Adam Hadwin can build on a solid start to The PLAYERS according to Ben Coley, who takes a look through the pick of today’s three-balls.
Golf betting tips: The PLAYERS round two
1pt double Griffin and Thomas at 11/2 (BoyleSports)
1pt double Henley and Hadwin at 9/2 (General)
0.5pt Griffin, Thomas, Henley, Hadwin at 35/1 (BoyleSports)
Collin Morikawa is favourite for The PLAYERS Championship after a brilliant first-round 65 which will have frustrated anyone who backed him for the first-round lead.
New dad Chad Ramey managed to defy a lengthy spell of poor form to go one shot lower than Morikawa, but it’s the latter who is the man to beat from Scottie Scheffler, who patiently went about shooting an opening 68 and surely won’t be far away come Sunday.
Preference among the two would be for Scheffler, but today’s forecast suggests the breeze will kick up and adds uncertainty. Right now it’s best described as blustery, and while hard to know who will get the best and worst of it, it seems unlikely that things are the same for every member of the field.
The second-round leader market might be the last remaining hope of a big-priced winner for the week, but I’d rather accept defeat in that respect and focus instead on the three-balls.
Griffin to beat Lower and Schwab (1212 GMT)
BEN GRIFFIN won this three-ball by seven shots in round one as he carded one of the standout rounds among the late starters, and it’s pretty surprising that BoyleSports dangle 6/4 about a repeat.
That was the very best price you’d have got for round one, and other firms have cut to around the 11/10 mark, a price which itself would be worth taking. Griffin’s form this year stands head and shoulders above that of both Justin Lower and Matthias Schwab and he probably deserves to be no bigger than evens.
Lower had threatened to produce the best score yesterday but came home in 41, which will be hard to bounce back from especially as he begins on that same today. Yes, Griffin did have a fantastic time with the putter, but that’s among his strengths and I return to the margin of victory, a whopping seven strokes. He could’ve shot the best score putting badly.
Thomas to beat Spieth and Homa (1256)
It was a frustrating first round for JUSTIN THOMAS, who inexplicably ran up a six from the middle of the fourth fairway, less than a hundred yards to go, having been two-under through three at the time.
Three-putt bogeys from no distance at all at two of the par-threes and a six from close to the par-five ninth green in two made it a clumsy day which in some way epitomises how the first few tournaments of the year have gone for the two-time major champion.
That shouldn’t alter the fact that Sawgrass is a fabulous course for him, and with his short-game to blame for most of what went wrong on Thursday, I expect him to produce something much better and to make the cut. He won from seven back through 36 holes and will know he’s not quite out of this yet providing he finds something in the mid-sixties today.
Prices of 7/4 look generous in an admittedly high-class group which Jordan Spieth bossed on day one, thanks largely to a putter that had cost him the title at Bay Hill just days earlier. Max Homa completes the trio and is respected, but the bottom line is that Thomas should remain clear favourite at this golf course.
Woodland to beat Lee and Laird (1256)
Gary Woodland has been hitting the ball really well again lately and that was enough for a level-par 72 to kick off his tournament, despite a shocking day with the putter.
There’s of course a pretty high risk of that happening again, but it didn’t stop him outscoring an out-of-sorts Martin Laird by four, and Kyoung-hoon Lee by one. Woodland is understandably into 7/5 generally with 13/8 available in a place but with consistency having been lacking for some time and a generally poor record here, I can just about overlook him.
Svensson to beat Dahmen and Streb (1756)
Adam Svensson was among Thursday’s selections and comfortably accounted for both playing partners, confirming the suspicion that Sawgrass would play to his strengths.
Joel Dahmen had a good day with his short-game, which is quite rare, yet so poor was his long-game that he still struggled, while Robert Streb’s miserable course record was made worse by a birdie-less round of 78.
My only slight nagging doubt is that Svensson has produced one too many a poor second round following a good start. Last season he ended round one in the top 10 six times and on five of them failed to advance his position, missing the cut with 66-79 in the Wells Fargo and shooting 66-73 at the Heritage, too.
He’s become a winner since and did everything well on Thursday so there’s every chance he kicks on this time, but given Dahmen’s strong course record and a slightly shorter price than yesterday, I’ll reluctantly leave him out.
Henley to beat Harman and Hughes (1818)
On the face of it, Brian Harman showed a little life after a miserable run as he added another decent score to his Sawgrass collection by shooting 73 on Thursday.
However, his misfiring long-game in fact remained, ranking 141st in strokes-gained approach and saved by the fact he was sharp on and around the greens. He did well to recover from three-over through eight but was a tad fortunate not to find water on 18 and remains unconvincing.
With Mackenzie Hughes having shot 75, I see no reason why RUSSELL HENLEY won’t win this again. He drove the ball well and generally looked to improve as the round went on, until that is he too flirted with disaster on 18. Henley bogeyed that hole but still edged this and can do the same.
Hadwin to beat Rodgers and Sigg (1840)
ADAM HADWIN has a strong Sawgrass record, making the cut in five of his seven appearances and staying on really well from the wrong side of the draw to finish ninth last year.
He’s contended in good company already in 2023 and after a couple of quiet weeks on courses that suit far less, it was good to see all parts of his game combine for a one-under 71.
That was three shots too good for Greyson Sigg and a couple better than Patrick Rodgers, despite the fact that the latter ranked 10th in putting. Rodgers’ long-game caused all sorts of issues, ranking 125th in SG: tee-to-green, and he’ll need to find a fix if he’s to make the weekend.
Hadwin should have few troubles doing so and 5/4 across the board makes him the best bet on Friday evening.
Baddeley to beat Lingmerth and Martin (1851)
Aaron Baddeley has been playing well all year and could offer a touch of value in this group.
His putter, once the best club in his bag, was ice cold in round one but there’s definitely scope for improvement as a result. If Baddeley can keep it in play off the tee, he could do plenty of damage.
The concern I have is that David Lingmerth is a former Sawgrass runner-up who loves it here and hit it pretty well yesterday. I’d be more worried about him than Ben Martin despite the latter’s good course record, and respect for Lingmerth is enough to necessitate leaving Baddeley out of the staking plan.
Posted at 0900 GMT on 10/03/23
More golf content
We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.
If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.