07:45 - April 16, 2023
The reigning US Open champion, Matt Fitzpatrick, trailed by six in a tie for 18th at the halfway stage of the RBC Heritage but after an eight-under-par 63 on Saturday, he now leads with a round to go.
Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 7:30.
Matt Fitzpatrick -14 3.613/5
Patrick Cantlay -13 3.7511/4
Jordan Spieth -12 7.413/2
Scottie Scheffler -11 9.28/1
Tommy Fleetwood -11 25.024/1
Taylor Moore -11 38.037/1
Jimmy Walker -11 90.089/1
Mark Hubbard -11 65.064/1
Xander Schauffele -10 36.035/1
Matt Kuchar -10 60.059/1
Rickie Fowler -10 65.064/1
Cam Davis -10 90.089/1
Hayden Buckley -10 130.0129/1
Emiliano Grillo -10 150.0149/1
Chez Reavie -10 170.0169/1
Sungjae Im -9 100.099/1
Russell Henley -9 150.0149/1
Brian Harman -9 200.0199/1
Keegan Bradley -9 200.0199/1
Patton Kizzire -9 360.0359/1
Jon Rahm -5 110.0109/1
-8 and 400.0399/1 bar
In front is not the place to be here and the vast majority of 54-hole leaders have been caught lately...
Stewart Cink won from the front two years ago but he was five strokes clear and Webb Simpson was tied for the lead with three others after 54 holes when he won three years but they're unusual results here...
Trading at 22.021/1 and trailing by three in a tie for ninth, Jordan Spieth, shot 66 in round four last year before beating Patrick Cantlay in a playoff and prior to Simpson's victory in 2020, we hadn't seen a 54-hole leader convert since 2012. And like Spieth 12 months ago, the winner had come from outside the final pairing every time.
CT Pan, in 2019, was the seventh winner in-a-row to come from at least a couple of strokes adrift and although he was quite close to the lead compared to some winners, he was still unfancied and a 36.035/1 shot after three rounds.
Since Carl Pettersson converted from the front in 2012, and prior to Webb's win in 2020, the winners had trailed by four, four, four, three, four, six and two strokes.
In addition to the seven results before 2020, Brandt Snedeker beat Luke Donald in a playoff in 2011, having trailed by six after 54 holes, but Cink easily trumps them all.
Back in 2004, when wining the second of his three titles, he came from an incredible nine shots back to win, so with as many as 20 players within five of Fitzpatrick, this is still wide-open.
That's not good news for Fitzpatrick but he has a great record when leading or when tied for the lead through 54 holes.
He was beaten in a playoff by Robert McIntyre in the Italian Open in September last year, having led by a stroke after three rounds, but he was tied for the lead through 54 holes at the US Open in June last year and it was impossible to fault his performance there.
The Englishman has led or co-led on the PGA Tour or DP World ten times in total. He's won five times and he's never finished worse than second. He's tough.
Despite the poor record of 54 hole leaders here, it's hard to make a case for taking on Fitzpatrick at around 5/2.
Last year's playoff protagonists, Patrick Cantlay, and the defending champ, Jordan Spieth, are the two closest challengers and I definitely prefer the later at over 6/1 than the former at less than 3/1.
Spieth is yet to defend a title but he has won the John Deere Classic twice and he's putting better than he was last year.
The halfway favourite, Scottie Scheffler, has been matched at a low of 2.8415/8 but he didn't kick on after a decent start to his third round, playing his last 12 holes in level par.
Those four dominate the market but given the tournament sats, a case for laying them can certainly be made.
Alternatively, throwing a few pounds at one or two outsiders just off the pace may pay dividends too.
There are as many as 30 players within six of Fitzpatrick's lead and history tells us we can't rule any of them out.
Taylor Moore, who was an impressive winner of the Valspar Championship last month looked a juicy price at 40.039/1 given he only trails by three and I've also thrown a few pounds at the off the pace specialist, Keegan Bradley, at 210.0209/1.
Bradley's won five times on the PGA Tour and on three occasions he's been trailing with a round to go. He's twice won from four back, he was three adrift at the BMW Championship 2018 and he threatened to win the Farmers Insurance Open in January, having trailed by seven through 54 holes.
Matched at a low of just 4.94/1 when he got to within a stroke with one hole to play, he made for a cracking trading vehicle there given he was a 270.0269/1 chance on Sunday morning.
Sungjae Im, Russell Henley and Chez Reavie all look big too but it reality, nobody within five or six can be ruled out.
09:45 - April 15, 2023
Aaron Rai and Viktor Hovland ended round one of the RBC Heritage in first and second place after the two men shot rounds of 63 and 64 at Harbour Town Golf Links but second rounds of 71 and 70 see the pair sitting in a tie for fifth, trailing by five at halfway.
I wrote yesterday that first round leaders have a habit of failing to back up their low opening rounds here and that's again been the case, although pre-event 1000.0999/1 shot, Jimmy Walker, who was still trading at 100.099/1 after he'd finished up his first round yesterday morning to post a six-under-par 65, has backed it up with another 65 and he now leads by three.
Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:30.
Jimmy Walker -12 15.014/1
Scottie Scheffler -9 4.77/2
Xander Schauffele -9 8.615/2
Justin Rose -9 16.015/1
Patrick Cantlay -8 8.88/1
Viktor Hovland -8 14.013/1
Tommy Fleetwood -8 25.024/1
Aaron Rai -8 50.049/1
Mark Hubbard -8 95.094/1
Jordan Spieth -7 20.019/1
Rickie Fowler -7 40.039/1
Matt Kuchar -7 44.043/1
Brian Harman -7 60.059/1
Taylor Moore -7 80.079/1
Ben Griffin -7 110.0109/1
Emiliano Grillo -7 130.0129/1
Patton Kizzire -7 150.0149/1
Jon Rahm -6 19.5
Matt Fitzpatrick -6 55.054/1
-6 and 70.069/1 bar
Stewart Cink was five clear at halfway when he won here two years ago and Webb Simpson had led by a stroke when he took the title 12 months earlier but 10 of the last 12 winners were trailing by at least two strokes at halfway.
Last year's winner, Jordan Spieth, was four back at this stage and he was the fifth winner in 12 years to be four back at halfway. The 2015 winner, Jim Furyk, trailed by five.
Having endured a lengthy battle with Lyme disease and having missed eight of his last 12 cuts, Walker's performance so far is quite a surprise.
It's seven years since the 44-year-old won on the PGA Tour (the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol) and his off the pace sixth place finish in the Memorial Tournament nearly two years ago is his only top-10 in the last five years.
It would be an incredible performance if he were to defy the stats and go on to win but it's extremely difficult to envisage.
Trailing by three, and following a very respectable 10th placed finish when defending at Augusta last week, Scottie Scheffler is the man to beat at halfway.
This is the world number two's first visit to Harbour Town, and he's taken to the place immediately. Sitting in a tie for second alongside Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose, who's playing in his 400th PGA Tour event, Scheffler is the correct favourite, although I'm happy to swerve him.
Playing from the wrong side of the draw over the first two days, Schauffele just shades second favouritism, and he looks a decent price at over 7/1.
With the course drying out yesterday afternoon, the AM-PM wave averaged almost two strokes more (1.94) than those that enjoyed the softer afternoon conditions on Thursday and yesterday's perfectly still morning so Schauffele's five-under-par 66 as the course toughened up was a very decent knock.
Trading at just a smidgen higher is last year's beaten playoff protagonist, Patrick Cantlay, who led by two at this stage 12 months ago.
Much maligned for his slow play at Augusta last week when finishing 14th, Cantlay hasn't let the chatter bother him and he ranks first for Strokes Gained tee to Green at halfway.
With course form figures reading 3-7-3-MC-2, the world number four absolutely loves it here and his affinity with the layout will have only been enhanced after yesterday's ace at the par three seventh.
This looks a tough puzzle to solve so I'm taking it very easy but I have had a small bet on Schauffele, who plays with Rose in the penultimate two-ball, and I've also had a tiny wager on Ben Griffin, who's 65 in the trickier afternoon conditions caught the eye yesterday.
The 26-year-old was matched at a low of 40.039/1 after he'd played the front nine in 30 but he cooled off on the back nine and a bogey at 18 just took the shine of his round.
Trailing by five, he needs a bit of help from Walker but I thought he looked a fair price at 120.0119/1.
09:30 - April 14, 2023
Poor weather led to a suspension in play at the RBC Heritage yesterday, between 14:52 and 16:15 local time, so when play was suspended for darkness at 19:50, the last two groups out hadn't finished their opening rounds.
The brand-new US Masters winner, Jon Rahm, shot a one-over-par 71 to kick off the event but Viktor Hovland, who was tied for the lead after the first round of the Masters last week, has leapt out of the gates again.
The Norwegian leads by a stroke after a seven-under-par 64, but he's yet to be confirmed as the outright or co-first round leader and he can still be backed at odds-against in the 1st Round Leader market.
Playing in the final group to start on the tenth hole, pre-event 1000.0999/1 shot, Jimmy Walker, has an eight-foot putt for birdie on the eighth to join Hovland when he returns to the track this morning and Aaron Rai, who's playing in the final group to have started at the first, has an 11-foot birdie putt at the 16th to tie the lead.
Whether it's one, two, or three players that end up leading after round one, history tells us that it's not a great place to be.
As many as 34 players have led or co-led after round one here this century and only three went on to win.
First round leaders have a habit of failing to back up their low opening rounds here.
The last two to lead after round one, Cam Smith, in 2021, and Cameron Young last year, shot nine and ten shots worse respectively in round two and even the three first round leaders that went on to win - Peter Lonard (2005), Matt Kuchar (2014), and Branden Grace (2016) - shot over-par rounds in round two.
Lonard shot 74 to go from two in front to trailing by six, Kuchar shot 73 to slip to fourth and Grace fell from first to 21st with a 74 in round two seven years ago. All three did well to recover and go on to win.
This is a tough place to make the running and the last wire-to-wire winner was Nick Price back in 1997.
Since Grace bounced back to win in 2016, the next six winners sat 35th, 82nd, 53rd, third, second and 32nd after round one and five of the last ten victors have shot an opening round in the 70s.
With all that in mind, I'm happy to sit on my hands for now and see what today brings.
09:40 - April 13, 2023
The first round of the RBC Heritage doesn't get underway until 12:00 UK time (7:00 Local time) but I thought I'd kick the blog off early to have one last look at the pre-event market and the all-important latest weather forecast.
Given how many outsiders have won here over the years and how few US Masters contenders carry their form over to this tournament, it's understandable that the front of the market has been weak.
Last week's winner, Jon Rahm, has drifted from 11.010/1 to 14.013/1, having been matched at as low as 9.08/1, and although Scottie Scheffler has also drifted (from 10.09/1 to 11.010/1), he looks like going off favourite now.
Collin Morikawa has been the most solid of the favourites since the market opened (consistently trading at around 21.020/1 and there's been money for Tony Finau, who's been backed from 44.043/1 to 30.029/1.
Shane Lowry, who traded at a low of 1.51/2 last year before his horrible mishap at the tough par three 14th, has been especially weak - drifting from 40.039/1 to 50.049/1 - and that was just too big to ignore.
Lowry has ranked first, 69th, sixth and seventh for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in his last four stroke-play events (a key stat here) and he drove the ball brilliantly at Augusta - ranking third for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and first for Driving Accuracy.
Lowry has course form figures reading 44-2-MC-9-3 and he was just too big at 50.049/1.
There doesn't look like being any sizable draw bias so Lowry kicking off the event nice and early at 12:55 UK time is a plus given rain is predicted to move in this afternoon.
Matt Cooper has looked at the First Round Leader market here.
RBC Heritage Pre-Event Selections:
Shane Lowry @ 50.049/1 (added after the preview published)
Tyrrell Hatton @ 55.054/1
J.T Poston @ 110.0109/1
Xander Schauffele @ 8.615/2
Ben Griffin @ 120.0119/1
Taylor Moore @ 40.039/1
Keegan Bradley @ 210.0209/1
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
1 pt Matt Wallace @ 250.0249/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Adam Svensson @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 2 u Mackenzie Hughes @ 350.0349/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
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