top 50 will play in a tournament since the 2016 U.S. Open.
Tiger isn't in the Top 50 but is playing TPC Sawgrass for the first time since 2015. He is one of six players to win here multiple times (2001, 2013). Only Jack Nicklaus has done so three times. The defending champion is Si Woo Kim. At age 21, the South Korean became the event's youngest-ever winner. Kim was the only player to go bogey-free on Sunday and shot a 3-under 69 for a three-shot victory. No player in tournament history has repeated. The past six Players winners are entered and 11 of the previous 14.
Golf Odds: The Players Championship Favorites
There's a four-way tie at Bovada as the opening favorite between McIlroy, Day, Thomas and Spieth all at +1400. Interesting because Day is the only one to win here, doing so in 2016. He was 60th last year and missed the cut in 2015.
McIlroy is a combined 29-under here the past five years, best in the field. He was no worse than eighth from 2013-15 but 12th in 2016 and 35 th last year. This course apparently doesn't suit Spieth. He was fourth in 2014 and has missed the cut each year since. Thomas was third in 2016.
Johnson is +1600; he hasn't won here, either, with a best finish of 12 th last year. Woods is +3500 and Kim is +10000 to make history by winning again.
Golf Odds: The Players Championship Picks
For a Top 10, go with McIlroy (+150), Fowler (+165) and Francesco Molinari (+400). Go Tommy Fleetwood (+500) as top Englishman but McIlroy (+400) as top European. Molinari (+500) as top continental European. Like Rickie Fowler (+1200) as top American. You can bet balls in the water on 17: take 44 & over as the +140 favorite.
Head-to-head, like Fleetwood (-115) over Tiger (-115), Paul Casey (-120) over Phil Mickelson (-110), Henrik Stenson (-140) over Hideki Matsuyama (+110), McIlroy (-115) over Day (-115), and Spieth (-130) over Johnson (even).
Molinari is tempting at +6600 to win, and I may throw a few dollars there as he has been no worse than eighth in his past three trips here. But I'm taking the prop of Fowler, Rahm & Patrick Reed at +700 vs. the field (-1400). That's largely for Fowler but both other guys can easily win.
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