11:00 - May 22, 2022
Having begun the day trailing by a stroke, pre-event 230.0229/1 chance, Mito Pereira, played his first five holes in two-under-par in round three of the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills yesterday and with the halfway leader, Will Zalatoris, leaking oil, playing his first seven holes in four-over-par, the Chilean was matched at a low of 2.3411/8 before he too hit the skids.
Pereira bogeyed four holes in five from the eighth, but he arrested the slide brilliantly with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th and a fabulous tee-shot at the par three 13th which saw him pick up another shot.
And after a run of three pars, he signed the day off in style with this lengthy birdie at 18 to take a three-stroke lead into today's fourth and final round.
Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.
Mito Pereira -9 2.568/5
Matt Fitzpatrick -6 5.24/1
Will Zalatoris -6 5.79/2
Cameron Young -5 10.519/2
Abraham Ancer -4 22.021/1
Seamus Power -3 48.047/1
Justin Thomas -2 38.037/1
Bubba Watson -2 85.084/1
Stewart Cink -2 200.0199/1
-1 and 130.0129/1 bar
It's very long odds-on now that the winner not only wins their first major championship today but also their first PGA Tour title.
The first four on the leaderboard are in search of their first victory on the PGA Tour but all four have tasted success elsewhere with the seven-time DP World Tour winner, Matthew Fitzpatrick, undoubtedly the most heavily decorated.
Bidding to be the first Englishman to win the US PGA Championship since Jim Barnes in 1919, Fitzpatrick has twice won the prestigious seasonal finale - the DP World Tour Championship - and if the leader is to fluff his lines, he looks the most likely to benefit.
Pereira has never led a PGA Tour event at any stage but that's not entirely surprising given this is his first season on Tour following his promotion last year following three victories on the Korn Ferry Tour. He led with a round to go twice on that Tour, winning once, and he also led twice on the Latinoamerica Tour, winning once.
Mirroring that record, four men have led a US PGA Championship by three strokes this century and two of them went on to win. Tiger Woods closed out here at Southern Hills in 2007 and Rory McIlroy won by eight at Kiawah Island ten years ago but Justin Leonard in 2002 and Nick Watney in 2010, both failed. Leonard shot 77 at Hazeltine to finish fourth and poor Watney hit 80 at Whistling Straights to finish tied for 18th!
On the PGA Tour overall, since 1996, 131 players have taken a three-stroke lead into the final round of a 72-hole PGA Tour event (including co-sanctioned tournaments) and 69 (53%) of them went on to convert. The last man to do so was Scottie Scheffler at the US Masters.
So, we have a 50/50 strike rate for Pereira when leading after 54-holes, a 50% strike rate for three-stroke leaders in this championship this century and a 53% strike rate for three-shot leaders on the PGA Tour since 1996, suggesting the 27-year-old Chilean is a fair price but I'm not convinced.
We saw yesterday just how quickly things can go wrong when Zalatoris stuttered early on and I'm happy to swerve the first three in the market.
I've got Cameron Young onside after backing him at halfway and I've added three more this morning, just in case the nerves kick in at the top of the leaderboard.
Justin Thomas was a big disappointment yesterday but after his heroics in the worst of the weather on Friday, a flat day was perhaps not unexpected.
Thomas shot 64 to defend the CIMB Classic title in 2015 having trailed by four with a round to go. He'd led the event by two at halfway but a 71 on Saturday had seen him slip back.
He also won the St Jude Classic in 2020 by three strokes having trailed by four with a round to go, thanks to a final round 65 and he shot 64 at the WGC Mexico Championship in round four back in 2018 before losing a playoff, having trailed by four through 54 holes.
It's a big ask, but if the leader flops, he's only four strokes back of Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris.
I've also risked a few pounds on the veteran, Stewart Cink, at a huge price, who finished third at the US Open here back in 2001, but the one I think is very nicely priced this morning is the only other man alongside Cink and Thomas - Bubba Watson.
Bubba was matched at a low of just 6.25/1 yesterday before a poor back-nine saw him drop four strokes but he's adept at coming from off the pace and he can't be written off.
Watson was beaten in a playoff in this event back in 2010 having trailed by six with a round to go, he won the Genesis Invitational by two having trailed by four in 2014 and he's twice won the Travelers Championship having trailed by six with a round to go! He also very nearly won the Saudi Invitational from miles back in February this year...
Trailing by six in a tie for eighth through 54 holes and trading at 70.069/1, Bubba was matched at a low of 1.071/14 when he sat in the clubhouse with a two-stroke lead but he was caught and passed by his good friend Harold Varner III who finished the event birdie-eagle to pip him by one.
At 80/1 with three places available in the outright market and at 25/1 in the Top USA Player market, the two-time major winner is of interest on the Sportsbook and I've played him on the exchange at 90.089/1 with a view to trading him back should he make a move.
09:00 - May 21, 2022
The weather forecasts transpired to be correct for yesterday and after the morning wave had battled tricky swirling winds in round two of the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the afternoon starters enjoyed steady, almost calm conditions.
The scoring differential between the two sides of the draw was surprisingly quite low at only 1.94 strokes over the two days but of the 22 players that head into the weekend under-par for the Championship, 17 were drawn AM-PM and Justin Thomas, who sits alone in third, is the only player in the top-seven that was drawn PM-AM.
Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 8:50.
Will Zalatoris -9 3.45
Mito Pereira -8 7.26/1
Justin Thomas -6 5.04/1
Bubba Watson -5 25.024/1
Rory McIlroy -4 10.09/1
Abraham Ancer -4 32.031/1
Davis Riley -4 46.045/1
Matt Fitzpatrick -3 28.027/1
Stewart Cink -3 140.0139/1
Cameron Smith -2 29.028/1
Sam Burns -2 60.059/1
Tyrell Hatton -2 80.079/1
Cameron Young -2 80.079/1
-2 and 140.0139/1 bar
This is a fascinating but very tricky halfway leaderboard to assess with the front two both in search of not only their first majors but their first PGA Tour wins.
It's been done before, in fact in the last 40 years, four men have made their first PGA Tour title a major title and three of them did so in the US PGA Championship.
The first of Ben Curtis' four PGA Tour titles came at the Open Championship back in 2003 but Jeff Sluman (1988), John Daly (1991), and Shaun Micheel (2003) all got off the mark in this Championship.
Sluman and Daly went on to win numerous other titles but Micheel's victory at Oak Hill 19 years ago transpired to be his sole success.
Alex Cejka sat second at halfway before winning the Senior PGA Championship here last year, after Gill Hanse's course renovation, but in the seven major championships to be held here prior to that, all seven winners were in front at halfway. That's a huge positive for the leader who as already tasted success around Southern Hills.
Zalatoris won the Trans-Mississippi Amateur back in 2014 after two rounds in the 60s when the event was curtailed to 36 holes after thunder rolled in.
"One day I hope to play professional golf and this is part of that process," Zalatoris said after he was declared the champion. "I'm biased, but Southern Hills is seriously one of the best courses I've ever played. Everything is right in front of you; nothing is tricked up. And it is hard. I mean, this is a really hard golf course, and I love it."
The Hanse renovation has only enhanced what is a truly magnificent layout but it's not just Zalatoris' elite ball-striking for which he's renowned that's the secret to his success this week, his putter has worked for a change too.
Usually Zalatoris' weakness, as it was last week when he missed the cut in his home event in Texas, registering negative Strokes Gained Putting figures of -4.22, Zalatoris has found something here, ranking first as we head into the weekend with a positive figure of 6.18!
Whether he can keep that up under the gun is debatable given the circumstances and it's fair to say he's perhaps a couple of strokes better off than he should be.
On a course many of us thought finding fairways would be key, Zalatoris ranks 132nd for Driving Accuracy and he only hit 11 greens yesterday too. Zalatoris had this to say after his second round.
"I got away with murder a few times today for sure."
Matt Fitzpatrick (tied eighth) has got up-and-down more than anyone else in the field this week but Zalatoris ranks second for Scrambling and if he's going to kick on and win, he's going to either find more fairways and greens or keep getting away with murder.
I'm happy to swerve the front two. Mito Pereira is an exceptional talent, but this is a huge ask and I just don't see him as a big enough price at around 6/1.
Justin Thomas is the biggest danger to Zalatoris and he's done brilliantly from the wrong side of the draw to be so close but he too is just fractionally short for my liking.
Thomas is a fair price at 5.04/1 but it's no more than fair with so much golf to play.
The 2017 winner is hitting the numbers with his approach play and putting but at halfway he ranks only 44th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 53rd Around the Green and I just wonder whether he can continue to play so well for two more rounds?
Bubba Watson, alone in fourth, ranks only 82nd for Strokes Gained Putting at halfway (-0.177) and that has to be a concern.
Rory McIlroy is still very much in the mix after a disappointing one-over-par 71 yesterday afternoon and rain softening the layout will help him but with the wind forecasted to switch 180 degrees today, I'm happy to leave him alone. As highlighted yesterday, his record when leading after round one isn't great lately, but he certainly can't be dismissed.
Given 31 of the last 33 majors were won by someone inside the top-ten at halfway, we probably can't scan too far down the leaderboard but Colin Morikawa won this event in 2020 from tied 25th and six off the lead so it can be done.
I've still got Cameron Smith lurking, although he needs to start putting better. He's one of the best putters on the planet but like Watson, he heads into the weekend with a negative SGP figure (0.067).
Smith was matched at a low 6.611/2 when he made the turn in four-under-par for the championship yesterday but he dropped shots on 10 and 15 and missed putts on 17 and 18 from eight feet didn't help his cause.
I obviously haven't given up on Smith and if forced to give one name at this stage it would be Thomas, but this is a tricky looking puzzle to solve so all I've done this morning is chanced three players at a big price sitting alongside Smith in tied 10th - Sam Burns, Tyrrell Hatton and Cameron Young.
Burns is the one I really like. As a 25-year-old American in search of his first major, with a win just two months ago at the Valspar Championship, he really fits the mould of a US PGA Championship winner and the other two just look fractionally big at 85.084/1 should the leaders stutter.
09:10 - May 20, 2022
Much was being made of Rory McIlroy's poor recent record in the first round at major championships before the off this week but given his penchant for a fast start it was only a matter of time before it all clicked and being on the right side of the draw, alongside Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, in the opening round of the US PGA Championship yesterday has done the trick.
Rory drove and putted superbly to open the championship with a five-under-par 65 around the magnificent Southern Hills layout and for the eighth time in his last 46 starts, he's ended the opening round in front.
The morning starters didn't enjoy a massive advantage yesterday, averaging less than a stroke less than the PM starters (0.97) but that's likely to be accentuated today if the forecast pans out as expected.
Those that began the tournament yesterday afternoon will be greeted by winds gusting up to around 50 mph first thing today, but it's predicted to drop considerably later on and there's a chance that the bias could creep up to two or three strokes before the stagger unwinds.
Of course, we do have to bear in mind that a forecast is just that and things can change, and we also need to consider the possibility of a suspension of play first thing if the wind is really bad. And if that happens, the draw bias won't be anywhere near as severe.
As always, it's tricky to know what to expect but I'd definitely favour Rory and co as it stands. Here's the first-round leaderboard with prices to back at 9:00.
Rory McIlroy -5 4.1
Will Zalatoris -4 12.011/1
Tom Hoge -4 36.035/1
Justin Thomas -3 9.89/1
Abraham Ancer -3 40.039/1
Matt Kuchar -3 48.047/1
Cameron Smith -2 13.012/1
Xander Schauffele -2 17.016/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick -2 28.027/1
Joakim Niemann -2 38.037/1
Davis Riley -2 80.079/1
Mito Pereira -2 80.079/1
Kevin Na -2 95.094/1
Chris Kirk -2 120.0119/1
Lucas Herbert -2 140.0139/1
-1 and 34.033/1 bar
As highlighted yesterday, five of the seven previous major winners at Southern Hills have led or co led after the opening round and two of the last six US PGA Champions (Jimmy Walker in 2016 and Brooks Koepka in 2019) have won wire-to-wire.
They're both big positives for Rory backers but to counter that, Tiger Woods in 2000 and Phil Mickelson in 2005 are the only other two first round leaders to go on to win this century and Rory's record when leading after round one is pretty poor.
This is the 32nd time in his career that he's led after round one but his record is far from special and he's only gone on to win after leading after round one on five occasions.
A 16% strike-rate isn't awful by any means but what's concerning for anyone diving in at 3/1, is that he hasn't gone on to win when leading or co-leading after round one since 2014 and, as highlighted above, he's been beaten on the last 12 occasions he's led or co-led.
Rory was a 3.8514/5 chance at this stage of the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March when he led by two but following rounds of 72, 76, 76, he could finish only 13th.
Although he has the advantage of the favourable draw, I'm in no rush to side with him given his record when leading and given the course and conditions are only going to get harder (just like they did in the Arnold Palmer), he looks one to swerve.
The 2017 winner, Justin Thomas, is the biggest threat to Rory according to the market but he's the only player in the top-six on the wrong side of the draw and his victory five years is one to look at if you're looking for any encouragement if your picks have started slowly.
Thomas trailed by six in a tie for 44th at Quail Hollow and he's not the only recent winner to start slowly. Koepka trailed by five in a tie for 33rd when winning the first of his two titles in 2018 and Collin Morikawa was four back in 33rd after round one in 2020.
Given his poor recent record when leading, I've layed Rory modestly at odds-on in the Top 5 Finish market and I thought the five time PGA Tour winner, Kevin Na, looked a big price in the outright at 100.099/1 but they're my only in-running involvements at this stage.
After his slow start to the championship, pre-event pick, Cameron Smith, rallied brilliantly to post two-under-par and 400.0399/1 Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Matt Kuchar, sits tied for third so I'm not without hope after round one.
My other pre-event fancy, Shane Lowry, shot a respectable level par in the trickier afternoon conditions but he has it all to do if the forecasts are correct.
17:05 - May 19, 2022
Rory McIlroy hasn't broken 70 on the opening day of the US PGA Championship since he won the title for the second time back in 2014 (his last major win), but he's the first man out of the gates at Southern Hills today.
Having been matched at a high of 30.029/1 when the market first opened, the pre-event 18.017/1 chance has already been matched at a low of 4.77/2 today.
Playing the easier back-nine first, McIlroy has just made the turn in 31 (four-under-par) but the scoring is generally better than expected with as many as 18 players under-par at the time of writing.
McIlroy sat second and fourth after the opening round when winning the US PGA Championship in 2012 and 2014 and they're the only two occasions that he's been inside the top-15 after round one, so this is an ominous start.
As Justin Ray highlights below, a fast start has been extremely beneficial at previous major championships here and with the wind beginning to pick up, Rory and co may well have caught a break with the draw.
The weather forecast suggests the wind is going to drop fractionally as the day wares on tomorrow so those drawn AM-PM may well be advantaged and siding with today's early starters that have performed well, once safely in the clubhouse, may well be a decent way to play the tournament in-running.
I was more than happy to see one of my pre-event picks, Cameron Smith, drawn AM-PM and he was matched at just 17.016/1 when he birdied the 11th (his second) to get to one-under-par but he's been scruffy ever since.
Playing with Rory, Tiger Woods was been matched at a low of 50.049/1 after a couple of early birdies, but he's made the turn in level par and Jordan Spieth has been a big disappointment. Needing this title to complete the career Grand Slam, Spieth is two-over-par after nine.
Cameron Smith @ 28.027/1
Shane Lowry @ 50.049/1
Kevin Na @ 100.099/1
Sam Burns @ 60.059/1
Tyrrell Hatton @ 85.084/1
Cameron Young @ 85.084/1
Justin Thomas @ 40.039/1
Bubba Watson @ 90.089/1
Stewart Cink @ 210.0209/1
Rory McIlroy layed @ an average of 1.9420/21 in the Top 5 Finish market
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
2 pts Talor Gooch @ 150.0149/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
2 pt Jason Kokrak @ 150.0149/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
2 pt Cameron Champ @ 200.0199/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
1 pt Matt Kuchar @ 400.0399/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter