Labouring McIlroy could be upset by Dufner
Accurate American worth chancing at 2-1
Louis Oosthuizen and Kyle Stanley, 100-1 and 200-1 respectively at the start of the Players Championship, are joint-leaders at the halfway stage.
Oosthuizen and Stanley have raced to nine under par through two rounds, but the big story of the week has been another injury setback for Rory McIlroy. The world number two, sidelined by a stress fracture in his ribs earlier in the year, is suffering from back pain in Florida.
McIlroy, who will have an MRI scan in Northern Ireland on Monday, said: “I took three weeks off and then went back at it again on Friday, hitting balls for four or five hours, then the same on Saturday. I felt a bit of stiffness on Sunday. Maybe I should have taken it a bit easier over the weekend, but I was excited to play again.”
McIlroy has said he will play through the discomfort in the final two rounds at TPC Sawgrass. He is level par through 36 holes, nine shots off the pace, and 50-1 for a comeback victory. World number one Dustin Johnson is on the same score and a best-price 40-1.
Oosthuizen and Stanley both fired a Friday 66 to go clear.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, has become 17-5 tournament favourite. Stanley, winless since the 2012 Phoenix Open, is next in the betting at 7-1. JB Holmes is alone in third place, two shots adrift.
The leading duo are due to tee off in round three at 2.50pm local time, which is ten minutes before a short thunderstorm is forecast.
The betting community need to weigh up the pros and cons of that potential situation. A weather delay would not help them in terms of rhythm, but rain would soften the course and make it easier.
In-running punters should consider Oosthuizen, who looks by far the most likely leaderboard-dweller to retain his place upon it through another 36 holes. But there is still time for those deep on the leaderboard to catch up, with anyone level par or better still in with a chance. The pacesetters will be well aware that multiple shots can disappear in a flash on the notorious 17th and 18th holes.
Third-round twoball punters are pointed towards Jason Dufner, who is well suited to the test of accuracy which Sawgrass provides. Dufner playing his usual fairways and greens game must have every chance of upsetting an unfit McIlroy in the 3.50pm match.
McIlroy will probably be trying to protect his back niggle and his interest in this championship could wane if he makes a slow start and gets even further adrift of the lead. The 2-1 Dufner quotes look full of juice.
The experienced Oosthuizen should be much more composed in the final pairing (7.50pm UK and Ireland time) than Stanley, so 10-11 about the South African winning their contest seems generous.
2pts 2-1 Betfair, Power
2pts 10-11 Betfred