There's just one round to go at the Sanderson Farms Championship and Sahith Theegala leads by one. Will he be the fifth 54-hole leader in-a-row to take the title?
"Tringale was tied for the lead at the John Deere Classic through 54 holes in 2019 and he was one clear at the 3M Open in July. On both occasions he finished 16th!"
14:20 - October 3, 2021
Having opened-up the Sanderson Farms Championship with an eight-under-par 64 to lead after round one, Sahith Theegala has shot successive five-under-par 67s to stay in front. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 14:10.
Sahith Theegala -18 6.25/1
Sam Burns -17 4.216/5
Cameron Tringale -17 6.611/2
Danny McCarthy -17 10.09/1
Cameron Young -17 11.010/1
Trey Mullinax -16 19.5
Seth Reeves -16 22.021/1
Aaron Wise -15 22.021/1
Roger Sloan -15 40.039/1
Corey Conners -14 32.031/1
-14 and 65.064/1 bar
Although a little shaky off the tee late on in round three, Theegala has been impressive so far, ending each of the first three days in front, and given the last four winners were all leading or tied for the lead with a round to go at Jackson Country Club, he looks a fair enough price to convert.
Wining wire-to-wire is tough, and we haven't seen anyone achieve the feat on the PGA Tour since Harris English led after every round at the Sentry Tournament of Champions back in January, but both the 2017 and 2018 Sanderson Farms winners, Ryan Armour and Cameron Champ, led after every round.
Theegala is playing in only his 15th PGA Tour event and the Korn Ferry Tour graduate's best result to date is 14th at the Fortinet Championship last September. Converting his first opportunity would be some feat but he's not surrounded by proven winners and seven of the top nine are looking to win for the first time.
Pre-event favourite, and current favourite, Sam Burns, and Aaron Wise, who sits tied for eighth, are the only two inside the top-nine that have tasted success, but first timers have a terrific record in the event and six of the seven winners at Jackson were all winning for the first time on the PGA Tour. Last year's champ, Sergio Garcia, is the only winner at Jackson to have previously won.
Trying to pick out the winner looks tough so I'm happy to swerve the outright market, to cheer on yesterday's bet, Denny McCarthy, and to take on Cameron Tringale in the place markets.
I don't know how the young graduates will cope with the stress of being in-contention but I'm confident that Cameron won't handle it.
On the last nine occasions that he's been within three of the lead and inside the top-six with a round to go he's fired rounds of 71, 72, 71, 69, 73, 72, 72, 73 and 74 and on only one occasion, at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2018, when he shot 69, has he not gone backwards.
He was tied for the lead at the John Deere Classic through 54 holes in 2019 and he was one clear at the 3M Open in July. On both occasions he finished 16th!
17:15 - October 2, 2021
Danny Willett shot a quite brilliant six-under-par 66 around St Andrews in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship today, playing the last six holes in two-under-par, despite playing into the wind all the way in, and he's given himself a great chance to win for the first time in two years, following his BMW PGA Championship victory at Wentworth in 2019.
In contrast, my pre-event pick, Tyrrell Hatton, who was matched at a low of 1.68/13 after a speedy start to round three (four-under-par through five), played the last six holes in three-over and Danny's finish today could prove to be the difference. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 17:10
Danny Willett -14 2.6613/8
Shane Lowry -11 5.59/2
Tyrrell Hatton -11 5.69/2
Richard Bland -11 12.5
John Murphy -11 30.029/1
Joakim Lagergren -10 26.025/1
Jeff Winther -10 36.035/1
Daniel Gavins -10 40.039/1
-9 and 60.059/1 bar
It looked for some time that my in-play pick, Daniel Gavins, might be the man to lead going into Sunday. He was matched at a low of 3.45 after playing the front-nine at Kingsbarns in five-under-par but he found the beach off the tee on the 16th, failed to get out of a fairway bunker on 17, found horrendous rough off the tee on 18, and he finished up playing the last three holes in five-over-par! It was a beastly 6-6-6 finish and he's now trailing by four.
In front is the place to be in this event most years so Willett may just take some catching. Having layed Hatton in-running today, I'm happy to leave the event alone and hope he can rally tomorrow but I can't pretend I wasn't tempted to back the leader given the stats suggest he has a great chance.
Pre event 20/1 pre event pick, Hatton, layed back at an average of 1.73 to ensure a profitable week. Better start than I could have hoped for today but a long long way to go yet? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) October 2, 2021
As highlighted in the preview, seven of the last nine winners and 11 of the 19 champions to date have been leading or tied for the lead with a round to go and three 54-hole leaders have been beaten in a playoff.
There have been a couple of strange collapses in this event. Kenneth Ferrie threw the 2005 edition away with a fourth round 77, having led by five with a round to go, and Hatton should have won the event for a third year in-a-row in 2018 when he raced five clear on the front-nine on Sunday. He was matched at a low of just 1.111/9 but he finished poorly and was beaten by a stroke by Lucas Bjerregaard.
Although the last to lead by three with a round to go, Rasmus Hojgaard at the Cazoo Classic in August, was beaten, and four of the last six have failed to convert, since 1996, and including co-sanctioned events, 54-hole leaders have a 70% strike-rate on the European Tour. And Danny's record is none too shabby either.
Willett has led or co-led eight times previously and he's gone on to win five times but the only time he's led by more than a stroke, at the Maybank Championship back in 2017, he eventually finished fifth.
With the likes of Hatton and Shane Lowry on his tail, Willett won't be able to relax at any stage but he's most certainly the man to beat.
13:05 - October 2, 2021
Pre-event 23.022/1 chance, Will Zalatoris, who was matched at 55.054/1 on Thursday after a slow start, fired a ridiculously impressive 11-under-par 61 yesterday morning to hit the front at the Sanderson farms Championship but afternoon starters, Nick Watney and Sahith Theegala, reeled him in and the three are tied at the top with two rounds to go. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:00.
Will Zalatoris -13 4.216/5
Sahith Theegala -13 9.617/2
Nick Watney -13 18.5
Hayden Buckley -12 16.5
Cameron Young -12 19.5
Roger Sloan -11 24.023/1
Sam Burns -10 9.417/2
Aaron Wise -10 22.021/1
-10 40.039/1 bar
Prior to Sergio Garcia's victory 12 months ago, all six Sanderson Farms Championship winners at Jackson Country Club, between 2014 and 2019, were winning on the PGA Tour for the very first time so it's perhaps not surprising to see the halfway leaderboard dominated by Korn Ferry Tour graduates in search of their first wins on the big stage.
The hugely talented Zalatoris has already finished runner-up at a US Masters but he's yet to win on the PGA Tour and the same can be said about five of the top-six. The odd man out is Nick Watney, but he hasn't tasted victory in nine years so it's odds-on we'll get another first timer lifting the unique trophy.
In the seven previous renewals here, we've seen two halfway leaders go on to win. Ryan Armour led by a stroke in 2017 and Cameron Champ was tied at the top 12 months later through 36 holes, but we've also seen winners come from four, five (twice) and even six back at halfway so with as many as 40 players within half-a-dozen strokes at halfway, this is still a wide-open event. And as Zalatoris showed yesterday, when he moved up 49 places, ground can be made up rapidly at Jackson.
Sepp Straka has missed the cut but two of Dave Tindall's three each-way selections are in-contention and my Find Me a 100 Winner pick, C.T Pan, is only four back but the two I like at this stage are Denny McCarthy and Zalatoris.
Within three of the lead on -10, McCarthy looks over-priced at 46.045/1 given his previous course form and yesterday's seven-under-par 65 and I can't help but think Zalatoris is too big at anything over 3/1.
I know it's hard to back up a super-low round but he's far and away the most promising of the contenders and he's no bigger than 11/4 on the High Street.
It's only matter of time before Zalatoris makes his breakthrough on the PGA Tour and he's given himself a great chance here.
18:50 - October 1, 2021
As the second round stroke averages (below) demonstrate, the field experienced very different conditions on day two of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, across all three venues, and the scores rocketed. Carnoustie almost averaged 80 but all three averaged well over-par.
Round two hole averages
St Andrews 77.46
The forecast suggests we've seen the worst of the wind but we'll still experience breezy conditions over the weekend and where the contenders play tomorrow is a key factor. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 18:50, as well as where each contender plays tomorrow. Everyone that makes the 54-hole cut tomorrow night will play St Andrews for a second time on Sunday.
Tyrrell Hatton -10 3.02/1 (St Andrews)
Daniel Gavins -9 20.019/1 (Kingsbarns)
Danny Willett -8 12.5 (St Anndrews)
Haotong Li -8 46.045/1 (Carnoustie)
Tommy Fleetwood -7 9.89/1 (St Andrews)
Jeff Winther -7 38.037/1 (St Andrews)
Shane Lowry -6 11.521/2 (St Andrews)
Alex Noren -6 12.5 (St Andrews)
Nicolai Hojgaard -6 34.033/1 (St Andrews)
-6 and 40.039/1 bar
Tyrrell Hatton is still nicely placed as he bids to win the event for a third time and he's definitely the man to beat but there are some big names lurking.
Tommy Fleetwood is the current second favourite but he's very hard to get across the line and I'm happy to dismiss him at only 9/1.
The 2016 US Masters winner, Danny Willett, has come to life on the links but Sweden's Alex Noren and the 2019 Open champion, Shane Lowry, are arguably bigger dangers to the leader.
Noren is a phenomenal bad weather player and Lowry has won several titles in his homeland when the wind has blown a hooley.
If Hatton's going to stay in front, he's going to have to keep his notoriously hot head cool and with as many as 15 players within four strokes of the Englishman, he makes little appeal at 2/1 with still two rounds to play.
Hatton's price has been lengthening all evening and I'm not surprised.
Willett, Noren and Lowry are all very obvious alternatives to the leader but the two I like at the prices are the ISPS HANDA World Invitational winner, Daniel Gavins, and sensational German youngster, Matti Schmid, who both play Kingsbarns tomorrow - the easiest of the three venues.
Both players must have played sensationally to shoot four-under-par around Carnoustie today (was almost 12 strokes better than the day's average) and they both looked generously priced going into the weekend.
Gavins is already in the thick of it, trailing by just a stroke, but Schmid is close enough given he plays Kingsbarns tomorrow too. The 23-year-old sits tied for 16th and five off the lead.
21:05 - September 30, 2021
The perils of betting on the strength of the weather forecast were laid bare today when the early starters in round one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship had to contend with some horrendous weather.
As detailed in the Find Me a 100 Winner column, the weather forecast on Wednesday suggested a benign start to day one before the wind picked up severely and I picked out two early starters at Carnoustie on the strength of it but that wasn't how it panned out at all.
The wind blew hard and heavy rain fell for the first couple of hours before the wind eased, and the rain stopped and those that started later in the day enjoyed much the better conditions.
My sole selection, Tyrrell Hatton, escaped the worst of the weather, not teeing off until after 11:00, and after a slow start, he caught fire on the back-nine at the toughest of the three venues used this week - Carnoustie - firing a seven-under-par 29 to post a first round total of -8.
Adri Arnaus and Nicolas Colsaerts, who played St Andrews in round one, and Haotong Li, who began his tournament at Kingsbarns, matched Tyrrell's eight-under-par score but Hatton is a warm favourite on account of him having already played the toughest of the three venues.
There wasn't an awful lot in it looking at the hole averages below, and Kingsbarns averaged the highest, but it's worth highlighting that all the fancied players were at Carnoustie today so those averages should shift tomorrow.
Round one hole averages
St Andrews 70.55
With the forecast (if it can be believed) suggesting three days of tough conditions, getting Carnoustie out of the way should be advantageous and the historic stats suggest being up with the pace is key too.
As highlighted in the preview, the 2019 winner, Victor Perez, sat tied for second and just one off the lead after the opening round and three of the last 10 winners have been in front after day one.
We've now had 19 renewals and only two winners have been any further back than four strokes after round one - Paul Lawrie in 2001 and Stephen Gallagher in 2004.
As a rule of thumb, poor weather helps those coming from off the pace but the set up is so easy in this event, to accommodate the amateurs, that we probably can't scan too far down the leaderboard.
I'm obviously happy with the start made by Tyrrell, who's now trading at 4.03/1, but I'm happy to add Italy's Guido Migliozzi at 32.031/1, who trails by four. Like Hatton, he played Carnoustie in round one so will play Kingsbarns in round two before playing both rounds at St Andrews over the weekend.
The first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship is well underway and Sahith Theegala is the early leader after an eight-under-par 64.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Tyrrell Hatton @ 21.020/1
(layed in-running at 1.738/11)
Sanderson Farms Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Cam Davis @ 40.039/1
Will Zalatoris @ 4.216/5
Denny McCarthy @ 46.045/1
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Back 1 u Padraig Harrington @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 ½ u Francesco Laporta @ 190.0189/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Sanderson Farms Championship
Back 2 u C.T Pan @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter