The Punter's In-Play Blog: Rory and Molly lead but can another closer claim the spoils?
Rory McIlroy and Francesco Molinari are tied for the lead at the BMW PGA Championship but will we see another closer win the title? Read what our man thinks ahead of today's final round here...
“There are some great players lurking and we’ve seen plenty of winners from way off the pace here. The defending champion, Alex Noren, won from seven adrift last year – this time around he trails by four.”
09:50 - May 27, 2018
With storms forecast, the fourth and final round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has already started, and the leaders tee off at 11:00. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 9:35.
Rory McIlroy - 13 [1.94]
Francesco Molinari -13 [3.25]
Alex Noren -9 [20.0]
Branden Grace -9 [20.0]
Ross Fisher -9 [32.0]
Sam Horsfield -9 [90.0]
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -8 [75.0]
Lee Westwood -8 [120.0]
Mikko Korhonen -8 [250.0]
Sebastien Gros -8 [320.0]
-7 and [360.0] bar
Having layed Rory McIlroy during round two at odds-on, not being around to put myself in a great position yesterday wasn't ideal, given he started round three so poorly and that Francesco Molinari has already been matched at a low of [2.1].
It looks like a two-man race now with Rory and Molly four clear but rather than shout on the outsider of the two, I've now layed the Italian at [3.3]. Molinari is a notoriously weak closer so I would have layed him yesterday in-running, and certainly before Rory played the two par five closing holes, which he went on to birdie, so my book could certainly look better than it does but I'm happy enough.
There are some great players lurking and, as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen plenty of winners from way off the pace here. The defending champion, Alex Noren, won from seven adrift last year - this time around he trails by four.
It's long odds-on that one of the front two will go on to win but I wouldn't put anyone off backing a few massive outsiders this morning. I'm going to monitor the early play and I may back one or two that get off to a flier but for now I'm going to sit and wait.
Over at the Forth Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has shot four clear with a round to go. Here are the latest standings in Texas at 9:40.
Justin Rose -14 [1.4]
Brooks Koepka -10 [8.2]
Emiliano Grillo -10 [12.5]
Jon Rahm -8 [29.0]
Louis Oosthuizen -8 [60.0]
-8 and [140.0] bar
Rose would probably have preferred to have been in England this week for the BMW and he's probably only playing here because the PGA Tour have a ruling stating that members need to play every event periodically, but he's made the best of it and he really should convert from four strokes clear.
Since 1996, 44 players have led by four with a round to go on the PGA Tour and 32 (73%) went on to win so odds of [1.4] about Justin converting look big at first glance but since 2008, 13 players have led or been tied for the lead through 54 holes at Colonial and only Jordan Spieth has converted. And Justin's record when leading on the PGA Tour with a round to go is far from impressive...
Rose has led or been tied for the lead with a round to go 12 times previously and he's converted on just three occasions. On the two occasions he's led by four he's gone on to win but he's twice been beaten when three clear so I'm more than happy to take him on modestly.
The in-form US Open champ, Brooks Koepka, is far and away the most likely to benefit from any sort of Rose mishap so I've had a small bet on him at [8.4] and I've also chanced Jon Rahm at [30.0].
21:20 - May 25, 2018
We've reached the halfway stage of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and Rory McIlroy is three strokes clear of the field. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 21:15.
Rory McIlroy - 12 [1.68]
Sam Horsfield -9 [36.0]
Sebastien Gros -9 [70.0]
Tommy Fleetwood -8 [9.6]
Alex Noren -7 [18.5]
Francesco Molinari -7 [26.0]
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -7 [36.0]
Robert Rock -7 [140.0]
Branden Grace -6 [34.0]
Matthew Fitzpatrick -6 [42.0]
Alex Levy -6 [70.0]
-6 and [160.0] bar
Rory McIlroy played impeccably this morning and but for two pars at the final two holes (both reachable par fives) he could have been even further clear. So well did the Irishman play, that playing partner, Alex Noren, described Rory's second round as "the best round I've ever seen" and if he carries on tomorrow, where he left off today, this is a done deal. Of course, it's never that simple though.
This is the first time Rory has led by three at halfway but he has led by at least four through 36 holes twice. He won the 2011 US Open by eight, having led by six at halfway and he converted a four-stroke lead at Hoylake at the 2014 Open Championship. On the three occasions he's led by only two, he's failed...
He was two shots clear at this stage at Augusta in 2011 before that infamous Sunday collapse, he led by two at the Mexico Championship last year, before going on to finish seventh, and he was collared by Haotong Li at the Dubai Desert Classic in January. It's a mixed bag.
Rory is the 60th player to lead a European Tour event by three at halfway since 1996 and 27 of the previous 59 (46%) went on to win. And Rory's the fifth to lead at Wentworth by at least three strokes at this stage but only one of the previous four converted. David Howell in 2006. Peter Hanson finished fifth in 2005, having led by three and Paul McGinley, 2008, and James Morrison, four years later, both finished 10th having led by four.
I layed Rory at an average of [1.8] during today's round and I'm sticking with it. There are some quality players lurking and as the course dries out it could get interesting. And as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen winners here from miles back on numerous occasions.
The second round of the Fort Worth Invitational is well underway, and Justin Rose is the man to catch after a six-under-par 64 in round two but I'm going to leave the event alone for now and I won't get to look it again until Sunday morning...
I'm doing a 32-mile sponsored walk tomorrow (please see Justgiving page here for details) so I'm up at four and I won't get home until late so, apologies, but there'll be no post at all tomorrow. I will be back on Sunday morning with a look at both events before the two final rounds though.
10:30 - May 25, 2018
The first round of the Fort Worth Invitational has been completed and anyone that backed regular early pacesetter, Charley Hoffman, to be in front after day one again can feel most aggrieved. Playing the back-nine first, Kevin Na tied the Hoff with a birdie at the sixth hole but he looked in all sort of bother on nine...
Kevin Na went with his gut on this seemingly impossible shot ...? PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 25, 2018
and it paid off! pic.twitter.com/UaVrbKEQNe
Na heads the market but he's certainly not one to go to war with. Justin Rose, on four-under-par and four adrift of the leader, is the next best but he didn't putt brilliantly yesterday and the only one on the leaderboard that makes any appeal is the veteran, Steve Stricker.
I've had a tiny bet on the 2009 winner but it's not without risk. He was clutching his back early on in yesterday's opening round but finished brilliantly to get to -5, having looked like he may even have to withdraw when two-over through five.
Sky Sports' live coverage of the BMW PGA Championship has just started and it's going to be a fascinating next couple of hours. Rory McIlroy has hit the front with a three-under-par front-nine, and how he finishes off his second round is going to be key to what happens to the market.
Despite the wind-free, rain-softened conditions playing right in to Rory's hands, he's too short for my liking with so far to go and the one I'm keen on is afternoon starter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, who, like Rory, opened-up with five-under-par 67.
I've backed Fitzpatrick at [12.0] but that could look very short by the time he tees off if Rory kicks on. The Irishman has made two birdies at seven and nine since I backed Fitzpatrick, so my timing wasn't great. And I've also thrown a few pounds at the 2016 winner, Chris Wood, at [100.0].
20:10 - May 24, 2018
Following a disappointing morning round by pre-event pick, Andrew Johnston, my mood perked up a bit when another pick, Tyrrell Hatton, began at the BMW PGA Championship. Birdies at one and two were followed by a peerless approach to the tricky par four third and with the easiest hole on the course, the par five fourth, soon to be gobbled up, the question was, would he be three-under-par, four-under or even lower through four holes?
Hatton was matched at just [9.4] after that approach on the third but he missed the birdie putt and bogeyed the fourth after a perfectly fine drive. I was frustrated and so was he. Notoriously impatient, to the point he's often irritating, Hatton lost his way after that and he eventually ended the day on +1 having played the last three holes in three-over.
Tyrrell may have finished poorly but he wasn't the only one. Dave Tindall's each-way fancy, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, hit the front at -7 with a birdie at 16 but finished seven-six to end on -4, and Shane Lowry finished five-four-seven.
Rory McIlroy missed a tiddler for birdie on 18, having been fortunate to see his second shot get spat from the trees, but his five-under-par 67 was a cracking effort given his start. Pars at one and two were followed by a bogey at three and it looked for a while like we might witness another poor PGA from Rory. He won the event back in 2014 but he's missed four of eight cuts here.
Conditions have been benign today and the lunchtime rain set the course up nicely for the longer more aggressive players this afternoon, so Rory's performance wasn't really surprising. Whether he can repeat the feat tomorrow is a different matter entirely though and I've toyed with taking him on at around [4.5]. Rory trails first round leader, Lucas Bjerregaard, by two.
Alex Noren started well when he won last year, sitting tied for fifth and just two off the lead but he dropped away before round three to trail by seven and the three winners before him trailed by seven and six (twice) after round one so rushing in early isn't something I'd advocate here.
I'm going to wait and see what tomorrow morning brings and I'll update the blog again in-play at some stage.
The Fort Worth Invitational (previewed here) is off on running on the PGA Tour and it's live on Sky. I'll have a little look at that one after round one tomorrow.
BMW PGA Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Tyrrell Hatton @ [40.0]
Andrew Johnston @ [70.0]
Matt Wallace @ [170.0] (added after preview publication)
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ [12.0]
Chris Wood @ [100.0]
Rory McIlroy layed @ [1.8]
Francesco Molinari layed @ [3.3]
Fort Worth Invitational Pre-Event Selections:
Jimmy Walker @ [34.0]
Zach Johnson @ [42.0]
Sean O'Hair @ [180.0]
Ben Crane @ [310.0]
Steve Stricker @ [30.0]
Brooks Koepka @ [8.4]
Jon Rahm @ [30.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter