The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Halfway leaders go clear

Golfer Davis Riley
Davis Riley in action in round two

There's just one round to go at the Soudal Open and the Charles Schwab Challenge, so Steve Rawlings is back with his final in-running thoughts on this week's golf here...

  • Early start in Belgium

  • Elvira a very fair price to convert

  • Scheffler set to push Riley all the way

9:00 - May 26, 2024

With one round to go, Nacho Elvira has moved four clear of the field at the Soudal Open in Belgium and Davis Riley is four in front at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Texas. Here are the two leaderboards with prices to back at 08:30.

Nacho Elvira -18 1.758/11
Romain Langasque -14 10.09/1
Niklas Norgaard -14 14.013/1
Ross Fisher -14 19.018/1
Joe Dean -14 22.021/1
Andrew Wilson -13 36.035/1
-12 and 23.022/1 bar

Davis Riley -14 2.26/5
Scottie Scheffler -10 2.447/5
Pierceson Coody -9 42.041/1
Hayden Buckley -9 46.045/1
Robby Shelton -8 80.079/1
Tony Finau -7 50.049/1
Collin Morikawa -6 65.064/1
-6 and 150.0149/1 bar

Since 1996, four stroke leaders on the DP World Tour have a strike rate of just over 70% and on the PGA Tour 73% of four stroke leaders have gone on to win so both leaders are fairly priced, although both have very different tasks.

As detailed on Friday night, Elvira's sole success on the DP World Tour to date, at the Cazoo Open in 2021, wasn't a convincing victory.

He eventually beat Justin Harding in a playoff having led by six through three rounds but he's a more experienced player now and the last time he led with a round to go at the Made In Himmerland last year, he was unlucky not to win and he looks a very fair price this morning, although you'll have to be quick as the leaders have just teed off!

They've started early because of the threat of poor weather and it's live on Sky now.

Davis Riley's task looks much tougher at the Charles Schwab Challenge given his closest challenger is the world number one, Scottie Scheffler, who yesterday shot a seven-under-par 63, tying his lowest round of the season.

Scheffler led here with a round to go two years ago before losing in a playoff to Sam Burns, who had trailed by seven strokes, so he'll be well aware how vulnerable the leader is.

06:30 - May 25, 2024

The pre-event 3/14.00 favourite, Scottie Scheffler, shot a five-under-par 65 around Colonial Club yesterday morning to move up the leaderboard and back to the head of the market but trailing the halfway leader, Davis Riley, by seven, he still has plenty of work to do over the weekend. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 6:20.

Davis Riley -10 6.25/1
Hayden Buckley -8 22.021/1
Pierceson Coody -8 23.022/1
Sepp Straka -6 12.5
Sungjae Im -6 12.5
Keegan Bradley -6 13.012/1
Tony Finau -5 14.5
Brian Harman -5 17.016/1
Ryan Fox -5 44.043/1
Robby Shelton -5 80.079/1
Kevin Tway -5 80.079/1
Denny McCarthy -4 40.039/1
Webb Simpson -4 95.094/1
Gary Woodland -4 160.0159/1
Scottie Scheffler -3 6.411/2
Collin Morikawa -3 22.021/1
-3 and 60.059/1 bar

Kevin Kisner in 2017, and Justin Rose 12 months later, were both in front at halfway when they won the Charles Schwab Challenge, last year's winner, Emiliano Grillo, was sitting third and just four back and the vast majority of victors here have been within three strokes of the lead at halfway, but we have seen three winners in the last ten years come from miles back.

Adam Scott, in 2014, and Chris Kirk, 12 months later, trailed by six and seven strokes respectively and the 2022 winner, Sam Burns, trailed by eight in a tie for 40th!

That gives hope to the favourite, Scheffler, and Collin Morikawa, who both trail by seven but with so much traffic ahead of them, the pair both look short at around 11/26.50 and 22/123.00 respectively.

Although he finished fourth here on debut in 2022 (missed the cut on his only other visit in 2023), Davis Riley came into this week in poor form, and he was generally a 600.0599/1 chance before the off but he's in with a chance now, leading by two over two players looking to win their first PGA Tour events - Hayden Buckley and Pierceson Coody.

This is the first time Riley has ever led at halfway on the PGA Tour and he's in search of his first individual stroke-play win, although he did win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans last year with Nick Hardy.

The leader looks a fair price at around 5/16.00 given the inexperience of his closest challengers but I have had one in-play pick on someone a bit further back...

I was very tempted to get Sepp Straka onside at around 12/113.00 but the one I'm chancing is Denny McCarthy, who was on the shortlist before the off.

Trailing by six, he's got plenty of work to do, but he's a brilliant putter that may well close the gap over the weekend.

21:40 - May 24, 2024

Spain's Nacho Elvira has made the most of an advantageous draw at the Soudal Open, shooting back-to-back 64s to lead by a stroke over another player drawn PM-AM - England's Ross Fisher.

Nacho Elvira inBelgium.jpg

Those drawn in the afternoon on day one in Belgium have enjoyed an advantage of 1.77 strokes over the AM-PM wave and the leader could be poised to make the most of his break.

Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:30

Nacho Elvira -14 3.613/5
Ross Fisher -13 9.89/1
Romain Langasque -11 8.88/1
Niklas Norgaard -10 20.019/1
Aaron Cockerill -10 22.021/1
Andrew Wilson -10 27.026/1
Sam Jones -10 60.059/1
Thomas Pieters -9 12.5
Matthew Baldwin -9 60.059/1
Joe Dean -9 80.079/1
Alex Fitzpatrick -8 32.031/1
Matthew Jordan -8 40.039/1
Paul Waring -8 40.039/1
-8 and 55.054/1 bar

At first glance, the leader may look worth taking on at around 5/23.50. He hasn't got a brilliant record when leading at halfway and on the only occasion that he's successfully converted a 36-hole lead or co-lead, he was far from convincing.

Elvira eventually won the Cazoo Open in 2021 in a playoff having led by six with a round to go!

He won the Rolex Trophy on the only occasion he led at halfway on the Challenge Tour, back in 2015, but he's led or co-led on three other occasions and he's finished sixth (Qatar Masters 2017), 40th (Kenya Open 2023), and second at the Made In Himmerland last year.

After his woeful collapse in Kenya in March, and his wobbly win in Wales three years ago, very few would have been in a hurry to side with him in Denmark but he played really well there over the weekend before eventually losing to Rasmus Hojgaard on the sixth extra hole having been matched at a low of 1.091/11 in-running.

If he performs here like he did in Denmark in July last year he'll take all the beating.

Ross Fisher, who sits second, hasn't won for ten years and he looks opposable and like the leader, Romain Langasque is in search of just his second DP World Tour title. He won the Cazoo Open a year before Elvira.

Including the Telenet Trohpy way back in 2010 on the Challenge Tour, this is the fourth stroke play event to be played at Rinkven and all three previous course winners were in front at halfway.

Lee Slattery, in 2010, and last year's winner of this event, Simon Forstrom, both won wire-to-wire and the 2022 winner, Sam Horsfield, led after rounds one and two before sitting second with a round.

Given Elvira is as many as four strokes clear of the pack of four tied for fourth, odds of around 5/23.50 are more than fair.

11:20 - May 24, 2024

Despite playing in yesterday's unfavourable blustery afternoon conditions, 47-year-old Charley Hoffman, who was a 500.0499/1 chance before the off, shot an impeccable five-under-par 65 around the revamped Colonial Country Club to lead the Charles Schwab Challenge by a stroke after round one.

Charley Hoffman at Charles Schwab.jpg

With the wind picking up in the afternoon, the PM starters average 0.9 of a stroke more than the morning starters and if the forecast is correct, it looks like they've definitely been handicapped by the draw.

The wind is predicted to blow hard this morning before easing as the day wares on.

The world number one, Scottie Scheffler, will be teeing it up early today and he's got plenty of work to do after a two-over-par 72 yesterday afternoon.

The pre-event 3/14.00 favourite was matched at 2.6213/8 after he'd played his first four holes in two-under-par but bogeys at seven and nine and a triple-bogey at the par three 13th saw his price hit a high of 18.5.

A birdie at the 17th saw him close the gap between him and Hoffman to seven and he now trades at an unappealing 12.011/1.

Tony Finau, who shot four-under-par in the morning to sit tied second with five others, is the 9/110.00 favourite but I'm more than happy to sit on my hands for now and see what today brings.

With as many 45 players within five of Hoffman's lead, I'm in no rush to get involved.

Over on the DP World Tour, pre-event 1000.0999/1 shot, Sam Jones, led the Soudal Open after round one thanks to an incredible late run that included three birdies in-a-row before an incredible albatross two on the par five 17th.

The New Zealander's bogey-free nine-under-par 62 saw him end the day two in front but with scoring good again this morning, he's already been passed by a clutch of players, including the home hero, Thomas Pieters.

I'll be back later today to take a look at that event at the halfway stage.

Charles Schwab Challenge pre-event picks

Akshay Bhatia @ 70.069/1
Taylor Moore @ 80.079/1

In-Play pick

Denny McCarthy @ 42.041/1

Soudal Open pre-event picks

Guido Migliozzi @ 60.059/1
Matteo Manassero @ 100.099/1

In-Play pick

Nacho Elvira @ 3.613/5

Read the Find Me a 100 Winner column here

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.