Talor Gooch has moved three clear of the field at the RSM Classic but is he vulnerable to an off-the-pace closer?
"Although the recent results have largely favoured the front runners, we’ve only had 11 previous renewals yet we've seen winners come from four strokes adrift, five off the pace (twice), and seven strokes back with a round to go."
12:55 - November 21, 2021
The halfway leader, Talor Gooch, birdied two of the last four holes in round three of the RSM Classic to ease three clear of the field and now odds-on, he's the man to beat. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:50
Talor Gooch -16 1.875/6
Seamus Power -13 8.27/1
Sebastian Munoz -13 9.417/2
Tom Hoge -12 17.5
Mackenzie Hughes -11 27.026/1
Luke List -11 30.029/1
Scott Stallings -11 46.045/1
Webb Simpson -10 34.033/1
-10 and 65.064/1 bar
Since 1996, 127 players have taken a three-stroke lead into the final round of a 72-hole PGA Tour event (including co-sanctioned tournaments) and 65 of them went on to convert suggesting Talor Gooch is fractionally short at 1.875/6.
Add in his flaky finish in Mexico a fortnight ago when he fell from second to 11th and from two off the lead to beaten by nine, the fact that he's attempting to win his first PGA Tour title, and that we've seen a number of winners come form off the pace here and I'm quite happy to take him on at odds-on.
A weary Brendon Todd, who was bidding to win his third event in-a-row, finished fourth after leading by two through three rounds here two years but the 54-hole leaders have a decent recent record at the RSM Classic with five of the last six going on to win.
That doesn't tell the whole story though as four of the last five renewals have gone to extra time and with a slight twist of fate, we could have been looking at a very different picture. Kevin Kisner came form five back to get into a playoff last year, the 2019 winner, Tyler Duncan, trailed by four after 54 holes and Patrick Rodgers was beaten in extra time by Charles Howell III having sat five adrift.
Although the recent results have largely favoured the front runners, we've only had 11 previous renewals yet we've seen winners come from four strokes adrift, five off the pace (twice), and seven strokes back with a round to go.
I'll be monitoring the early play to see if anyone gets off to a fast start but in addition to laying the leader, I'm also throwing a few pounds at three I thought had the potential to finish fast.
Webb Simpson looks a fair price given his record here, Scott Stallings finished the Bermuda Championship with an incredible 62 three weeks ago to climb into the top-five, having sat 50th with a round to go, and Denny McCarthy started like a man possessed yesterday, playing his first seven holes in six-under-par. I've backed that trio at 36.035/1, 46.045/1 and 160.0159/1.
18:50 - November 20, 2021
Having been matched at odds-on during round two, Rory McIlroy's price drifted out to 5.69/2 after a poor drive at the opening hole had led to a bogey five in round three of the DP World Tour Championship today but he bounced back brilliantly to fire an impressive five-under-par 67 and he's the man to beat. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 18:40.
Rory McIlroy -14 2.021/1
Sam Horsfield -13 9.89/1
Robert Macintyre -12 12.011/1
Alexander Bjork -12 23.022/1
Collin Morikawa -11 10.09/1
Shane Lowry -11 15.014/1
J.B Hansen -11 32.031/1
John Catlin -11 38.037/1
Martin Kaymer -10 55.054/1
-9 and 110.0109/1 bar
I took Rory on after the opening round but it's hard to look past him now. We've had 12 editions of this event to date and all bar one winner, Robert Karlsson in 2010, have sat first or second with a round to go.
The last three winners were all tied for the lead through 54 holes and Karlsson, who beat the third-round leader, Ian Poulter, in a playoff, is the only winner trailing by more than a stroke with a round to go. He began round four three strokes behind the Englishman.
Rory has held a clear advantage 16 times previously and he went on to win on ten occasions and he has a better than 50% strike-rate when leading or tied for the lead too. Converting 12 of 23 54-hole lead or co-leads.
One could argue that the stats suggest he isn't as solid in-contention as he once was given he's only converted two of his last six and three of his last eight leads and he failed to hold on in Abu Dhabi back in January when beginning round four with a one-stroke advantage but he looks a fair price at odds-against.
The biggest dangers to Rory according to the market are Sam Horsfield, who sits second, and my pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, who was matched at a low of 3.412/5 after a blistering start to round three today. The world number two was three-under-par after just six holes but he parred the next 12 and is hard to fancy from three off the lead if Rory places anything like his best golf.
The biggest disappointment about Morikawa's round was that having birdied all four par fives in round two, and three of the four on Thursday, he parred them all today and that's just not good enough given how important scoring on the long holes here is.
Horsfield was matched at a low of 5.04/1 today after his eagle three at the 14th was followed by birdies at 15 and 16 but just when it looked like he'd be leading going into the final round, he made a mess of the 18th to make a bogey six.
Having backed Horsfield last week it's obviously frustrating to see him contending here but I'm not convinced he's ready to win a tournament of this magnitude and Shane Lowry may prove to be a bigger danger to Rory.
Lowry lost his way today after doing an on-course interview on the eighth hole but he recovered nicely to play the last eight holes in two-under and he'll look back on the 2017 edition to muster up some inspiration. He began the final round trailing by six in a tie for 16th but a nine-under-par 63 on Sunday saw him end the week tied for second and just a stroke behind the winner, Jon Rahm.
Robert Macintyre will be frustrated to have bogeyed the 18th for the second day in-a-row but he's clearly found his groove and he can't be discounted and the same can be said of the man alongside him in a tie for third, Alexander Bjork. Last week's winner, JB Hansen, has absolutely nothing to lose and tomorrow will feel like a free hit but it's very hard to look past the leader and odds-against about him winning the event for a third time is perfectly fair.
11:10 - November 20, 2021
I thought there would be an advantage to playing at the Plantation Course in the wind at the RSM Classic yesterday but that wasn't the case. The Seaside Course averaged almost a stroke over par at 70.92 and the par 72 Plantation averaged 72.64 so the differential was negligible and as we head into the weekend, where all the golf will be played at the host course, Seaside, the top-eight on the leaderboard is made of four players that were drawn to play Plantation yesterday and four the Seaside Course. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 11:00.
Talor Gooch -13 4.67/2
Sebastian Munoz -12 10.519/2
John Huh -12 13.012/1
Mackenzie Hughes -11 10.519/2
Taylor Moore -11 12.011/1
Seamus Power -10 18.5
Scott Stallings -10 30.029/1
Zach Johnson -10 34.033/1
Corey Conners -9 15.5
Tom Hoge -9 42.041/1
David Skinns -9 95.094/1
Russell Henley -8 27.026/1
-8 and 36.035/1 bar
The last five winners of the RSM Classic were in front at this stage but that only tells half the story. Austin Cook, in 2017, is the only one of the five not to win in extra time and we've seen beaten playoff protagonist trail by as many as three, four, five, six and even 12 strokes at this stage!
Although he finished only 60th at the Houston Open last week, Talor Gooch came into the event with form figures reading 4-11-5-11-60 so it's no surprise to see the 55.054/1 chance bang in contention again and there may well have been an excuse for last week anyway given he turned 30 on Sunday.
He's one of many quality players on the PGA Tour yet to taste success and his form figures suggest he's due but he was particularly poor on Sunday in Mexico two weeks ago when he fell from second and two off the lead to 11th and nine back in round four.
He may well learn from that experience, and he has won once on the Korn Ferry Tour, back in 2017, but I'm happy to leave him alone.
I've had a very small bet on Sebastian Munoz, who's putting nicely. His two-under-par around the Plantation Course was a decent enough knock yesterday given he'd opened-up with a super-low round of 60 on day one but it's a tough one to call and I'm happy to remain cautious.
I'll be back later with a look at the DP World Tour Championship at the conclusion of round three.
16:35 - November 19, 2021
Despite missing a few too many fairways, pre-event favourite and first round leader, Rory McIlroy, was matched at a low of 1.8810/11 as he sauntered to a bogey-free 33 on the front nine at the DP World Tour Championship today but he came home in one-over to post a second round of 70, thanks mainly to a costly double-bogey at the 18th after he found water with his third shot.
He now sits in a tie for fourth, and one off the lead but he's still the man to beat according to the market. Here's the 36 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 16:30.
Shane Lowry -10 5.59/2
Sam Horsfield -10 10.519/2
John Catlin -10 13.5
Rory McIlroy -9 3.814/5
Alexander Bjork -9 28.027/1
Collin Morikawa -8 6.611/2
Martin Kaymer -8 29.028/1
Sergio Garcia -7 18.017/1
Robert Macintyre -7 42.041/1
JB Hansen -7 50.049/1
Dean Burmester -6 60.059/1
Jamie Donaldson -6 230.0229/1
-5 and 80.079/1
The rough is quite short but as highlighted in the preview, Driving Accuracy is starting to be a lot more important here than it once was. The three players tied at the top rank second, fourth and 13th for DA (as well as first, second and fourth for Greens In Regulation) and it's his inability to find fairways from the tee that's costing Rory. He ranks 24th for DA and as result, only 31st for GIR.
That will probably have to improve if he's to win the tournament for a third time but he's nicely placed with two rounds to go given how important it is to be up with the pace here.
As highlighted yesterday, Robert Karlsson is the only first round leader to win here and he's also the only victor to be outside the top-ten at halfway and trailing by more than four strokes at this stage.
The Swede shot 75 in round two in 2010 to fall from first to 12th and the only other winner to be trailing by more than three strokes at halfway is Rory in 2015. He sat tied for fourth and four adrift of the eventual second, Andy Sullivan.
With that in mind, it's very hard to look past the top-ten and I'm happy to stick with what I have. Pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, didn't play anywhere close to his best golf today but he's still very much there and I'm content to remain against Rory, who I layed after round one.
09:10 - November 19, 2021
Although Sebastian Munoz leads the RSM Classic after a course record opening ten-under-par 60 around the Seaside Course on Thursday, six of the top-nine kicked off the tournament around the Plantation Course and that looks like the place to be today.
Scoring was ridiculously good in yesterday's benign conditions with the par 70 Seaside averaging 66.3 and the par 72 Plantation only 68.73 but things are going to be quite different today when the wind kicks up and the more sheltered of the two courses, the Plantation, is the place to be.
I'm pretty sure I've backed Zach Johnson to win this event at a single-figure price before now so seeing him tied for second having been matched at 500.0499/1 is irritating, and like the leader, Munoz, he'll be at the Plantation today, but I'm not sure I can back him at less than 30.029/1 given his general form over the last few years and that the 45-year-old hasn't won since he caused a shock at the 2015 Open Championship.
Anyone that was happy to take 16/1 about Scottie Scheffler must be going in again today at 10.519/2 because after a seven-under-par 63 around the Seaside Course yesterday, that looks a very fair price for the in-form Texan.
And on the same price, Corey Conners, who shot 62 around the Seaside Course, also looks reasonably priced. The Canadian finished 10th in this event last year, just a week after he'd finished 10th in the US Masters when all the others to hop from Augusta to Sea Island after contending in the major struggled badly.
Looking back at the first 11 editions, although we've witnessed all sorts of drama (see In-Play Tactics section of the preview) the vast majority of winners have started fast.
Tommy Gainey sat tied for 65th and seven adrift after round one when he won in 2012 but he still trailed by seven with a round to go! And Patrick Rodgers lost a playoff in 2018 having sat eight off the lead after round one and 12 back at halfway but the fact remains that other than Gainey, every winner has been within four strokes of the lead and Robert Streb, when wining for the first time in 2014, is the only other winner to be outside the top 11 places after round one.
I was really tempted to get Scheffler onside for trading purposes but in the end I've just thrown a few pounds at four outsiders that play at the Plantation Course today.
Both Chesson Hadley and Nate Lashley began the event with seven-under-pars around the Seaside Course to sit tied for 10th and after shooting six-under pars there, JJ Spaun and Brian Gay trail by four.
The second round of the DP World Tour Championship is well underway and after a poor drive at the first hole, I've decided to take the plunge and lay Rory McIlroy.
Happy to lay Rory at 2.6 after that iffy drive on one. It's just too short? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) November 19, 2021
21:45 - November 18, 2021
Rory McIlroy was well supported before the off at the DP World Tour Championship and he's already been matched at a low of 2.245/4 when he threatened to run away with the tournament very early on. The world number eight birdied the opening hole, eagled the second and he raced to six-under-par through just eight holes before a missed green led to a bogey at the ninth.
McIlroy bookended seven pars on the back nine with a pair of birdies and he finished the day two clear of the field. Here's the early leaderboard with prices to back at 21:35.
Having made Rory a back-to-lay trade on the last occasion he played in the region, at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January, where he also led after round one, I'm kicking myself for not adopting the tactics here.
McIlroy has a remarkably good record in the Emirates, and this is the ninth time he's ended the first round in at least a share of the lead in 33 starts here but he's gone on to win only once, when he won his first event at the Dubai Desert Classic back in 2009.
Given how important a fast start is at this venue, being in pole position should be a big plus but there's plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise...
Although a fast start is imperative and all 12 course winners have began the tournament with a round in the 60s (all bar one opened up with a 68 or better) only one first round leader or co-leader has gone on to win and Rory's record when leading after 18 holes is decidedly poor.
A fast start is nothing unusual for McIlroy and he's led or co-led after round one 29 times in total but he's only gone on to win on five occasions. A 17% strike-rate isn't awful by any means but what's concerning for anyone diving in at around the 13/8 mark, is that he hasn't gone on to win when leading or co-leading after round one since 2014 and he's been beaten on the last ten occasions he's led or co-led.
And his record when leading by two after round one is rubbish. On the five previous occasions he's finished third, 10th, sixth, ninth and fifth.
One of the reasons I didn't get involved with Rory before the off was that I was very keen on the second favourite, Collin Morikawa, and his record when trailing by three is far better than Rory's when leading by two! This is the fifth time he's trailed by three after the opening round and he has a 50% strike-rate.
Rory at 13/8 or Collin at 7/1? Not a difficult decision given those stats.
And just one final word of warning for Rory backers, he traded at odds-on here during round one in 2019 when he ended the first round one behind Mike Lorenzo Vera and two clear of the rest after an opening 64 but finish fourth - beaten by seven.
DP World Tour Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Collin Morikawa @ 10.09/1
Danny Willett @ 70.069/1
DP World In-Play:
Rory McIlroy layed at 2.68/5
RSM Classic Pre-Event Selection:
Brendon Todd @ 85.084/1
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back 1.5 u Danny Lee @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1.5 u Matt Jones @ 170.0169/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Michael Thompson @ 200.0199/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Martin Trainer @ 740.0739/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 15.014/1, 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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