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RIDGELAND, S.C. - After Tain Lee put a scare into the field at the Palmetto Championship, Chesson Hadley is now the man to beat in the inaugural event that features an odds-on favorite for the second day in a row.
Hadley will take a four-shot lead into the final day at Congaree Golf Club, where he was 3 under through 17 holes while playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson to distance himself from the pack. Both men will have to complete the 18th hole Sunday morning before returning hours later for the final round, as will Lee and Harris English in the group in front.
Hadley entered off a streak of five straight missed cuts, and he began the week as a +20000 longshot at PointsBet Sportsbook. Those odds were trimmed to +400 after he took a one-shot lead through 36 holes, and now he's down to -120. If you took a chance by fading Johnson at the halfway point and grabbed a Hadley ticket, you're sitting pretty.
But another player took center stage early Saturday and threatened to turn this event on its head. A Monday qualifier who started the week at astronomical +100000 odds, Lee birdied four of his first five holes to grab a one-shot lead while Hadley and Johnson both stumbled out of the gates. Lee entered the third round at +5000, but those odds were slashed all the way down to +550 in live betting as he led through 11 holes.
It was an exciting run for a pair of prescient backers. PointsBet confirmed that one bettor in Illinois placed $5 on Lee at the start of the week, a bet that would net $5,000, while another in Indiana backed him for $3.50 at those same +100000 odds. But Lee's storybook run came to a screeching halt, as he played his next five holes in 5 over to fall well off the pace. At 1 over for the day and 6 under for the week, he's eight shots behind Hadley and back down to +20000 odds to win.
Updated odds to win Palmetto Championship (via PointsBet)
-125: Chesson Hadley
+325: Harris English
+650: Dustin Johnson
+1700: Garrick Higgo
+2000: Tyrrell Hatton
+8000: Jhonattan Vegas
Hadley admitted that he was nervous to start the day in a pairing with the world No. 1, and he failed to make a birdie in his first 11 holes. But he rolled one in on No. 12 to start a run of four birdies in five holes that put him four shots clear of the field (and six shots clear of everyone but English) as he looks to win for the second time after capturing the 2013 Puerto Rico Open en route to Rookie of the Year honors.
"It's been a long time since I've been in a position like this," Hadley said. "It's hard out there. It's firm and fast, and the course has held its own. I was able to make a few birdies there at the end."
The player with the best shot of catching the leader is now English, who himself broke a seven-year victory drought earlier this year at Kapalua. The former Georgia Bulldog will face a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th green in the morning that would get him within three and cement a spot in the final pairing.
"It's kind of unfortunate, waking up that early to hit one putt, but it is what it is," English said. "I'm lucky to be in one of the last groups and look forward to the challenge tomorrow."
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Johnson is still in the mix, but his title chances in his home state took a big hit Saturday afternoon when he played his first 14 holes in 2 over. His pedigree shines through in his odds, given that Garrick Higgo is nearly three times the price while facing the same six-shot deficit.
It'll likely come down to Hadley and English on Sunday, with Hadley the prohibitive favorite. A victory won't get him into next week's U.S. Open, but it will cement his playing status after a rocky 2021 season - and could potentially cash in big for the handful of bettors that backed him at a triple-digit price early in the week.
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