Palmetto Championship: Players to Target in R2

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Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina made its television debut on Thursday. The PGA Tour pulled back the curtains to the Tom Fazio design as players got their Palmetto Championship underway. There were many questions coming into the week. How will the course play? Whose game will it suit? Can world No. 1 Dustin Johnson bounce back from a missed cut at the PGA Championship?

It looks like he most certainly can. Johnson has an uncanny ability to find form out of thin air and appears to have done so yet again. He hasn’t been playing as poorly as last summer, when he shot a few rounds north of 80, but has looked out of sorts relative to the Johnson we have grown accustomed to. He put any doubts to rest on Thursday as the South Carolina native looked right at home.

Despite hitting only 11 greens in regulation, Johnson was able to get around Congaree bogey-free. Starting his round on the back-nine, the Coastal Carolina product made five pars in a row to begin his opening round. He made his first birdie of the day on the drivable par-4 15th before adding another on the 18th to turn in 2-under. He capped his day off with a beautiful chip-in birdie on his final hole, the par-4 9th. In total, it was a round of 6-under 65 for Johnson as he looks to keep the momentum rolling into tomorrow.

The afternoon wave belonged to Wes Roach. Bouncing back and forth between the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour for the past couple of years, Roach has enjoyed some success as of late. A top-15 finish in Puerto Rico and a top-35 finish in Punta Cana were solid outings, but not many saw this round coming. After starting 5-under through his first six holes, Roach was able to hold on for a round of 7-under 64 to lead by one.

Also making noise towards the end of the day was Erik Van Rooyen. The South African, known for his trendy sense of style, has been struggling as of late. Coming off four consecutive missed cuts, Van Rooyen qualified for next week’s U.S. Open by way of the vaunted Columbus final qualifier. Sharing the top spot alongside Chez Reavie must have given Van Rooyen the boost he needed. He and a slew of others sit just one-stroke behind Roach at 6-under.

The oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook still like pre-tournament favorite, Johnson, to win this thing. While we have 18 holes under our belt, I’ll wait another round before adding any live outright bets to the card. Brooks Koepka holds the most interest at the moment, as he struck the ball very well on Thursday, but couldn’t buy a putt. Since he’s hovering around the cut line, we’ll implement the wait and see approach and hold off for now.

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Updated Odds to Win (via PointsBet):

+225: Dustin Johnson

+1400: Erik van Rooyen, Harris English

+1600: Doc Redman

+2000: Jhonattan Vegas, Tommy Fleetwood

+2500: Ian Poulter, Wes Roach

+3000: Garrick Higgo

+3300: Chesson Hadley, Roger Sloan

+3500: Brooks Koepka, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Nick Taylor, Tyrrell Hatton

+4000: Chesson Hadley

+4500: Byeong Hun An, Roger Sloan

+5000: Danny Lee, Patrick Rodgers, Vaughn Taylor

Round 2 Plays:

Scott Brown (+151) over Bo Hoag and Robert Garrigus

We’ll start our second-round selections with a South Carolina resident. Brown, who typically plays out of Palmetto Golf Club, struck the ball very well on Thursday. Despite finishing the day 3rd in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Brown only shot 2-under.

As you can guess, the putter failed to cooperate for Brown, ranking 141st in SG: Putting. As a slight underdog, I’m willing to wager that Brown’s putter turns around tomorrow, improving his chances to post another solid round. And if you thought Brown’s putting was poor, you should have seen Hoag, who ranked last in the field in SG: Putting in Round 1.

That’s not a great statistic to boast, especially as a favorite in a three-ball. While he struck the ball somewhat decently, the putting was too much to overcome as he carded a round of 4-over. Garrigus on the other hand demonstrated a soft touch around-the-green, but I see that regressing a bit tomorrow, giving way to Brown to take this one comfortably.

Ian Poulter (+205) over Tyrrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick

The bold strategy of taking the player who played the best in Round 1 as a heavy underdog in Round 2 has proved to be a fruitful one over the last few weeks. I’ll stick with it as Poulter was able to best both Hatton and Fitzpatrick by three-strokes in the first-round.

He struck the ball the best of the trio and while I do have some concern about that changing on Friday, the price is too attractive to me. Especially when considering Fitzpatrick’s statistical profile matched his long-term form, making his round of even-par not all too surprising.

I believe the main threat comes from Hatton as he struck the ball rather well, but couldn’t figure out these fast, Bermuda greens. It’s likely this three-ball could come down to a key 10-footer at some point during the round and I’d much rather have the ball coming of Poulter’s blade than Hatton’s.

Hudson Swafford (+223) over Richy Werenski and Vaughn Taylor

I’ll take another hefty price on a player who has played numerous rounds at Congaree. Coming into the week, there was a lot of chatter surrounding Corales Punta Cana Resort being a potential correlated course. We’ll put the theory to the test with our selection of Swafford who won there in 2020.

He played great on Thursday, carding a round of 3-under 68. He finished the day 2nd in SG: Approach and 12th in SG: Tee-to-Green. He struggled on and around-the-greens, and while that typically isn’t his strength, I still expect to see some improvement in both departments.

Based on Thursday play, Werenski is a bit of an afterthought and Taylor could play spoiler. He clipped Swafford by one-stroke on Thursday thanks to a great putting display. While typically his strength, I don’t love siding with a player so reliant on his flat stick, making Swafford the play for me.

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