Matthew Wolff has shot three strokes clear of the field at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and our man thinks he'll be hard to peg back. Read Steve's final in-running thoughts on the event here...
"Wolff was tied for the lead with a round to go when he won the 3M Open so what limited evidence we have suggests he’ll handle the pressure admirably today and in the last 15 years, three-stroke 54-hole leaders have a 44.7% strike rate on the PGA Tour."
10:00 - July 5, 2020
The two co-halfway leaders, Webb Simpson and Chris Kirk, both failed to break 70 in round three yesterday so there's been plenty of change at the top of the Rocket Mortgage Classic leaderboard, with 21-year-old, Matthew Wolff, sprinting to the front, picking up four strokes in his last five holes. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 09:50.
Matthew Wolff -19 [2.36]
Bryson DeChambeau -16 [3.45]
Ryan Armour -16 [13.5]
Chris Kirk -14 [44.0]
Mark Hubbard -14 [48.0]
Troy Merritt -14 [55.0]
Seamus Power -14 [60.0]
Webb Simpson -13 [29.0]
Viktor Hovland -13 [32.0]
-13 and [80.0] bar
Almost a year to the day since he won the inaugural 3M Open in just his fourth PGA Tour event (a week after missing the cut in the inaugural staging of this event), and without a single top-ten since, Matthew Wolff takes a three-stroke lead into round four of the Rocker Mortgage Classic and he might just take some stopping.
Wolff has made more birdies than anyone else this week, converting 25 of 38 attempts. That's an incredible 65.8% conversion rate when the PGA Tour average is just 30%. Unsurprisingly, he ranks number one for Putting Average and Putts Per Round for the week and he ranks second for Strokes Gained Putting.
Wolff was tied for the lead with a round to go when he won the 3M Open so what limited evidence we have suggests he'll handle the pressure admirably today and in the last 15 years, three-stroke 54-hole leaders have a 44.7% strike rate on the PGA Tour. The odds of around [2.4] available this morning are perfectly fair, although one of his two closest challengers is the pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau.
It was apparent at the halfway stage that Bryson's game had room for improvement and Justin Ray's tweet below suggests that's still the case.
Bryson is ranked 70th of 70 players in approach shot proximity this week.? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 4, 2020
The last player to win a PGA Tour event ranked worse than 70th for the week in proximity was Aaron Baddeley in 2006 at Harbour Town.
If Bryson can find some improvement with his approach shots, he's clearly Wolff's biggest danger but in addition to finding a bit more accuracy with his irons, he now has to deal with yet another controversy, and one all of his own making.
Bryson running a little hot. Caught up with him on 7 where he took a Sergio slash at the sand after splashing out of a greenside bunker, muttered an expletive after missing the par save and spent 60 seconds in a...testy discussion with a cameraman on his way to 8 tee. pic.twitter.com/ENjQt1U689? Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) July 4, 2020
Poor Bryson is worried that being filmed while losing the plot will hurt his image. In an interview afterwards he revealed what he'd said to the unfortunate cameraman.
"He was literally watching me the whole entire way up after getting out of the bunker, walking up next to the green. And I just was like, 'Sir, what is the need to watch me that long?'
I do feel that DeChambeau can, on occasion, receive unwarranted bad press but he's brought this one on himself. There may not be any fans on the course but he's out there playing for a first prize of $1,350,000 in front of a global audience. I think it's only fair that that audience, paying to watch him attempt to win $1,350,000, get to see him lose his shit when he loses it.
A win for Bryson would hardly be a shock but his poor stats and even poorer attitude are against him and he looks short enough to me.
Alongside Bryson is my [320.0] pre-event pick,Ryan Armour, who I wrote this about in Monday's preview.
"And finally, Ryan Armour won the Sanderson by five strokes back in 2017, he was in-the-mix here at halfway 12 months ago, he has a fourth and an eighth-placed finish to his name at the Wyndham and he caught the eye on Sunday when finishing sixth, playing alongside Rory McIlroy in round four. I thought odds of [300.0] plus were huge and he's one I'll look to play in the top-ten and top-20 markets too."
Armour actually led the field by two strokes on the back-nine yesterday before Wolff finished with a flourish and my man double-bogeyed the par five 17th. To his credit, he did bounce back to birdie the last and with a gap back to the bunch in a tie for fourth, he certainly has a chance.
I layed him back a bit too early yesterday, at [10.5], before he hit a low of [5.1], but I have backed him in both the top-ten and top-20 markets so I'm hoping for further profits regardless of whether he can peg back Wolff.
Of the others, Kirk and Simpson could rebound nicely at big prices today but I'm leaving the event alone for now. There's money for Wolff this morning and I can see why. He's most certainly the one to beat and anything above [2.3] looks fair to me.
11:40 - July 4, 2020
We've reached the halfway stage of the Rocket Mortgage Classic and we have another congested leaderboard to assess. Here's the current state of play with prices to back 11:30.
Webb Simpson -12 [4.1]
Chris Kirk -12 [18.5]
Bryson DeChambeau -11 [4.4]
Matthew Wolff -11 [19.0]
Mark Hubbard -11 [29.0]
Ryan Armour -11 [36.0]
Ricky Werenski -11 [40.0]
Seamus Power -11 [50.0]
Kevin Kisner -10 [30.0]
Sepp Straka -10 [50.0]
Tyrrell Hatton -9 @ [18.0]
-9 and [32.0] bar
Webb Simpson, who won the RBC Heritage in his previous start on the PGA Tour two weeks ago, is tied at the top with Chris Kirk, who won the King & Bear Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour the same weekend. Both are looking for back-to-back wins.
Simpson missed last week's Travelers Championship after a COVID scare in the family and Kirk, presumably, just took the week off. Although he wouldn't have been celebrating too hard.
Victory in Florida came in just his eighth start back after he took time out to deal with alcoholism and depression. With form figures reading T33-MC-MC-MC-MC after he'd returned to golf and prior to the COVID break, and a tied 60th at the Charles Schwab (where he won his last PGA Tour title in 2015), Kirk didn't exactly telegraph his win at the King & Bear Classic but he's held his form nicely.
When he won at Colonial five years ago his stats weren't great and he basically just putted his way to victory and it was a similar story in Florida two weeks ago, when he had a Putting Average of just 1.57. At the halfway stage, Kirk ranks 106th for Driving Distance, 60th for Driving Accuracy, 74th for Greens In Regulation and 25th for Scrambling. Once again, it's the putter doing the majority of the work and it's a question of whether he can keep that going?
Simpson is the man to beat and he has room to improve on the greens. He ranks fifth for Driving Accuracy and first for Greens In Regulation but he ranks 65th for Strokes Gained Putting. If he warms up on the greens, he's going to be very hard to beat.
The clear and present danger to the two leaders is the bang-in-form, Bryson DeChambeau. He's contended every week since the restart and here he is again, just one off the lead at halfway. Given he was around a [7.6] chance before the off, his current price of [4.4] looks more than fair but his stats aren't great. He's hitting it further than everyone else off the tee and he's putting fairly well but he's missing plenty of fairways and greens and I'm not convinced he can be neat and tidy enough to go low enough to win.
Tyrrell Hatton, who trails by only three, is the current third favourite and he's putting very well again but he ranks 122nd for GIR at the halfway stage so he has to improve there. He looks short enough given how much traffic is ahead of him.
Matthew Wolff is just one back, thanks to a really hot putter, and my huge outsider, Ryan Armour, is also putting well. In fact, all his stats are decent so far so I'm hopeful he can keep going over the weekend but I have added two more for small stakes - Kevin Kisner and Richy Werenski.
Kisner has only won three times on the PGA Tour but it could so easily have been more given he's been beaten in four playoffs. He's a superb putter and he looks a little big at [30.0] given he trails by just two. One of his playoff losses came at the Greenbrier Classic - an event touched on in the preview - and that's another reason to get Werenski onside.
Werenski looks big anyway at [40.0] given his stats are good and he trails by just one and the fact that he finished tied for third at the Greenbrier, alongside last year's Rocket Mortgage winner, Nate Lashley, in September, could be construed as another positive if there is indeed a course correlation.
10:00 - July 3, 2020
With the wind more likely to rise in the afternoon and the course in pristine condition, it's usually advantageous to be assigned a morning start on day one of a tournament and more often than not, the early starters score better than the afternoon wave but that wasn't the case at the Rocket Mortgage Classic yesterday, where the PM starters averaged exactly two strokes under the par of 72, while the morning starters averaged 70.35.
Playing in the afternoon, Kevin Kisner birdied three of his last four holes to shoot a seven-under-par 63 to tie the lead with two morning starters - the very well-supported pair of Doc Redman and Scott Stallings. And that was great news for Dave Tindall followers given he not only tipped up Stallings each-way to win the tournament, he was also one of his three First Round Leader picks.
It's tight at the top, and there are seven players tied for fourth and just a stroke back on -6. Of the seven tied, four teed it up in the afternoon yesterday, so start early today and one of the four is the pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau, who now trades at just [4.0].
Bryson started fairly slowly and he was only two-under-par after two thirds of his opening round but he birdied the 13th before eagling the 14th, thanks to a monstrous 376-yard drive.
Longest drives on the 14th hole today:? PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 3, 2020
376 yards - DeChambeau
342 yards - Champ
341 yards - Watson
340 yards - Day
340 yards - Matsuyama
339 yards - Wise
333 yards - Barnes
333 yards - Power
331 yards - Gibson
329 yards - Wolff
329 yards - Willett
328 yards - Norlander pic.twitter.com/oNhBlkWbMg
DeChambeau tied the lead with two more birdies at 16 and 17 and he's already been matched at a low of [3.05] but a dropped shot at 18 saw him slip back into the group on -6.
Nate Lashley won the inaugural staging of the Rocket Mortgage Classic wire-to-wire last year but with 14 players, including Rickie Fowler, tied for 11th and as many as 45 players within three of the lead, it's far too crowded a leaderboard to be bullish about another frontrunning victor.
Amongst those tied for 25th and just three off the lead are the well-backed recent PGA Tour winners, Webb Simpson and Tyrrell Hatton, but the one I like is last week's 54-hole leader, Brendon Todd.
Given how disappointed Todd would have been after last week's effort, when he shot 75 on Sunday, which is the worst round by a 54-hole leader this season, he's done well to pick himself up and shoot four-under-par. It was an even better round than it first appears too given he made a double-bogey seven at the hole Bryson made an eagle three - the par five 14th.
Todd found the water with his second shot at 14 but he recovered nicely with two more birdies coming in and he appears to be back playing at the level that saw him win back-to-back titles in November. I thought [50.0] was fair.
My pre-event picks have been largely disappointing, with none of them bettering three-under-par yesterday but there's a long way to go and last week's result can give us all hope. Dustin Johnson sat tied for 79th and nine off the lead after round one before going on to win the Travelers! I'll be back tomorrow with a look a detailed look at the halfway stage.
Kevin Na @ [46.0]
J.T Poston @ [48.0]
Brandt Snedeker @ [70.0]
Si Woo Kim @ [120.0]
Brian Stuard @ [150.0]
Sebastian Muñoz @ [160.0]
Patton Kizzire @ [180.0]
Ryan Armour @ [320.0]
Brendon Todd @ [50.0]
Kevin Kisner @ [30.0]
Richy Werenski @ [40.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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