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The Punter's In-Play Blog: Warring Woods and Sergio poised to fight out The Players Championship

Sergio and Tiger, far from at chummy at Sawgrass

“Tiger and Sergio are far from best mates, barely tolerating each-other, and it seems Tiger upset Sergio during yesterday’s play. Both men will be hoping they’re not paired together again in round four but whether they are or not, can either man win?”

They've not quite finished round three of The Player's Championship, where an unheralded Swede leads the way. Steve takes a look at the state of play on a tight looking leaderboard where value is hard to find...

11.40 - May 12, 2011
At The Players Championship, after a suspension in play due to bad weather midway through the third round, and a suspension late in the day due to darkness, the final four pairings will restart soon, at 12.10pm UK time this afternoon.

The fourth round is due to begin at 13.35pm and the leaders, whoever they may be, are expected to kick-off their final round at 19.38pm UK time.

As things stand, we have a surprise leader in the shape of 1000.0n/a shot, David Lingmerth, but the Swede still has to play the notoriously tough 18th on return and a par there would be a great effort considering his lofty position.

Lingmerth, on -12, is currently two clear of fellow Swede Henrik Stenson and bessy mates, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia, with a group of three - Jeff Maggert, Casey Wittenberg and Ryan Palmer, on -9. Hunter Mahan and David Lynn have both completed their third rounds and are on -8.

I jest of course, re Tiger and Sergio - they're far from best mates, barely tolerating each-other and it seems Tiger upset Sergio during yesterday's play. Both men will be hoping they're not paired together again in round four but whether they are or not, can either man win?

Tiger's the current favourite, at just 2.47/5 but he'll have to play much better than he did yesterday and the same goes for Garcia - who's currently 6.611/2 to back. Stenson trades at 8.27/1 and Lingmerth 10.09/1 but the value may lay a bit further down the list...

Third round leaders have a poor record at Sawgrass; with the last six all getting beat so that really doesn't bode well for Lingmerth, assuming he does lead after 54 holes. At this stage, I fancy Woods to win but he's short enough and I'm happy to largely watch and wait. I was mildly tempted by Palmer and Mahan but they don't quite look big enough at less than 30.029/1 and I've just had a very small wager on Wigan fan, David Lynn...

The funniest golfer on Twitter (just read his last tweet!) and big Latics fan, Lynn, lost a playoff last week at the Wells Fargo, so he's playing the golf of his life at present and I wouldn't put it past him to get involved again today.

He could and should be inspired by his team's fantastic win yesterday and at 60.059/1, he looks a big price. A lot depends on how round three wraps up of course, but I wouldn't have thought Lynn needs to do an awful lot to trade considerably shorter in-running.

I'll be back later if I get any further involved but for now, a small speculative bet on Lynn is as far as I'm prepared to go in what looks a very tricky event to call.


10.40 - May 11, 2011
Bets aside, I think we were all hoping for a weekend duel between Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at The Players Championship but that looks highly unlikely to materialise now.

Playing in the far easier morning conditions, Woods fired a second successive 67 to reach -10 but the Irishman struggled in the afternoon. He bogeyed three holes in-a-row from the 7th before recovering to shoot level par but still on -6 and five off the lead, held by Sergio Garcia, he has his work cut out now.

History suggests it's tough to make up ground at TPC Sawgrass, and with Sergio and Tiger showing the way, it's going to be even tougher this year. Recent winners Henrik Stenson and K.J Choi were four back at this stage and Tim Clark, the 2010 champ, was fully seven back, but over the last 14 years, Tiger Woods (in 2001) is the only other winner to come from any further than three strokes adrift at halfway.

I swerved Woods yesterday but he looks a worthy favourite this morning and a fair price. His playing partner Sergio is enjoying a fantastic renaissance with the putter but it's hard to envisage him getting the better of Woods, given their recent history. On the last five occasions they've played together in the final group over the weekend on the PGA Tour, Tiger has gone on to win the event - ominous for the rest of the field maybe.

Although he looks a better value price at 2.942/1 this morning, than he did yesterday at 4.216/5, I'm not going to go crashing in. If I was going to be around to keep an eye on proceedings then I'd probably look at getting him onside now, with a view to keeping close tabs on his progress and my position but I'm off to the Cup Final soon and I won't get to see any play tonight so I'm leaving it alone.

With Lee Westwood and Henrik Stenson both two back of Garcia and one behind Woods, and with the likes of Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and even Zach Johnson all still lurking, it may prove the right thing to do anyway. We'll see.

I've had a poor week so far and Zach's finish yesterday just about summed it up. Playing the back-nine first, he was within two of the lead with five to play but finished poorly with bogeys at both the 5th and 7th holes. Others on the team are faring well though...

Mike Norman's just about sewn up the Top-European Market, and he and Paul Krishnamurty are doing well with their each way picks so far, with Stenson and Westwood bang in-contention.

Paul's taken a comprehensive look at today's two-balls here and although I can't disagree with his advice to back Stenson to beat Ryan Palmer today, I'll be pulling for the American. Given the awful news he received on Thursday night about the death of a lifelong friend, he did remarkably well on the course yesterday. It's hard to say what affect it will have on his game over the weekend but if he were to hold it together for two more days and win the event, you can expect a very, very emotional speech tomorrow night.

I'll be back tomorrow, with a look forward to the final round.

11.20 - May 10, 2013
Possibly inspired by the unheralded Derek Ernst's win last week, Roberto Castro, ranked 267 in the world, tied the course record at Sawgrss yesterday with a sensational nine under-par 63, opening up a very early three stroke lead, over Zach Johnson and Rory McIlroy.

It's probably safe to assume that Castro won't be on the premises all week long but hopefully he'll start to get some recognition now. He tweeted this before last month's RBC Heritage at Hilton Head.

Off to a strong start this week. "Can I get a yardage book please?" "Ya, sure. Who are you caddying for?" #playBetter

The front three all played in the slightly less tricky morning conditions (averaged 0.74 strokes easier) but it wasn't long before the afternoon guys got into gear too and one man in particular, Tiger Woods, looked most impressive, as he constructed an excellent opening 67 - breaking 70 in round one for the first time at Sawgrass.

As detailed in the preview, Woods' Sawgrass record is far from spectacular but he was on-song yesterday and it's no surprise to see him a firm 4.216/5 favourite this morning, although I'm far more tempted by Rory at 7.06/1.

The Irishman's stats were superb last week but given he'd missed three cuts and never broken par at Sawgrass previously, it didn't make sense to risk him before the off and the world's top two, as strange as it sounds, have come into the event and gotten themselves in to contention, somewhat under the radar.

If you discount Castro, it's an extremely congested leaderboard, oozing with class. Major winners, Zach Johnson and Webb Simpson and top-drawer players, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, also hold an early position in the top-nine on the leaderboard and in the large group lurking on -4, are former winners, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, so it's far too soon to start billing this The Tiger & Rory Show.

Johnson's been a pick in this a few times for me over the years and had he been trading at the 110.0109/1 he went off at yesterday, earlier in the week, he'd have been included in my preview as a pre-event pick. I like him now at the prices and I also backed Webb last night at 27.026/1.

Simpson claimed after the round that he loves Pete Dye courses and that he grew up on one - Wilmington. He came very close to winning at another Pete Dye course - Hilton Head, just two starts ago, when he lost a playoff to Graeme McDowell and he looks a fair price to me this morning still.

If Woods shoots out of the boxes and goes clear today then so be it but I'm not going to back him. I can't get his low success-rate at the track (only one win in 15 outings) out of my mind and I'm going to swerve him.

The plan today is to track it closely and look to add Rory at the right time (if at all). If Woods stutters in the morning, then the 7.06/1 he trades at currently looks huge but he could find himself a long way back by the time he tees off and with the wind forecast to blow slightly harder then, it makes sense to hang fire now but he has a good record from this position...

He's opened up with a 66 or better nine times on the PGA tour so far and he's won four times. And the last twice he's played a Pete Dye design (Kiawah Island -PGA Championship and Crooked Stick - Deutsche Bank Championship) he's won. Maybe we shouldn't be at all surprised by yesterday's round after all.

Pre-Event Picks
Luke Donald @ 24.023/1
Phil Mickelson @ 30.029/1
Ben Crane @ 140.0139/1
First round Leader Bet (paced after the preview)
Ben Crane @ 110.0109/1 (LOST)

In-Play Bets
Zach Johnson @ 26.025/1
Webb Simpson @ 27.026/1
David Lynn @ 60.059/1

I'll be in the morning with a look at the state of play at halfway.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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12 May 2013

The Punter

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