Golf betting tips: The PLAYERS final round
1pt e.w. Tommy Fleetwood at 28/1 (bet365 1/5 1,2)
1pt win Tommy Fleetwood ‘without Big 3’ at 8/1 (bet365)
1pt two-ball acca Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Aaron Rai and Scottie Scheffler at 17/2 (Coral, Ladbrokes)
Scottie Scheffler is in one of those golden phases of a golfing career when everything seems uncomplicated and easy. So on Moving Day, he does just that: moves.
Scheffler’s 7-under lap of Sawgrass on Saturday wasn’t the only low score out there in round three but from the position he shot it – second place – that 65 has rather spreadeagled the field. With 18 to play, he’s two clear of Min Woo Lee, four in front of third-placed Cam Davis and at least five in front of everyone else.
But if double Major winner Collin Morikawa can blow a six-shot 54-hole lead (see January’s Sentry Tournament of Champions), let’s not presume single Major winner Scheffler has the trophy in his hands just yet. His best price of 2/5 to get over the line suggests otherwise, however.
For one thing, he doesn’t have the pounding hooves of Jon Rahm coming up behind him as Morikawa did in Hawaii. If Lee or Davis won this, it would be way beyond their previous achievements.
Secondly, we could say that Morikawa had rather lost the winning habit after not managing a victory since the 2021 Open Championship. That can’t be levelled at Scheffler, who has won five times in the last 13 months, the latest only a few weeks ago.
Scheffler converted a three-shot lead to win the 2022 Masters and a two-shot advantage to complete his defence in Phoenix last month. He’s also made just three bogeys this week, the fewest in the field.
But if everything about his case looks watertight so far, let’s recall his closing 73 at September’s Tour Championship which flung him down from tied first to tied 13th. And how about a Sunday 72 at last year’s Colonial that saw him lose a play-off to Sam Burns after he’d set out in round four with a two-shot lead.
As for this event, wind back to 2019 when a brilliant third-round 64 from Rahm put the Spaniard in front before he went 12 shots higher the next day to finish 12th. Be warned Scottie because five of the last six 54-hole leaders at TPC Sawgrass have failed to convert.
But if Scheffler is beatable, who’s going to do the beating?
Sawgrass history suggests the list of candidates is, let’s say, small. Why? In the last 23 editions, only two players have turned over a final-round deficit greater than three shots: Henrik Stenson in 2009 and Fred Funk in 2005.
That leaves only Min Woo Lee (two back) at 6/1 and surely Scheffler v Lee is a mismatch. To take the 6/1, I’d want Lee far higher up the Strokes Gained: Approach stats as the three winners of this event since The PLAYERS moved back to a March slot were all ranked in the top six for that category. Lee is way down in 58th so far and was 54th for SG: Approach in round three so that part of his game hasn’t picked up.
Scheffler is 2nd for Approach, the only weakness in his game being a 54-hole ranking of 56th in Strokes Gained: Putting. Perhaps it can afford to be modest though given that Justin Thomas (2021) and Rory McIlroy (2019) were ranked 42nd and 45th respectively for SGP when winning here.
Cam Davis, four back in third, is the next cab waiting. He fired a 67 on day three but said later: “I felt like I got just about everything I could have out of that round.” Hmmm. And having never made a cut here in two previous visits: “This weekend’s the first for me, so I’m going to try and make it a really good first run around.” To me, those aren’t the quotes of a winner.
So, to find my Scottie slayer, I’ll drop to the 9-unders and take TOMMY FLEETWOOD, a man with both Sawgrass pedigree and strong Strokes Gained: Approach numbers. From five visits, the Englishman has a fifth, a seventh and another top 25 last year. On the stats, he’s 8th in SG: Approach for the week.
Fleetwood was 3-over after 6 holes on Thursday so he’s virtually been the tournament’s best player over the last 48. Looking ahead to the final round, he said: “A good top five won’t change my life. I’ll go out and set out like I do every week and try and win the tournament.”
Well, Tommy, a good top two or three is what we want from you now.
If Scheffler wobbles and Lee finds it tough, Fleetwood has a chance to add a first PGA Tour win to his six PGA Tour victories. The most recent came in November’s Nedbank Golf Challenge where he started – good omen alert – five shots behind the leader, just as Stenson and Funk were when lifting the iconic PLAYERS glass trophy. Yes, he can show final-round frailties but I’m happier to chance him from off the pace at a decent price than if he was say two in front.
So Iet’s back Fleetwood at 28/1 with bet365 in the outrights with each-way terms of 1/4, 1,2. And I’ll also take him at 8/1 in Betfred’s ‘without Big 3’ market. This is now effectively ‘without Scheffler’ as Rahm and Rory McIlroy missed the cut. Fleetwood has solo seconds in the US Open and Open Championship and that would be just fine here if he follows Scheffler home.
Finally, as Sunday at Sawgrass sorts out the ball-strikers, I’ll also have a small two-ball acca, pitting players with strong SG: Approach numbers vs those struggling in that department. So, with current SGA rankings in brackets, I’ll take JORDAN SPIETH (10th) to beat Denny McCarthy (68th), JUSTIN ROSE (16th) to beat Taylor Montgomery (63rd), AARON RAI (14th) to beat Chad Ramey (71st) and SCHEFFLER (2nd) to beat Lee (58th). It pays 17/2 at Coral/Ladbrokes.
Posted at 1005 GMT on 12/03/23