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The third event of the 2023 LIV Golf schedule
The last chance for Masters-bound golfers to find their form
Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson lead the betting
Odds from bet365. Note that not all bookmakers are offering odds on LIV Golf and some states are limiting options too. BetRivers, bet365, and Caesars Sportsbook have priced it up and these states are permitting wagers at DraftKings: Arizona, Connecticut, Wyoming, Oregon, and Illinois.
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This is an important week for LIV golfers heading to Augusta National for next week’s Masters Tournament.
As things stand, very few of the rebel circuit’s stars have found any form in 2023 and it would be fair to say that most of them have also played very little competitive golf as well.
Typically golfers like to hit the first major championship of the year running so LIV’s stars will, you would imagine, be desperate to shine in this new event in Florida.
It’s also been a year of surprises on the new set-up with Charles Howell III and Danny Lee upsetting the big names in the first two events.
The circuit heads to Florida and the Crooked Cat Course at Orange County National Golf Center in Orlando.
Designed at the end of the 1990s by a team that included the Japanese legend Isao Aoki it sits on rolling terrain that features natural heather and it is typically battered by strong winds.
It is also described as links-like and was inspired by Scottish courses, inland heath layouts as well as those by the seaside.
Twelve months ago Cameron Smith had claimed two wins for the year and was about to very nearly make it three at the Masters.
In contrast, this year he will arrive at Augusta having played just three times in the year, landing one top 20.
The Aussie plays well in wind, triumphed at the Open on a genuine links course, and is a winner in Florida - he should go well.
Dustin Johnson is also a winner in Florida but three of his four top fives in the state have come at the same course (Doral).
He’s also played even less than Smith this year - it’s only his third start, in fact - and he’s now gone four starts without landing a top-five finish.
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann has been ultra-consistent since joining LIV but he is yet to land a win.
He’s made eight starts in that period with six finishes of T11th or better but four of his last seven scores have been 73 or worse.
Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz has enjoyed his time at LIV Golf.
Unlike some of the famous names, he’s not had to face fierce questions or deal with bad press.
Instead, he finished second on his debut in Portland and added a fourth place in his second start at Bedminster.
He also thrived when the circuit started the year on his home soil, finishing seventh at El Camaleon, a course that might prove to be a good pointer for this week given that it’s breezy.
He followed that effort with victory in a mini-tour event, again on home soil (and possibly overlooked by the books, although the field was not strong).
He then closed 68-65 to make the playoff in Tucson, eventually losing out to Lee.
He’s well capable of riding the wave this week.
Back him in the outright market at +2200 with Caesars Sportsbook.
The young American Matthew Wolff, like Ortiz, has got off to a fine start at LIV.
He finished eighth on debut in Portland, added second at Bedminster, and now has eight finishes of T16th or better in his last nine starts.
This year alone he has been T10th in the Saudi International (on the Asian Tour), then seventh in Mayakoba, and T10th in Tucson.
What has been particularly striking is his ability to go low.
He closed Bedminster with a 64, carded three 66s in his last five rounds in 2022, and had a 63 in the Saudi International.
He’s also made fast starts.
He shared the first-round lead with a 63 in Boston, was third after an opening 67 in Chicago, and second after a 66 in the last start in Tucson.
Take him to burst from the blocks again this week with bet365 going +2200 each way.
Since the pair of them joined LIV the Englishman Paul Casey has consistently performed better than Mexico’s Abraham Ancer.
They’ve played in the same event eight times in that period and Casey leads the head-to-head count 5-2 with one tie.
But in LIV Golf events the advantage is 5-1 (plus the tie).
Furthermore, Casey is a stronger golfer in Florida.
He’s made 46 appearances in the state with 18 top 20s, 12 of them top 10s (including two wins).
In 12 starts Ancer has three top 20s, just one of them a top 10 (and not a win).
Take Casey to maintain the run with bet365 offering -110.
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Tournament: LIV Golf Orlando
Location: Orange County National, Orlando, Florida
Date: FRIDAY MAR. 31 - SUNDAY APR. 2
How to watch: FRIDAY-SATURDAY 1-6 p.m. ET on The CW App. SUNDAY 1-6 p.m. on The CW Network. And all three days on LIV Golf Plus.
Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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