We reach the halfway mark of the USPGA Championship on Friday when the second round of the competition is played out on the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, on a day where we might get a stronger feel for who could walk off with the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday evening.
As ever at this stage of a tournament those who made a good start will be eager to push on and strengthen their position while those who didn’t have the opening round they wanted to be desperate for one on Friday to attempt to make the cut.
Round 1 Recap
It was a medium scoring round to open up the tournament on Thursday, one where Corey Conners emerged with a two shot lead after a five under 67. A whole bunch of players sit in second on three under including the former champions Brooks Koepka and Keegan Bradley, new hotshot Viktor Hovland and exciting English player Sam Horsfield. Cameron Davis and Aaron Wise are the other men on that score. Another shot back is a group which includes Phil Mickelson, our pre-tournament pick Branden Grace, Gary Woodland, Sungjae Im and the defending champion Collin Morikawa. It wasn’t such a good day for the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and world number one Dustin Johnson who shot +3, +3 and +4 respectively and need good second rounds to make it to the weekend.
It wasn’t a great day for our bets it has to be said. The first round leader bets never got going but even then probably wouldn’t have got to Conners even if they had. The three ball bets were so annoying with George Coetzee losing to Ben An on the final hole while Kurt Kitayama took a one shot lead over Robert Streb up 18 but could only come out with a tie. Daniel Berger was terrible so there is plenty of work to do over the course of the final three days.
We have a second round leader market priced up for Friday which in truth I wasn’t going to take too much of a look at because although Corey Conners has a two shot lead going into the day, he was high up in the putting stats on Thursday and that is a clear weakness of his game so I’m not convinced that he is going to hold up. I didn’t necessarily want to get involved in this market because it is really bunched up in behind him with 39 players within three shots of each other.
I did have a look at the market though and decided that with four places on the each way terms in case Conners does stay out in front, the 8/1 on Brooks Koepka coming through and leading is just too big to turn down. Koepka shot three under so he’s two back starting the day but when you consider he double bogeyed his opening hole that was a round that could easily have got away from him, but it didn’t and he turned it round nicely despite driving the ball terribly. Every other part of the 2018 and 2019 champion’s game was in great working order so if he can straighten up the driver he is going to take some stopping on a course which he is one of the few who has the length to tame it. There are a number of contenders to lead at the close of play on Friday but if Koepka drives it better not many will be ahead of him at halfway.
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Friday 3 Balls
The field remains out in three balls on Friday with the same groups that were on show on Thursday back out onto the golf course. As ever, the only change is that those who went out in the morning for their opening 18 holes will be out in the afternoon on Friday and vice versa. That means the morning coverage will focus a lot on the groups including Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson and Will Zalatoris which goes out at 13.33 BST and the Dustin Johnson, Shane Lowry and Sergio Garcia group out 11 minutes later. The later stages of the coverage will be largely about the Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka group which goes off the first at 18.58 BST with the current holders of the US majors out 11 minutes later when Hideki Matsuyama goes out with Collin Morikawa and Bryson DeChambeau. There are three bets I like for Friday.
Sebastian Munoz/Tim Pearce/Sam Horsfield
Match tees off at 12.22 BST
The first bet I like in the Friday three balls comes in the match which sees the English player Sam Horsfield out alongside the Colombian star Sebastian Munoz and the club professional Tim Pearce in a group the former won by eight and 10 shots on Thursday.
I don’t expect that gap to be bridged either. I mentioned on Thursday how you can find three balls which you can make into two balls in this tournament because the club pros need something special to put a score up around here so we can take Pearce out of the equation, as his +7 score on Thursday showed. It is hard to see Munoz beating Horsfield. Although he gained strokes on the field off the tee, that is the least important part of the game this week. He lost shots in the other statistics which is not good and he ranked outside the top 100 in those disciplines. That isn’t the case for Horsfield who gained strokes right throughout his bag on Thursday. The question over him going in here was how he would cope in the wind but he emphatically answered that and I expect him to come out on top in this group on Friday.
Y.E Yang/Shaun Micheel/Rich Beem
Match tees off at 12.33 BST
The second group I have my eye on over the course of Friday is the very next group off the first tee when the three former champions go out as Y.E Yang goes out alongside Shaun Micheel and the popular Rich Beem.
It was Beem who won this group on Thursday and I think he is still competitive enough to win it again. I’ll take Micheel out of the reckoning because this is the first tournament he has teed it up in this year and you just don’t play this course well in those circumstances. Beem beat Yang by one on Thursday but it should have been two as he missed a short putt on the last. His iron game, especially around the green, was very good. That is in contrast to Yang who lost shots to the field as well as Beem into the greens and although his short game got him round in a respectable +3, I’m not convinced that stands up again. Beem had a couple of unlucky breaks in his +2 on Thursday so I think he has enough in him to land this group again on Friday.
Louis Oosthuizen/Ryan Palmer/Thomas Detry
Match tees off at 18.36 BST
The final group that I have my eye on for play on Friday is one of the middle ones out in the afternoon wave where the former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is out alongside Ryan Palmer and Thomas Detry, with the South African looking to win the group for the second time in as many days.
Oosthuizen had an up and down round on Thursday, flying out to -3 early on before a mishit on 17 stopped him in his tracks but having dropped to +1 he finished well to post -1 with him gaining strokes off the tee, on approach and on the green but not around the green which is almost unheard of with the quality of his short game. That was all enough to beat Palmer by three and Detry by five. Detry lacks the qualities needed around here. He isn’t overly long, his short game is a work in progress and he is inexperienced at this level. Palmer certainly doesn’t lack for experience but seemed to struggle on Thursday and massively flatters to deceive in majors, not performing any better than T30 in a competition of this magnitude since he was T5 in this at Valhalla seven years ago. This is his 13th major since then so clearly he has issues at this level. Oosthuizen doesn’t so I expect him to come through here.
PLACED – Back B.Koepka Second Round Leader (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 9.00 with Betway (1/4 1-4)
Back S.Horsfield to beat S.Munoz & T.Pearce for a 3/10 stake at 2.15 with Betway
WON – Back R.Beem to beat Y.E Yang & S.Micheel for a 3/10 stake at 3.00 with BetVictor
Back him here:
WON – Back L.Oosthuizen to beat R.Palmer & T.Detry for a 3/10 stake at 2.20 with Sky Bet