The Punter's Players Championship In-Play Blog: Scheffler two clear at Sawgrass

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler in action in round three

There's just one round to go at the Players Championship and world number two, Scottie Scheffler, has assumed command but is he a good bet at long odds-on?

  • Scheffler long odds-on with a round to go
  • Stats are woeful for 54-hole leaders
  • Fleetwood and Im the value alternatives

11:25 - March 12, 2022

Having averaged 72.76 in round one and 73.8 in round two, Sawgrass was set up about as generously as I can remember for the third round of the Players Championship yesterday.

Tom Hoge shot a course record 10-under-par 62 to move up 57 places into a tie for eighth and the scoring average was just 69.57!

The halfway leader, Adam Svensson, shot a very disappointing three-over-par 75 to tumble to tied 14th and Collin Morikawa slipped out of contention too with a lacklustre level par 72 but Scottie Scheffler started fast and finished nicely to take up the running as Min Woo Lee, who'd led for much of the back-nine, slipped up at the end.

Lee looked like leading going into today's fourth and final round but he played the last six holes in one-over-par (bogeyed the last), having been matched at a low of 3.02/1. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:15.

Scottie Scheffler -14 1.4640/85
Min Woo Lee -12 8.07/1
Cam Davis -10 30.029/1
Tommy Fleetwood -9 29.028/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -9 50.049/1
Aaron Rai -9 65.064/1
Chad Ramey -9 130.0129/1
Sungjae Im -8 70.069/1
Tom Hoge -8 85.084/1
David Lingmerth -8 250.0249/1
-7 and 150.0149/1 bar

It's very hard to envisage anything but a win for Scheffler now but 54-hole leaders have a deplorable record at Sawgrass.

Since Steve Elkington won the second of his two titles in 1997 by seven strokes after a 69 on Sunday, as many as 29 players have led or co-led through 54 holes and only two of them (Stephen Ames in 2006 and the unfortunate Anirban Lahiri last year) has shot a round in the 60s on Sunday.

Ames fired a 67 to win by six having led by one 17 years ago and Lahiri became only the third leader or co-leader to break 70 in the last 25 years. And he was the first to do so and not win since D.A Weibring in 1985 but the 18 third round leaders/co/leaders in-between Ames and Lahiri were a combined 51-over-par, with a scoring average of 75!

I'm obviously happy to have gotten Scheffler onside yesterday at 3.45 but I wouldn't be diving in at long odds-on today.

Min Woo Lee is bidding to become the first debutant to win since Craig Perks in 2002 and Cam Davies looks opposable given he missed his first two cuts here and that he's failed to make the weekend in each of his last five starts.

Tommy Fleetwood, who's tied for fourth and five back, is far better suited to coming from off the pace, and the classy Sungjae Im, who trails by six in tied eighth, look reasonable alternatives at 29.028/1 and 70.069/1 respectively should the leader stumble but Scheffler defying the stats and going back to the top of the world rankings with the win is far and away the most likely outcome.

15:30 - March 11, 2022

We've reached the halfway stage of the Players Championship and Adam Svensson leads by two over the world number two, Scottie Scheffler. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 15:20.

Adam Svensson -9 8.615/2
Scottie Scheffler -7 3.1511/5
Collin Morikawa -6 7.06/1
Min Woo Lee -6 23.022/1
Ben Griffin -6 36.035/1
Cam Davis -5 60.059/1
Chad Ramey -5 150.0149/1
Viktor Hovland -4 17.5
Jason Day -4 18.5
-4 and 36.035/1 bar

The last six results at Sawgrass sum up perfectly what a tough task we have trying to work out who's going to walk away with the trophy late on Sunday.

Jason Day converted a four-stroke 36-hole lead in 2016, Webb Simpson won by four, having led by five at halfway in 2018, and Rory McIlroy, who's missed the cut again this week for the sixth time at Sawgrass, was tied at the top at halfway when he won the title in 2019 but three of the last five winners have been outside the top-ten at this stage.

Up with the pace has been the place to be through two rounds most years and Cam Smith was only three back in 11th and an 18.017/1 chance 12 months ago but Si Woo Kim sat tied for 16th and six adrift in 2017 and Justin Thomas sat tied for 22nd and seven back two years ago, so an off the pace winner certainly can't be ruled out.

Adam Svensson leads for the first time on the PGA Tour and it's very difficult to see him emulating Rory, Day and Simpson.

Adam Svensson at the Players.jpg

This is his first visit to Sawgrass and in 41 previous renewals here, only two debutants have won - Hal Sutton in 1983 and huge outsider, Craig Perks in 2002 - and on the two occasions he led at halfway on the Korn Ferry Tour he finished 13th and 28th!

Svensson won the RSM Classic earlier in the season from off the pace to get off the mark on the PGA Tour, but this is a very different kettle of fish.

It's impossible not to have been impressed by the way world number two, Scottie Scheffler, has gone about his business over the first three days so far and he's clearly the man to beat now.

Scottie Scheffler at Sawgrass.jpg

Collin Morikawa is lurking menacingly but his game doesn't look anywhere near as smooth as Scheffler's and odds of anything over 2/1 look fair.

I took 3.45 as he finished up on the 18th green in round two an hour or so ago and I'm happy to side with him and see what the weekend brings.

It won't be easy given Scheffler has the added pressure of returning to the top of the world rankings if he wins but he's far and away the most likely victor now.

They may have only just reached the halfway stage at the Players Championship but there's only one round to go at the Kenya Open over on the DP World Tour, where pre-event 44.043/1 pick, Jorge Campillo, has hit the front thanks to an excellent eight-under-par 63 today.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 15:25.

Jorge Campillo -13 3.3512/5
Robert McIntyre -12 3.8514/5
Jayden Schaper -11 8.07/1
Kawamura Masahiro -11 10.09/1
Santiago Tario -10 24.023/1
-9 and 38.037/1 bar

I'm obviously delighted to see Campillo make his big move, but the record books suggest that in front isn't the place to be.

Ewen Ferguson gave up a four-stroke 54-hole lead 12 months ago and only five of the 18 players to lead or co-lead after three rounds here since 1996 have been victorious.

Campillo has a fair record when leading through 54-holes though. He shot 68 in round four at both the Acaya Open in 2011 on the Challenge Tour and at the Maybank Championship on the DP World Tour in 2018 but it wasn't enough on either occasion. He finished second at both events, but he won the Qatar Masters in 2020 having been tied for the lead with a round to, despite only shooting 72 on Sunday.

Robert McIntyre, who was matched at a high of 170.0169/1 when he sat tied for 73rd after the opening round, is a huge danger after back-to-back 65s and one of the two really should take the title given their experience. Both men are looking to win for a third time on the DP World Tour.

The well-backed Jayden Schaper and Japan's Masahiro Kawamura can't be ruled out but it's hard to see beyond the front two and I'm happy to sit on my hands now and see what tomorrow brings.

10:55 - March 11, 2022

Stormy weather halted play at Sawgrass yesterday afternoon before any of the afternoon starters could finish their second rounds at the Players Championship, so 71 players will return to the track early today to complete their second rounds, but play didn't stop in time for the first-round leader, Chad Ramey, who had a nightmare at the notorious par three 17th.

I'll be back at the halfway stage with a look at all the state of play but I'm happy to place a couple of very small in-running plays this morning.

Scottie Scheffler, who trails the current leaders, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Adam Svensson, is the strong 3.8514/5 favourite, with Collin Morikawa, who trails by two on -6, the 7.06/1 second favourite.

Morikawa has just played the par five 11th so he has seven to play and Scheffler will return to the course with a chance to get to within one of the lead. On -5, he has an eagle chance from 16 feet on 11.

Bezuidenhout and Svensson are both on -8 but the South African has only four to play, whereas Svensson has seven left of round two and that is more likely to be a hinderance than a help.

The forecast suggests it won't be easy first thing this morning and the closer to the clubhouse the better.

Ben Griffin looks slightly over-priced at 38.037/1, given he's already in the house, so I've had a tiny bet on him and I've also risked a couple of pounds on Tyrrell Hatton at 65.064/1.

Hatton still has six to play and he trails by six but he's a mercurial talent that could go either way this morning. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him three putt the par three 13th from 35th feet, play poorly and drop away but equally, I wouldn't be shocked to see him play the remaining holes in a couple under-par to get in-the-mix.

19:05 - March 10, 2022

We're just over halfway through the second round of the Players Championship and Sawgrass is biting back.

Having averaged just a smidgen over its par of 72 at 72.18 in round one, it's likely to average a couple of strokes over-par at least today and Will Gordon's five-under-par 67 this morning is far and away the best knock so far.

The world number one, Jon Rahm, has withdrawn with a stomach bug so Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler are currently playing in a two-ball and that's never easy. They've played three holes in just over an hour!

Scheffler is a huge danger but he's just missed a short birdie putt on the par five second and I wonder whether pace of play might be an issue?

Collin Morikawa has already been matched at a low of just 3.412/5, after a birdie at his opening hole in round two but he followed that with a bogey at the par five second and he's just missed a good chance at three.

It's a grind and I'll look again in the morning, although it doesn't look like we'll have reached the halfway stage.

Over at the Kenya Open, pre-event 310.0309/1 chance, Nacho Elvira, finished his second round with two birdies and an eagle to hit the front late on and he shows the way at halfway.

Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 19:00.

Nacho Elvira -10 11.010/1
Jayden Schaper -9 7.06/1
Ryo Hisatsune -9 8.88/1
Nick Bachem -9 19.018/1
Masahiro Kawamura -8 15.014/1
John Catlin -8 20.019/1
Borja Virto -8 40.039/1
-7 and 20.019/1 bar

South Africa's Jayden Schaper, who burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old amateur when he finished sixth at the South African Open in 2020, heads the market but he's not for me.

He's clearly a player with a future but he's yet to win anywhere and he looks short enough at 6/1.

Ryo Hisatsune is the only other player trading at a single-figure price and he has at least won a couple of times on the Japan Tour but he's led twice at this stage recently and he's disappointed on both occasions.

The Japanese fell from first to 28th at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour at the start of February and a week after he fell from first to seventh at the International Series Oman on the Asian Tour.

As highlighted in the preview, half of the 12 course winners since 1996 at this venue were in front at halfway and I was more than happy to chance the frontrunner at 12.011/1.

Although he's missed his last four cuts, I'm kicking myself a bit that I didn't back Elvira from the off as he was someone I did consider carefully.

Form at Crans, home of the European Masters in Switzerland, stands up really well at Muthaiga and Elvira has a great record there considering how rarely he contends anywhere.

He finished only 59th on his first visit and he missed the cut on his second visit but since then he's got course form figures reading 20-4-MC-13-9.

Pre-event 80.079/1 fancy, Calum Hill, is certainly not out of it. He's one of six players tied for eighth and just three behind Elvira and one of the reasons he was a selection was his victory at Galgorm Castle back in 2018.

Ewen Ferguson, who led by four through 54 holes last year has also won at Galgorm Castle and so too has John Catlin, who hit a low of 3.953/1 today before a poor finish to his second round.

That's clearly another course that correlates well as alongside Catlin in a tie for fifth is Spanish outsider, Borja Virto, who finished second to Ferguson at Galgorm last August. I've thrown a few pounds on him at 42.041/1 too and I'll be back tomorrow with another look after three rounds.

11:35 - March 10, 2022

Play was suspended at the Players Championship at 18:28 yesterday due to darkness with seven three-balls yet to complete their opening rounds.

Justin Suh will resume play on the 16th green shortly with an eagle putt inside 30 feet to get to within one of the early leader, Chad Ramey, but none of the others are within six of the early pacesetter, who posted an eight-under par 64 yesterday morning to edge ahead of Collin Morikawa on -7.

Morikawa is the current favourite at 4.77/2 with Scottie Scheffler, who shot a four-under-par 68 yesterday morning to sit tied for sixth and four off the lead, the only other player trading at a single figure price.

Morikawa at the Players in 2023.jpg

The world number two came to life on the back-nine after nine straight pars and he trades at 7.413/2.

In the clubhouse and alongside Suh on -5 in a tie for third are two men that led the last two editions of the Bermuda Championship with a round to go - Taylor Pendrith and Ben Griffin.

Pendrith failed to convert from three clear in 2021 (finished fifth) and Griffin finished third back in October having been tied for the lead after three rounds with the eventual winner, Seamus Power.

It's hard to believe that either man can kick on and take a title of this magnitude and I'm happy to swerve Morikawa and Scheffler at the prices too.

The current leader, Ramey, has won on the PGA Tour. He'll be defending the Corales Puntacana Championship title at the end of the month but the one I like at the prices this morning is the man who'll be bidding for a hattrick of wins at the Valspar Championship next week - Sam Burns.

As highlighted in the preview, the last seven winners were all drawn AM-PM and this year's day one morning starters have averaged around a stroke better than the late starters so once again, an early start on day one has proven beneficial.

Burns, who managed to get in the house just before darkness descended, having been drawn PM-AM, is looking to break that trend, but I thought he was over-priced at 36.035/1 given he sits alongside Scheffler on -4. He'll be out nice and early in round two and he's no bigger than 22/1 on the High Street.

16:30 - March 9, 2022

The first round of the Kenya Open is all done and dusted, and South Africa's Dylan Mostert is tied for the lead with America's John Catlin after the pair fired seven-under-par 64s around Muthaiga Golf Club.

I'll take a look at that event in more detail at the halfway stage tomorrow, but we've already witnessed plenty of action at the week's big event on the PGA tour - the Players Championship - where the pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy, is in danger of missing the cut for a sixth time!

Playing the back-nine first, alongside the world number one. Jon Rahm, and the world number two, Scottie Scheffler, the pre-tournament 11.521/2 chance and world number three, Rory, has already been matched at a high of 100.099/1.

At the time of writing, McIlroy sits tied for 67th and on four-over-par and those that backed him to make the cut at odds ranging from 1.222/9 and 1.374/11 will be running out of finger nails already.

After tapping in for eagle at the par five second (his 11th hole of the day), pre-event 28.027/1 chance, Collin Morikawa, has birdied the fourth to tie the lead with Min Woo Lee and he's already been matched at a low of 5.79/2, but that looks short enough at this stage.

As special as it was, Morikawa's approach on two wasn't the highlight of the morning's play so far. Playing in the second group out on the back-nine, Hayden Buckley produced this piece of magic on the infamous par three 17th.

Kenya Open Pre-Event Selections:
Adri Arnaus @ 32.031/1
Jorge Campillo @ 44.043/1
Ewen Ferguson @ 65.064/1
Calum Hill @ 80.079/1

In-Play Picks:
Nacho Elvira @ 12.011/1
Borja Virto @ 42.041/1

Players Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Justin Thomas @ 27.026/1

In-Play Picks:
Sam Burns @ 36.035/1
Ben Griffin @ 38.037/1
Tyrrell Hatton @ 65.064/1
Scottie Scheffler @ 3.45

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back 1 ½ u Davis Riley @ 270.0269/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

Back 1u J.T Poston @ 320.0319/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

Back 1u Trey Mullinax @ 500.0499/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

Back 1u Ben Martin @ 580.0579/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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