Never underestimate how difficult it is to win any golf tournament from the front and then remember to double the pressure in a major championship. Then add some more for players who have never achieved such a career-defining victory.
Twenty-four hours ago, the hottest golfer on the planet appeared to have the USPGA Championship at his mercy. Hideki Matsuyama then turned in an awful round - offering no indication that he was even in the world's top-50.
In contrast, the outsider on a classy leaderboard charged on relentlessly from the front, making hardly any mistakes. Entering the 'Green Mile', Kevin Kisner held a two-shot lead with serious contenders dropping away fast. Rather than taking a strangehold on the Wanamaker Trophy, Kisner dropped three shots during that closing stretch of three tough holes.
The upshot is that, from looking fairly stretched out and potentially dominated by one or two players, we suddenly have a classy leaderboard. Kisner still holds a narrow one-shot lead over Matsuyama and Chris Stroud, but the pack are closing fast. There are now 11 within five shots and 17 within seven.
A dream Sunday set-up, therefore, with the potential for dramatic turnarounds. Again, never underestimate how the leaderboard and market can change. We tend to look at the eventual winner's starting deficit to make conclusions about scoring trends, but a chaser doesn't need to win to set up a winning trade.
Consider the last major. Going into the final round at Royal Birkdale, pre-tournament [1000.0] chance Hao-Tong Li was 12 shots behind Jordan Spieth, and totally unappealing even at the maximum exchange odds. Though eventually losing by six, Li traded below [15.0] in-running as he charged and the leaders faltered.
Knowing full well this sort of thing can happen, players at least within seven shots will retain hopes and have a plan. The fact none of the top-three have ever won a major - and for Kisner and Stroud, victory would be transformational - means a winning score of -5 or -6 is realistic. Go out earlier, shoot 65, sit in the clubhouse and hope.
However whilst backing outsiders on that basis always makes plenty of appeal, I don't believe it is the way forward here. After all the course changes, Quail Hollow is not a catch-up course. Quite the reverse.
Nearly all the good scoring is done on a few holes - the par-fives and two short par-fours on 8 and 14. Everyone is likely to pick up something on those holes, while struggling on the rest. To go very low requires chasing birdies on the other, extremely difficult holes where a conservative play is best - better suiting those who are trying to defend a position.
In this sense, Quail Hollow is reminiscent of St Andrews and Augusta - two major venues which famously favour the front-runners. Likewise, the nature of this event has been akin to a grueling US Open, where again catch-up is rare. Therefore, while there are numerous likeable characters further back, I'm not interested in anyone outside the top-five, currently on -5 or better.
Of those, Matsuyama is rightly solid favourite but he makes no appeal after yesterday. In addition to the personal expectations and chance to lay down the gauntlet at the top of the world rankings to Dustin, Spieth et al, Hideki is carrying the hopes of a nation desperate to bag it's first major after decades of producing candidates. Yesterday's poor display raises serious doubts about tonight.
Kisner and Stroud have both coped admirably so far and arguably warrant more respect from the market than their current odds imply. However the final round of a major is something else and I reckon one of them will probably struggle from the outset, perhaps dragging this final group down. That said, I very much respect Kisner for his front-running performance so far.
Which leaves us with the world-class pair on -5, Justin Thomas and Louis Oosthuizen. For me, these are the ones to focus upon at current odds. They are close enough to contend from the lead immediately and have unarguable claims.
Thomas was superb yesterday and is going to break through at this level sooner or later. He imploded during the final round of the US Open but surely learnt something from it and, on other occasions, has shown plenty of bottle in contention.
But the best bet for my money is someone we've been on since Friday, at odds of [75.0]. Oosthuizen is the one frontline contender to have converted a major title, and has bags of experience in contention at the most prestigious events. All areas of his game looked in fine shape yesterday and it felt like he maybe left a shot or two out there. Odds of [8.2] represent rock-solid value in my view.
Of course, if you're already following my betting plan, there's no need for the new bet. We're already guaranteed ten units profit after Jason Day hit his lay target and another 20 will be secured if Louis shortens a little to [6.0]. If that materialises, we'll still have another 30 units extra available on him winning. See below for the full details.
Recommended bet - applies to those who didn't take earlier positions.
Back Louis Oosthuizen 8u @ [8.2]
Earlier advised positions and ongoing lay targets
Backed Jason Day 4u @ [29.0]
Laid 20 units @ [4.0], securing 16 units profit
Backed Louis Oosthuizen 2u @ [75.0]
Place order to lay 20u @ [6.0]
Backed Paul Casey 4u @ [28.0]
Place order to lay 20u @ [4.0]
Oosthuizen +160 units
Day +46 units
Casey +122 units
Field +10 units
I must start with an apology, for not updating yesterday's piece once the three-ball line-up was belatedly formed. In truth, I simply didn't fancy anyone in the groups starting late enough to be worthwhile for readers, and I wouldn't have won anything so no regrets!
One reason for feeling flummoxed was that weekend three-balls ruin my usual, tried and tested methods for 18-hole betting. Mostly, the first two days involve finding weak links from groups that were formed without reference to the leaderboard. But at the weekend, every member of the group has achieved roughly the same, while the weakest links have gone home. Head-to-head match-ups feel easier to read. Happily I can revert to type today with these four selections.
Back Jim Herman 3u @ [3.35] (vs Rahm) (Starts 15.55)
This is precisely my type of bet. Of course Rahm is in a different league but his winning chance was lost with a desperate finish last night. He will doubtless be chasing birdie on every hole, which may come off but, as the Green Mile showed, Rahm's inexperience can be very costly when things go wrong. Herman, in contrast, is a fairly solid, reliable, greens in regulation type. A high finish would be worth it's weight in gold to him so expect full concentration.
Back Ian Poulter 3u @ [3.25] (vs Spieth) (Starts 16.05)
Similar comments apply here. I'm sure Spieth is well motivated but he will try to shoot the lights out on a course where such a strategy makes dubious sense. For all his genius, Spieth is as capable of running up big numbers as the next man and his long game hasn't coped well with Quail Hollow. Poulter has produced many a late charge when all is lost over the years, shot 64 last Sunday and played well for a long way yesterday.
Back David Lingmerth @ [2.2] (vs Olesen) (Starts 16.15)
Here, I'm simply going for resilience. Quail Hollow will be really taking it's toll by now and we want someone who will scrap for every single stroke. Lingmerth is building a solid portfolio on tough championship courses for precisely that reason and, bar a terrible finish last night, could have reached the fringes of contention. The brilliant, yet wildly inconsistent Olesen held the first round lead before going backwards very fast.
Back Ryan Fox 4u @ [2.2] (vs Kang) (Starts 18.45)
From -1, both of these retain outside hopes of challenging but I think that level betting is wrong. Kang has had his moments on the PGA Tour, for sure, but does not have Fox's potential. Or for that matter, anything like his power off the tee. The New Zealander was in cracking form prior to failing in the last major but has fought back well from a poor start here, and may be on the verge of stating his claims to a wider global audience tonight.
Having an each-way bet on the golf this week? Make sure you're up to speed with our dead heat rules so you know what your payout will be in the event of players finishing in a tie on the same score.