US PGA Championship

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Koepka in pole at Oak Hill

Golfer Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koeka in action at Oak Hill on Saturday

There's just one round to go at the 105th US PGA Championship so read Steve's final in-running thoughts for the week here...

11:55 - May 22, 2023

With a round to go at the 105th US PGA Championship, only seven players are under-par and five of them are already major champions. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back on the Betfair Exchange at 11:40.

Brooks Koepka -6 2.56/4
Viktor Hovland -5 4.57/2
Corey Conners -5 6.86/1
Bryson DeChambeau -3 14.5
Scottie Scheffler -2 10.519/2
Justin Rose -2 32.031/1
Rory McIlroy -1 27.026/1
Level Par and 300.0299/1 bar

There appears to be only seven players in with a chance of lifting the gigantic Wanamaker Trophy this evening but that doesn't make it an easy puzzle to solve.

In search of his third PGA title and his fifth major, Brooks Koepka is quite rightly the man to beat according to the market and I'm not in any sort of rush to lay him at around 6/4.

Koepka has claimed he didn't sleep at all on the Sunday night after losing his 54-hole lead at Augusta in April and that his impressive second successive 66 around Oak Hill yesterday was partly due to the lessons learned after his three-over-par 75 at Augusta that saw him slip to a tie for second.

That was the first time that he'd lost a 54-hole lead at a major championship, and he may well kick on today and win but it certainly wasn't smooth sailing when he won his last major.

Koepka led the 2019 US PGA Championship by seven strokes with a round to go before eventually winning by two, but he very nearly threw it away so although he's the most likely winner, his price is fair an no more.

Viktor Hovland is the second favourite this morning, but he looks opposable given his recent final round record.

Much was made of Rory McIlroy's disappointing Sunday at St Andrews in July, but Hovland had began the day alongside the Northern Irishman and four clear of the rest before a 74 saw him slip to fourth - beaten by six.

Just two months after the Open, Hovland was tied for the lead with a round to go at the weather-shortened BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, but he shot 70 and finish fifth and he's been inside the top-five on the PGA Tour four times since then with a round to go and he's gone backwards every time.

Like Hovland, Corey Conners, who won the Texas Open for a second time the week before the US Masters, is looking to win his first major and he could be the one being overlooked here given he's a couple of strokes clear of the remainder.

He closed out in Texas in impressive fashion but it wasn't a strong field and his two Texan titles are his only victories on the PGA Tour. He doesn't strike me as a terrific price at less than 6/1.

Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy are more than capable of shooting a low enough score to put some heat on the leaders and Scottie Scheffler bouncing back after yesterday's lacklustre third round would be no surprise to anyone. The world number two is a huge presence on the leaderboard.

I'm hopeful that Justin Rose can get back in-the-mix after his disappointing finish yesterday. The Englishman was matched at a low of 6.25/1 after a run of three birdies in five around the turn but the birdies dried up after that and he played the last seven holes in two-over par.

Although it looks highly likely that one of the top-seven will take the title, the 200/1 available about Tommy Fleetwood with three places still up for grabs is tempting with the Sportsbook.

Sitting tied for 10th and seven off the lead, Fleetwood has plenty to do but he's infinitely better from off the pace and a place at least is plausible. He finished second to Koepka at the US Open in 2018 having sat tied for 23rd with a round to go and he's won DP World Tour titles from five and six strokes back.

All things considered, this a tough one to call but I do like the look of Koepka in the final two-ball of the day.

Hovland at the US PGA.jpg

The market makes Hovland the most likely to win the day's final match-up and that's wrong given the Norwegian's recent efforts in-contention.

And the 10/11 with the Sportsbook about Hovland shooting 72 or worse today looks decent too.

08:40 - May 21, 2023

After Thursday morning's frost delay, those that were drawn AM-PM at this year's US PGA Championship have caught a bit of a break.

Having to play until dusk on day one before getting up early on Friday to either finish off round one and start round two, or just start round two after the late finish, was quite a disadvantage.

Over the first two rounds, those drawn in the morning on day one have averaged 1.18 strokes less than the PM-AM wave but it feels as though the advantage was more sizable than that.

Justin Rose and Taylor Pendrith, who are both four off the lead on -1, are the only players drawn PM-AM that are under-par, and the leaderboard is completely dominated by players on the other side of the draw. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 8:30.

Scottie Scheffler -5 2.727/4
Viktor Hovland -5 5.59/2
Corey conners -5 8.615/2
Bryson DeChambeau -3 19.018/1
Justin Suh -3 70.069/1
Brooks Koepka -2 12.011/1
Callum Tarren -2 190.0189/1
Justin Rose -1 60.059/1
Taylor Pendrith -1 210.0209/1
Rory McIlroy level 25.024/1
Shane Lowry level 80.079/1
Keegan Bradley level 120.0119/1
Level Par and 50.049/1 bar

Looking at the previous major championships staged at Oak Hill (including the senior majors), being up with the pace at halfway has been critical.

Ken Tanigawa trailed by four at this stage before going on to win the 2019 Senior PGA Championship but that's as far as any winner has trailed.

The winners of this event in 2003 and 2013, Shaun Micheel and Jason Dufner, both led by two at halfway, Jack Nicklaus trailed by a stroke in second at the 1980 US PGA Championship, Curtis Strange was tied at the top at the halfway stage of the 1989 US Open, and Jay Haas was just one adrift in second at the 2008 Senior PGA Championship.

The world number two, Scottie Scheffler, is the short-priced favourite but the price is fair.

He was an odds-on shot when leading this time last week at the Byron Nelson Championship and he finished tied for fifth but this is an entirely different kettle of fish.

Of the three frontrunners, he's the one far most likely to keep his composure and convert but there's definitely a bit of value elsewhere.

I backed Justin Rose on Monday at 220.0219/1 and he was going to be a pick for the Find Me a 100 Winner column until I work up on Tuesday to see his price had collapsed.

With top-ten finishes at Oakland Hills and Plainfield, a tenth and a fifth at Sedgefield, five top-six finishes at East Lake, and a win and a second at Aronimink, Rose's record around Donald Ross designed tracks is very strong and he even has form at Oak Hill.

Justin Rose at Oak Hill.jpg

He sat fifth and only three off the lead at halfway here ten years ago before fading to finish 33rd but at 60.059/1, he's a fair price to convert from four back this time around, if he can drive a bit better over the weekend.

His short game kept him in it yesterday after fairway after fairway was missed so he will have to improve in that department but he's a Ross-design specialist and he's not out of it by any means.

11:30 - May 19, 2023

I've been looking forward to the 105th edition of the US PGA Championship for some time and Oak Hill didn't disappoint after Andrew Green's recent renovation.

Green's aim was to restore the layout as close as possible to Donald Ross' original ethos and it was noticeable how many players with form on Ross designs are in contention after day one.

Although my two main fancies, Tony Finau and Matt Fitzpatrick, had poor days, I was glued to the action until late last night but I really didn't expect the highlight on day one would be Tom Kim taking a mud bath just before the close of play!

It was a long day after the delay for frost and Kim wasn't the only one to slip up late on as darkness descended.

Adam Scott double-bogeyed the final hole to fall from tied second to tied sixth, and Dustin Johnson also dropped a shot at the tough 18th after the hooter had gone and he fell from second to third.

Pre-event 1000.0999/1 shot, Eric Cole, who was in the final three-ball to start on the 10th, is leading by a stroke but he still has four holes to play when he returns to the track this morning.

Eric Cole - US PGA.jpg

Cole is well positioned on the left-hand side of the sixth fairway, but he'll be greeted by blustery conditions when he returns to Oak Hill today and he has some tough holes to play.

The sixth, eighth and ninth holes were the third, fourth and second toughest yesterday and combined, the four holes he has left to play are so far averaging 1.3 strokes over-par. And that's without today's wind!

Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 11:20.

Eric Cole -5 (thru 14) 40.039/1
Bryson DeChambeau -4 15.014/1
Scottie Scheffler -3 3.8514/5
Dustin Johnson -3 8.88/1
Corey Conners -3 18.5
Viktor Hovland -2 14.5
Adam Scott -2 28.027/1
Keegan Bradley -2 32.031/1
Ryan Fox -2 60.059/1
-1 and 24.023/1 bar

I suspect today's latter starters, including Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland and Bryson DeChambeau, hold the advantage. Especially if we don't get another delay today.

The forecast suggests we won't get a repeat of yesterday's frosty start and that the blustery conditions will ease fractionally as the day wares on.

If it pans out like that, Scheffler and co should not only get to play in the slightly easier conditions, they'll also get to finish up their second rounds and that will be a huge advantage over the two days.

Scheffler round one PGA.jpg

Given the conditions, Oak Hill is only going to get harder and it's going to be a war of attrition over the next few days. Expect the most patient players to hang tough as par becomes a great score.

I haven't quite given up on Tony Finau, who shot a very lopsided two-over-par 72. He looked lost when he played the front nine in a six-over par 41 but he showed his class on the back nine as darkness fell, birdying 11, 13, 14 and 15 to better his front nine score by ten strokes!

If he can ride that momentum and cope with the early poor conditions, he could be on the premises at halfway but the one I like this morning at a huge price is the recent Arnold Palmer Invitational winner, Kurt Kitayama, at 200.0199/1.

The Californian has won all over the world in tough and blustery conditions and he starts later today after his opening level-par 70 yesterday morning when the forecast suggests conditions could be easing fractionally.

As he demonstrated in style at Bay Hill in March, Kitayama plays tough tracks well and he knows how to grind when the going gets tough.

His stats weren't great yesterday but I'm happy to chance him at a monster price.

21:40 - May 18, 2023

The 105th US PGA Championship was delayed by almost two hours this morning because of frost and as a result, the first round won't be completed today.

When play did eventually start, one of the early starters, the world number one, Jon Rahm, rolled in a birdie at the opening hole, and having contested favouritism with the world number two, Scottie Scheffler, before the off at around 9.08/1, the Spaniard shortened up in to 5/1 on the Betfair Exchange but that was as good as it got for the US Masters winner.

Rahm made just one more birdie, at the 17th, and he finished up posting a six-over-par 76 which in all probability, leaves him far too much to do.

In contrast, his market rival before the off, Scheffler, posted a very impressive bogey-free 67 and he's the man to beat now.

With some of the afternoon starters yet to begin the championship, Scheffler and co may well have caught a break.

The late starters today will need to return in the morning to finish up round one before going straight back out to play round two.

Scheffler and co won't start their second round until late in the day tomorrow and if we get another frost in the morning, they'll have no chance of completing their second rounds tomorrow.

Viktor Hovland, who's finished fourth and seventh in his last two majors, was matched at 110.0109/1 after he played his first three holes in two-over par, but he recovered nicely after that to post a two-under-par 68 and Rory McIlroy recovered well after a slow start too...

The pre-event third favourite looked all at sea when he missed the green long at the par four second (his 11th hole of the round) when already three-over par, and he was matched at a high of 120.0119/1 but his remarkable par save there (see below), shifted the momentum and he hit a cracker at the par three third and played the par five fourth very well to record back-to-back birdies before eventually signing for a one-over par 71.

Bryson DeChambeau is the early pacesetter after an opening round of 66 but I'm sorely tempted to back Scheffler at around 3/1 after his first bogey-free round in a major.

It's looking tricky out there as the day wares on and his price could shorten up even more. The well-fancied, Xander Schauffele, started bogey-double-bogey and Max Homa played his first three holes in two-over par.

It was an immaculate display by Scheffler today and 3/1 is more than fair if he plays the rest of the week like he did today but last week's performance at the Byron Nelson Championship just tempers my enthusiasm.

The Texan was matched at a low of just 1.491/2 in round two in his home state. He went into the weekend leading but the putter refused to play ball and he eventually finished tied for fifth.

Pre-Event Picks:
Tony Finau @ 34.033/1
Matt Fitzpatrick @ 36.035/1
Si Woo Kim @ 420.0419/1

In-Play Pick:
Kurt Kitayama @ 200.0199/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Picks:
Back 2 u Patrick Reed @ 180.0179/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Back 1 u Adrian Meronk @ 460.0459/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Back 1 u Lucas Herbert @ 480.0479/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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