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McIlroy closes as global favorite to win 2017's final golf major

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

The final golf major begins…a major injury might doom the Cubs…plus MLB previews and an NFL postgame Thursday in VSiN City.

PGA: McIlroy closes as global favorite to win 2017’s final golf major
By the time you read this, opening round play will have begun (weather permitting) in the 2017 PGA Championship held at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you missed VSiN Senior Editor Matt Youmans’ tournament preview, please click here. All three of our daily broadcasts provided information analysis Wednesday. Check the archives to view “Follow the Money,” with Mitch and Pauly, “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander, and “My Guys in the Desert” with Ron Flatter and Amal Shah.

Rory McIlroy closed as the betting favorite globally because of his strong history on this course. Let’s update the numbers from Betfair exchange we posted for you back on Monday. Here are the late Wednesday “Yes/NO” lines for the five most popular choices to win. (Here’s a link to the Betfair page if you want to monitor through the weekend, remember to subtract 1 from the numbers in the blue and pink columns because those account for an initial one-unit wager.)

Rory McIlroy 

  • Monday: plus 740 to win, -760 that he won’t win
  • Wednesday: plus 700 to win, -720 that he won’t win

Even more support for Rory in the lead-up to the tournament. Though the South Point made Jordan Spieth a favorite because of betting at that specific locale, McIlroy is the consensus choice of the overall marketplace.

Jordan Spieth 

  • Monday: plus 900 to win, -950 that he won’t win
  • Wednesday: plus 1150 to win, -1200 that he won’t win

Spieth was losing support globally, likely due to an assessment that the longest drivers were going to be most favored by this weekend’s conditions (as you heard VSiN guests discuss Wednesday). He’s still the second choice…but he’s fallen well behind McIlroy. 

Hideki Matsuyama 

  • Monday: plus 1450 to win, -1500 that he won’t win
  • Wednesday: plus 1250 to win, -1300 that he won’t win

Red hot Matsuyama leapfrogged Dustin Johnson into the third favorite position. You’ll recall Matsuyama shot a 61 this past Sunday in the final round of the Bridgestone. As Spieth is trying to become the youngest golfer ever to win a career Grand Slam, Matsuyama is trying to become the first Japanese man to win a major. 

Dustin Johnson 

  • Monday: plus 1350 to win, -1400 that he won’t win
  • Wednesday: plus 1450 to win, -1500 that he won’t win

Bettors in the US and around the world were treating DJ as if he was head and shoulders above the field in prior events. That love affair has faded with disappointing high-profile results. Only the fourth favorite now. 

Rickie Fowler 

  • Monday: plus 1900 to win, -2000 that he won’t win
  • Wednesday: plus 1650 to win, -1700 that he won’t win

A big leap here as well, though Rickie failed to play to market confidence in the recent British Open. These are the only five golfers to clock in at better than plus 2500.

Other Notables
Brooks Koepka: from plus 2900/-3100 Monday to plus 2600/-2700
Jon Rahm: still 2800/-2900
Jason Day: from plus 3500/-3700 Monday to plus 3300/-3500
Justin Rose: from plus 4100/-4300 Monday to plus 4900/-5400
Adam Scott: from plus 4300/-4500 Monday to plus 5400/-5900
Sergio Garcia: from plus 4700/-4900 Monday to plus 5400/-5900
Charley Hoffman (from UNLV): from plus 6900/-7400 Monday to plus 5900/-6400
Phil Mickelson: from plus 7400/-7900 Monday to plus 6900/-7400

Support for Koepka, Day, Hoffman, and Mickelson, while Euros Rose, Scott, and Garcia lost favor.

We’ll update the overnights heading into Friday’s second round for you tomorrow. 

MLB: Hamstring injury to Cubs catcher Wilson Contreras could make for wild NL Central race
He was probably the last player the Cubs could afford to lose. Star catcher Wilson Contreras was helped off the field Wednesday with what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury. The Cubs were bracing for the worst news Wednesday evening. Very difficult for a catcher, in particular, to come back from an injury like that. 

Of course, Contreras isn’t “just” a catcher. He’s one of the most dynamic forces on the Cubs offense this season too. (All stats from fangraphs, through games of Tuesday.)

Cubs Top Hitters (minimum 270 plate appearances)
Kris Bryant: .380 weighted-on-base pct., 134 wRC-plus
Anthony Rizzo: .387 weighted-on-base pct., 132 wRC-plus
Wilson Contreras: .361 weighted-on-base pct., 121 wRC-plus
Ian Happ: .337 weighted-on-base pct., 106 wRC-plus
Jon Jay: .334 weighted-on-base pct., 104 wRC-plus

That’s a key defensive contributor and the third best hitter sidelined for extended time. Really, it’s even worse than that makes it seem. It’s important to remember that getting strong production from a catcher puts you WAY ahead of most of your opponents. Few teams have big-hitting catchers. The old saw about “being strong up the middle” is often connected to teams who are getting great offensive production from classically “defensive” positions like catcher, shortstop, second base, and center field. 

With the Cubs now in a four-way battle for the NL Central, let’s compare the offensive impact of Cubs catchers this season to their foes…

Offensive Production from NL Central Catchers
Chicago Cubs: .355 weighted-on-base pct., 117 wRC-plus
Milwaukee: .321 weighted-on-base pct., 92 wRC-plus
St. Louis: .296 weighted-on-base pct., 80 wRC-plus
Pittsburgh: .295 weighted-on-base pct., 80 wRC-plus

The Cubs weren’t able to get much meaningful distance from the NL Central pack even when Contreras was providing a huge “tie-breaker.” 

Here’s what the race looks like through Wednesday night’s action, using games above/below .500.

NL Central race
Cubs plus 5
Milwaukee plus 2
St. Louis plus 2
Pittsburgh -2

Chicago has a day off Thursday before visiting the very strong Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend. The others finish their current Interleague matchups Thursday, before Milwaukee hosts Cincinnati, St. Louis hosts Atlanta, and Pittsburgh visits Toronto. What will this race look like on Monday?!

MLB: Nobody can get traction in AL Wildcard demolition derby
We had expected the American League Wildcard race to start clearing up by now. Instead, teams positioned to pull away have been spinning their wheels (like Kansas City), while teams many in analytics expected to fall back keep hanging around (like Minnesota and Baltimore). 

AL Wildcard (top two qualify)
NY Yankees plus 8
Seattle plus 3
Kansas City plus 1
Tampa Bay plus 1
Minnesota even
LA Angels -1
Baltimore -2

If the playoffs started today, Seattle would be in the final spot. They can make a statement in a four-game weekend series with the Los Angeles Angels that begins Thursday night. Of course, the Angels can climb back into the mix by taking at least three of four! Let’s quickly preview that series, plus the four-game set matching Cleveland and Tampa Bay that also begins Thursday evening. 

LA Angels at Seattle

  • Offense (wRC-plus): LA Angels #13 in AL, Seattle #5 in AL
  • Bullpen (xFIP): LA Angels #5 in AL, Seattle #10 in AL
  • Thursday: Skaggs (3.30 xFIP) vs. Paxton (3.40 xFIP)
  • Friday: Nolasco (4.19 xFIP) vs. Gonzales (2.43 xFIP)
  • Saturday: Ramirez (4.51 xFIP) vs. Ramirez (4.38 xFIP)
  • Sunday: Bridwell (3.12 xFIP) vs. Miranda (3.57 xFIP)

You gotta like Ramirez in that Saturday game! Amazing that the Angels are still hanging around with such a poor offense. It’s back to being Mike Trout and a bunch of guppies. The Halo’s bullpen has suffered some notable failures in recent days, but is still hanging around in the upper half of the league in fielding-independent pitching. Seattle appears to have the offense and rotation of a Wildcard caliber team. Can the Mariners trust their bullpen? Interesting series, particularly if Kansas City can’t snap out of its current funk (though, visiting the Chicago White Sox his weekend might help with that). 

Cleveland at Tampa Bay

  • Offense (wRC-plus): Cleveland #3 in AL, Tampa Bay #4 in AL
  • Bullpen (xFIP): Cleveland #1 in AL, Tampa Bay #14 in AL
  • Thursday: Salazar (3.26 xFIP) vs. Snell (5.09 xFIP)
  • Friday: Carrasco (3.57 xFIP) vs. Faria (4.33 xFIP)
  • Saturday: Clevinger (4.38 xFIP) vs. Archer (3.39 xFIP)
  • Sunday: Kluber (2.40 xFIP) vs. Pruitt (4.01 xFIP)

Cleveland is such a juggernaut on paper that it’s still a mystery why the Indianas haven’t run away and hidden from their division. Maybe that’s starting to happen. Tampa Bay’s bats have disappeared in recent action vs. quality. The Rays will be facing a whole lotta quality in this four-game set. 

Tomorrow we’ll run similar preview boxes for Cubs/Diamondbacks and Red Sox/Yankees.

NFL: Carolina controls Houston 27-17 in Wednesday night win
Fans and analysts expecting offensive fireworks from the Houston Texans' "quarterback war" were largely disappointed. There were two long touchdown drives (one apiece led by quarterbacks Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson). But otherwise, a lot of sputtering. 

You may have seen on sports network highlight shows that Savage went 9 of 11 passing, while Watson passed for 179 yards and rushed for a TD. That’s cherry-picking highlights. On a drive-by-drive basis in the first half, Houston went…

3 and out (-8 yards)
3 and out (5 yards)
13 play TD drive (slow, but successful)
3 and out (6 yards)
3 and out (9 yards)
2 and a fumble
10 play field goal drive
3 and end of the first half

At best, slow work to get something on the board on two drives. Not much rhythm overall. Here are some key game stats…

Carolina (-2) 27, Houston 17

  • Yards-per-play: Houston 5.5, Carolina 6.7
  • Rushing Yardage: Houston 153, Carolina 146
  • Passing Stats: Houston 28-45-0-257, Carolina 15-27-1-142
  • Third Downs: Houston 4/14, Carolina 4/12
  • Penalties: Houston 12/91, Carolina 5/42

Houston did win total yardage 410-388, but that was due to a big edge in play count. Throwing 17 incomplete passes AND going only 4 of 14 on third downs WHILE committing a lot of penalties shows that the offense has a long way to go before scaring people no matter who ends up playing quarterback.  

Carolina owned yards-per-play and was a bit sharper even with its starting QB sitting out and its backup only throwing five passes. Let’s go to the specific QB numbers.

Houston
Tom Savage: 9-11-0-69 (1 sack)
Deshaun Watson: 15-25-0-179 (3 sacks)
Brandon Weeden: 4-9-0-38 (1 sack)

Watson certainly had moments where you could envision a big career. But 10 incomplete passes and 3 sacks with a relatively safe offense against backups are high counts. Weeden was a disappointment in limited time, rather than an exhibition ace-in-the-hole. 

Carolina

  • Derek Anderson: 4-5-0-76
  • Joe Webb: 7-14-1-128 
  • Garrett Gilbert: 4-8-0-47 (1 sack)

Webb had some big completions because that’s a high yardage count for 14 attempts. But Webb and Gilbert combined could only manage 50% completions. 

Carolina -2 and Over 38 gets the money. Next week the Panthers visit Tennessee, while Houston hosts New England. 

Seven more games on tap Thursday night. Overnight numbers for those…

  • Atlanta (-1, 36) at Miami
  • Minnesota (-1.5, 36.5) at Buffalo
  • Washington at Baltimore (-1, 37)
  • Jacksonville at New England (-3.5, 40)
  • Denver (-1.5, 36) at Chicago (live on the NFL Network)
  • Philadelphia at Green Bay (-1, 39)
  • New Orleans at Cleveland (-3, 38)

Rookie head coaches in action are Sean McDermott for Buffalo and Vance Joseph for Denver. A recent preseason coaching trend of note: Mike Zimmer of Minnesota is 11-2 ATS the past three seasons.

CFL: Week 8 previews
Staying on the gridirion…we’re not leaving the Canadian Football League yet. Though, we will begin to de-emphasize it now that the NFL is back on the field. Here’s a quick look at this week’s coming action north of the border...

Thursday: Edmonton at Ottawa (-2, total of 55.5) 
This line has moved four points because of injuries to the Eskimos. They were already dealing with injuries heading into last week’s disappointing 5-point win over horrible Hamilton. Then things got worse! So, even though we don’t have a QB out, we have a big line move based on a very shorthanded offensive line. These teams played a nailbiter in Edmonton back in Week 4 when the Eskimos were healthy. Just a 23-21 win for Edmonton then, with yards-per-play knotted at 6.3. Ottawa is a decent team that keeps losing heartbreakers to quality opponents. Maybe fate is smiling on the Redblacks this week. 

Friday: Toronto at Montreal (no line pending status of Toronto QB Ricky Ray)
Difficult to preview a game with a key injury and no line. Very important matchup in the East division standings. Tough to trust Montreal as a favorite. This is just its second spot as a favorite all season, with the first time being a 17-16 coin flip laying seven in the season opener vs. Saskatchewan. Perhaps a big edge for the hosts though in that the Alouettes are coming off a bye while Toronto’s still dealing with a draining stretch. 

Saturday: Winnipeg (-2.5, total of 59.5) at Hamilton 
Hamilton did show signs of life last week in Edmonton…but now we know that may have been injury related rather than a meaningful turnaround. The Tiger-cats were still outgained 448-319 despite almost stealing a last second win. Winnipeg has been playing thrillers lately (33-30, 41-40, and 42-45 the last three games). It’s not like Hamilton knows what to do late in close games!

Sunday: British Columbia (-1.5, total of 55) at Saskatchewan
Replay from last week, as what’s been a strong home team has revenge off a 30-15 loss that wasn’t as close as the score made it sound. The problem with those strong home results is that they came against Hamilton and Toronto, who are way down at the bottom of our market Power Ratings. A good chance for a shootout given BC quarterback Travis Lulay’s erratic tendencies and the revenge dynamic. 

Back with you Friday to finish out another week in this fast-moving summer. If you haven’t already subscribed to VSiN City, please do so here. You’re automatically registered for next weekend’s drawing that awards a free entry to the Westgate SuperContest (a $1,500 value). Subscribers also get the extensive daily South Point betting sheets in a handy PDF file. 

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