The Punter's In-Play Blog: Is Rory poised for win number 20?

Rory McIlroy – three clear with a round to go at Doral
Rory McIlroy – three clear with a round to go at Doral

Rory McIlroy has forged three clear at Doral but what's his record like when leading? Can he record his 20th win worldwide? Read what Steve thinks here...


“Since blowing the 2011 US Masters, when four clear through 54-holes, Rory’s record when holding a third round lead has been very good and the others are going to have their work cut out to catch him. He was beaten in a playoff at the 2014 Honda Classic, having led by two with a round to go, but on the other seven occasions he successfully converted. ”

09:40 - March 06, 2016

Following a sensational second round of 65 on Friday, Rory McIlroy shot a superb 68 in round three (bettered only by Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello) to ease three clear of the field with a round to go. Here's the third round leaderboard with prices to back at 09:30.


Rory McIlroy -12 1.654/6

Dustin Johnson -9 6.611/2
Adam Scott -9 7.413/2

Bubba Watson -7 21.020/1
Phil Mickelson -7 38.037/1
Danny Willett -7 46.045/1

-5 and 200.0199/1


I've banged on all week long about how you need to be up with the pace to win at Doral, so three strokes clear with a round to go should be a good spot to be for Rory, who's looking to win his 20th title worldwide, but recent stats suggest he could be vulnerable.

Bubba Watson finished second in 2012 after relinquishing a three stroke 54-hole lead and JB Holmes was five clear through three rounds 12 months ago, before he finished second. Bubba flopped with a disappointing final round of 74 and Holmes shot 75. I'm not convinced Rory will perform that poorly today though.

Since blowing the 2011 US Masters, when four clear through 54-holes, Rory's record when holding a third round lead has been very good and the others are going to have their work cut out to catch him. He was beaten in a play-off at the 2014 Honda Classic, having led by two with a round to go, but on the other seven occasions he successfully converted.

The market considers the defending champion, Dustin Johnson, the most likely candidate to catch Rory but I prefer Adam Scott. DJ won't be helped by the fact that he's defending or that he's in the final pairing with Rory, whereas Scotty playing with Phil Mickelson could be a plus. Yesterday's one-over-par 71 was overdue for the Aussie given he'd played the previous 16 in par or better and I can see him bouncing back today with the pressure of leading now removed.

Bubba is as short as 14/1 with the Sportsbook so perhaps I shouldn't give up on him just yet but he's still missing far too many putts to seriously contend and I suspect one of the front three will win.

Paul Krishnamurty's each-way selection, Danny Willett, is alongside Bubba and Phil in a tie for fourth but a place is probably the best we can hope for given the calibre of the leaders.

Having played Rory before the third round yesterday, I'm fairly confident of a winning week but whatever happens I'll be back tomorrow with my De-Brief.


09:50 - March 05, 2016

A combination of a soft course and very little wind resulted in even better scoring on day two of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, with defending champ, Dustin Johnson, skipping round Doral in just 64 strokes. A rejuvenated Rory McIlroy shot a seven-under-par 65 and both Adam Scott and Justin Thomas hit 66. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 09:40.


Adam Scott -10 3.814/5

Rory McIlroy -8 4.3100/30
Dustin Johnson -8 5.24/1

Danny Willett -7 21.020/1

Bubba Watson -6 10.519/2
Charley Hoffman -6 60.059/1

Phil Mickelson -5 42.041/1
Paul Casey -5 55.054/1

-4 and 100.099/1 Bar


With the two first round leaders, Scott Piercy and Marcus Fraser, dropping out of contention, and with some super low scoring because of the easier than usual conditions, there's been much change on the leaderboard already. Rory and Dustin moved up 14 and 26 places respectively and there's every chance that the stats from previous renewals will be rendered useless but for what it's worth here's where the winners have come from at halfway here over the last 10 years.

Having sat third after round one last year, Dustin Johnson dropped to six off the lead following a disappointing 73 in round two before rallying to win with back-to-back 69s but he's the exception and not the rule. The nine winners that preceded him were all within two of the lead at this stage and seven of them were either leading or tied for the lead.

I know we saw plenty of change yesterday, and that conditions are softer than usual, but with the quality we now have at the head of affairs, it's really difficult to look past the leading pack and the one I like at this stage is Rory.

The world number three loves nothing better than a long soft course he can attack and a change in putting stroke after a disappointing missed cut at the Honda Classic last week seems to have brought about much improvement.

Adam Scott is in incredible form and is clearly the big danger but it's never easy to win back-to-back tournaments in two weeks and I fancy he's worth taking on. He got the better of Sergio Garcia at the Honda last weekend but this looks considerably tougher.

Dustin Johnson loves Doral and can't possibly be discounted but he's not the most reliable of finishers and it's never easy to defend a title. Things went his way 12 months ago with first JB Holmes and then Bubba Watson both blowing a great chance to win and it might not be so easy this time around. I'm not dismissing him lightly but at the prices available, I fancy Rory represents better value.

My sole selection before the off, Bubba Watson, is within four and still in it but he's going to have to improve considerably on the greens and I don't think he will. He ranks third for Driving Distance and first for Greens In Regulation but he only ranks 53rd for Strokes Gained Putting and that isn't going to get it done.


10:10 - March 04, 2016

The universal opinion before the start was that power off the tee was going to be the key this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship but so far it's been Putting.

After day one, the first three on the leaderboard - Scott Piercy, Marcus Fraser and Phil Mickelson - had a Putting Average ranking of first, third and second.

The big hitters are lurking though and I suspect that will again be the key to success by the end of the week but hitting fairways doesn't look important. Piercy ranked seventh for Driving Accuracy yesterday but Matt Kuchar (who sits tied 11th and who ranked 16th for D.A) is the only other player in the top-15 that ranked inside the top-24 for that stat.

So fast do you need to start here, that I'd almost lost hope with my sole selection, Bubba Watson, when after five holes he sat on two-over-par and eight off the early lead, having missed three times from six feet and in. He rallied brilliantly to finish on three-under-par and to trail by only three strokes in a tie for eighth but even that could be too far back according to the stats.

This is the 10th edition of this event at Doral and being up with the pace has been imperative so far. Last year's winner, Dustin Johnson, trailed by six after round one but he was still only tied third. J.B Holmes had blasted out of the gates with an incredible 62 and he'd been four clear of Ryan Moore and six ahead of DJ, Alex Levy and Rickie Fowler.

Tiger Woods had been 10th and four off the lead after 18 holes when he won the first WGC-Cadillac staged here in 2007 but every subsequent winner has been inside the top-five after round one so concentrating on the leaders makes sense.

Adam Scott, who's tied for fourth and two off the lead, is the current favourite, ahead of my man, Bubba, and world number one, Jordan Spieth but it's a very open looking event still.

I know Scott won last week, but getting the better of Sergio Garcia in a finish isn't anything to write home about and I still think it will be hard for him to win twice in two weeks so I'm happy to leave him out. Spieth's slight lack of length could still be an issue here and Phil Mickelson has started well but every time he's began the week well this year he's gone backwards on day two.

Nothing really grabs me yet so I'm going to let things roll for now but I have thrown a few pounds at Charley Hoffman who looks a decent price at 70.069/1. He's one of four men tied for fourth after round one and given he has the required length off the tee, he could just hang about.

In addition to backing Bubba to win before the off, after the preview had been published, I also backed my each-way pick, Scott Hend, to finish inside the top-20 on the Sportsbook but he has his work cut out to achieve the feat now after a disappointing three-over-par 75 sees him sit in a tie for 48th.

I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the state of play at halfway but if I doing anything in-running tonight I'll post it to Twitter.


Pre-Event Selections:
Bubba Watson @ 14.013/1
Scott Hend - Top 20 Finish @ 15/2 (Sportsbook)


In-Running Bets
Charley Hoffman @ 70.069/1
Rory McIlroy @ 4.47/2


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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