The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Rory closes the gap in Charlotte

Golfer Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy on the 18th hole in round three

There's just one round to go at both the Wells Fargo Championship and the Myrtle Beach Classic on the PGA Tour, so Steve Rawlings is back with his latest in-running thoughts...

09:45 - May 12, 2024

After narrowly missing the water off the tee on the notoriously tough par four finishing hole, Rory McIlroy made par to record his second bogey-free round in-a-row around Quail Hollow and the only one logged in round three.

The three-time Wells Fargo Championship winner has closed the gap at the top from four to one and he looks a huge danger now to the leader, Xander Schauffele. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:40.

Xander Schauffele -12 2.01/1
Rory McIlroy -11 2.285/4
Sungjae Im -8 24.023/1
Sepp Straka -7 50.049/1
Jason Day -5 250.0249/1
-4 and 500.0499/1 bar

Schauffele has been drifting since the third round finished and I'm not surprised.

He's actually converted three of his last four 54-hole leads, but he never looks comfortable in-the-mix and the stats are against him here too.

Wyndham Clark converted a two-stroke lead last year but the only player within five of him was Schauffele and he performed poorly on Sunday.

Schauffele hit the front after he'd birdied the seventh hole in round four and he was matched at as low as 1.434/9 but he bogeyed the ninth and the 11th before eventually losing by four!

Clark was just the eighth man to convert a lead or co-lead at Quail Hollow and he was the 22nd to try so the Xander drift makes perfect sense.

Rory looks a huge danger given how well he plays the course and how wobbly Schauffele can be in-contention and I wouldn't be surprised to see the two switch places at the top of the market before the start of play.

Having backed Rory before the off, I've now added the three players immediately below the front two to effectively lay the leader.

Over at the Myrtle Beach Classic, the halfway leader, Chris Gotterup has eased four clear of the remainder after this birdie at the 18th.

Heres' the 54-hole leaderboard in South Carolina with prices to back at 9:40.

Chris Gotterup -18 1.674/6
Erik Van Rooyen -14 8.88/1
Robert MacIntyre -14 13.012/1
Jorge Campillo -14 14.013/1
Davis Thompson -13 19.018/1
Alex Smally -12 50.049/1
-11 and 100.099/1 bar

Since 1996, 62 players have held a four-stroke lead with a round to go on the PGA Tour and 45 went on to win. That's a strike-rate of 73%.

Given he's in search of his first victory on the PGA Tour, Gotterup is bound to feel the nerves today but the same can be said of the chasers too, with only Erik Van Rooyen having won previously on the PGA Tour.

Robert MacIntyre has won twice on the DP World Tour and Jorge Campillo three times but winning on the PGA Tour is a step up and they'll be just as nervous as the leader.

Yesterday's wager on the leader wasn't really big enough for me to bother laying anything back but I'd be reluctant to at around 1.654/6 anyway. That looks quite a big price given the stats.

I'll be back later today with my US PGA Championship preview.

07:05 - May 11, 2024

Xander Schauffele, was matched at a low of 1.664/6 as he finished up his second round at the Wells Fargo Championship yesterday and he's still trading at odds-on.

Xander Schauffele Wells Fargo 2024.jpg

Having begun the day leading by three, he extended his lead to five and after a perfect drive on the par four 18th, it looked highly likely that he'd head into the weekend with a five shot lead but the finishing hole at Quail Hollow is consistently the toughest on the course and at the halfway stage of this year's renewal, it's averaging 4.51, which is higher than the par five seventh's 4.44.

Schauffele hit his approach shot long of the green and he failed to get up-and down for the regulation four so instead of leading by five, he leads by only four and the stats suggest that's quite a difference.

Since 1996, as many as 69% of five stroke leaders on the PGA Tour have gone on to win but four stroke leaders have converted only 41% of the time, suggesting the leader is short enough at odds-on.

Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 7:00.

Xander Schauffele -11 1.8810/11
Rory McIlroy -7 5.39/2
Jason Day -7 18.017/1
Sungjae Im -6 30.029/1
Taylor Moore -6 40.039/1
Collin Morikawa -5 28.027/1
-4 and 60.059/1 bar

This is the seventh time that Schauffele has held a clear lead at halfway on the PGA Tour and he has a mixed record.

He converted a five-stroke lead at the Travelers Championship in 2022 and he won Olympic gold in 2021 having led by a stroke at halfway but he's failed to convert, one, two and three strokes 36-hole leads.

Playing alongside the three-time Wells winner, Rory McIlroy, in round three will add a bit of pressure and the fact that he's looking to win for the first time in almost two years won't help either.

He traded at odds-on last year before getting beat by Wyndham Clark and he never impresses in-contention. I'm more than happy to stick with pre-event pick, Rory, and see where we are after 54 holes. And if I wasn't on from the off, I'd be jumping onboard now at in excess of 4/15.00.

Over at the Myrtle Beach Classic, pre-event 70.069/1 chance, Chris Gotterup, birdied the last four holes of round two to reach 12-under-par for the week and to sneak past Scotland's Robert MacIntyre and Spain's Jorge Campillo and the big-hitting 24-year-old Marylander looks the one to beat.

Gotterup leads MacIntyre by one, Campillo by two and there are four men tied for fourth and three of the lead.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, what limited evidence we have suggests the course suits frontrunners and I was happy to take a very tiny chance on the leader at 5.24/1.

10:45 - May 10, 2024

After both men fired seven-under-par 64s around the Dunes Golf and Beach Club, Beau Hossler and Robert MacIntyre lead the inaugural Myrtle Beach Classic after round one.

My pre-event pick, Nico Echavarria, was a huge disappointment, shooting a four-over-par 75 and the best any of my four Find Me a 100 Winner selections there could muster was three-under-par (Troy Merritt).

As this is the inaugural staging, I'm more than happy to swerve the event for now and see what transpires today and I'm also leaving the Wells Fargo Championship alone for now too.

Pre-event pick, Rory McIlroy, was matched at as low as 3.052/1 when he led after playing his first eight holes in five-under-par but a scruffy finish sees the world number two tied for second and three off the lead held by Xander Schauffele.

It's often easy to criticise some of Rory's on-course decisions but playing a wood out of the fairway bunker on the par five 15th yesterday was definitely one of his daftest!

That led to a bogey six on a hole that averaged 4.49 and after a birdie at 16 he also dropped a shot at the last but the whole field can feel slightly aggrieved at how far they trail the leader...

Schauffele, who had drifted from around 12/113.00 to as high as 15.014/1 before the off, hit the ground running yesterday, playing his first eight holes in five-under-par.

Having teed off on the 10th, he bogeyed the notoriously tough par four 18th and parred the next six before finishing his round in style with and eagle at seven and a birdie at nine but he most certainly caught a break on eight!

He somehow managed to get a line-of-sight free drop from an horrendous spot and went on to save par.

Leading Rory, Collin Morikawa and Alex Noren by three, last year's runner-up is now the 9/43.25 favourite but that makes no appeal.

Schauffele is the first man to lead the Wells Fargo Championship by more than two strokes after round one, but a dozen players have led by one or two strokes here after day one and none of them went on to win.

When anyone starts an event as nicely as Xander has here, there's always a chance that they can open up a gap on the field and relax with a clear lead but the strike rate for three-stroke first round leaders on the PGA Tour this century is exactly one in four.

As many as six of the last seven to lead by three after round one were still in front at halfway but only Joaquin Niemann at the Genesis two years ago, and Akshay Bhatia at the Texas Open last month, went on to win and since the turn of the century, only 13 of the 52 three-stroke first round leaders have gone on to win.

Schauffele has a strangely poor record of starting fast and this is the first time that's he led on his own after round one.

He's been tied for the lead after the opening round on the PGA Tour three times previously and he went on to finish second at the 2019 Tour Championship, tenth in the 2023 US Open, and second at the Players Championship two months ago.

The 2019 Tour Championship is a messy result. He began the event trailing by six on the handicap system and he shot two strokes better than anyone else on day one but was tied at the top with Justin Thomas, who had shot six shots worse than him, and Brookes Koepka, who had shot three stokes worse.

He was ultimately beaten by three strokes by Rory McIlroy and that could be an omen.

Rory will feel that he could and should have scored better yesterday but he's playing nicely and I'm more than happy to be onboard from the start.

If he does make a move today, with Scottie Scheffler still waiting on the birth of his first child, Rory may well be worth siding with for next week's US PGA Championship which is at Valhalla, where he won his fourth and as yet final major, ten years ago.

Wells Fargo Championship Pre-event Bets:

Rory McIlroy @ 9.617/2
Max Homa @ 28.027/1

Myrtle Beach Classic Pre-event Bet:

Nico Echavarria @ 85.084/1

In-Play Bet:

Chris Gotterup @ 5.24/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:

Ben Kohles @ 750.0749/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Garrick Higgo @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Troy Merritt @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Joel Dahmen @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Austin Cook @ 270.0269/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

Now Read Dave's US PGA Championship 10 year trends piece here

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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