Midway Musings: Scheffler still the man to beat at Oak Hill
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Written by Ben Everill @BEverillGolfbet
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – We’ve hit the halfway point of the PGA Championship and while some things have gone to expectations, plenty of others have not. A brutal Oak Hill has been the star of the show, only allowing nine players to sit under par through 36 holes.
Tied at the top on 5 under are Scottie Scheffler (+160), Viktor Hovland (+400) and Corey Conners (+650) with Justin Suh (+4000) and Bryson DeChambeau (+1200) next best at 3 under. Brooks Koepka (+1100) and Callum Tarren (+10000) share sixth at 2 under with Taylor Pendrith (+10000) and Justin Rose (+4000) the last two players in red numbers at 1 under.
Let’s break down what was a surprise and what was predictable over the first 36 holes and try to get a hold on what’s to come over the next 36.
PLAYERS champion Scheffler came in as the +750-pre-tournament favorite with Bet MGM and lived up to his billing. There is a serious chance that the Texan could control this tournament from this point on, much like he did at TPC Sawgrass earlier this season. Currently ranked inside the top 18 in all four major strokes gained categories, including fourth in Strokes Gained: Approach and a healthy 18th in SG: Putting Scheffler is in the catbird seat to claim a second major.
Oak Hill has lived up to the hype of being a ball-strikers paradise. With diabolical rough waiting outside narrow fairways, there is a premium on accuracy (for the most part… see below). Along with Scheffler, known iron gurus Hovland and Conners are in the lead. Hovland leads the field in SG: Approach, gaining over four shots per round on the average. Conners is seventh. Of the players under par, only Pendrith is losing strokes on approach. Look to the leaders to continue this methodical play, much like Jason Dufner did a decade ago.
Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy (+2000) are contending despite being terribly inaccurate off the tee. After finding five of 14 in round one, Rose hit just two fairways in his second round. McIlroy hit just two fairways in the opening round and five on Friday. Despite this they are just four and five shots off the lead respectively. McIlroy won’t be holding back during his chase. “When I holed that (birdie) putt at the last, I looked at the board, and I thought, I can't believe I'm five back. I guess that's a good thing because I know if I can get it in play off the tee, that's the key to my success over the weekend. If I can get the ball in play off the tee, I'll have a shot. I think at this point I might just tee it high and just bomb it everywhere.”
A PGA Professional not only made the cut… he’s contending! Feel good story Michael Block sits even par after shooting 70-70 in the opening round, tied for 10th with McIlroy and ahead of world No.1 Jon Rahm. Block is the first PGA pro to be inside the top 20 after 36 holes since 2009. He’s 750 to 1 to win from here – which of course is very unlikely – but if you think he can hang on to a top 10 he’s +1800 with DraftKings!
World No. 1 Rahm was +850 pre-tournament however rounds of 76-68 leave him at four over par and nine shots off the pace. Given Justin Thomas came from eight shots back in the final round a year ago there might be a few people eyeing the +11000 odds on offer.
Amongst the surprises to miss the cut were ball-strikers Sungjae Im and Tom Kim, recent Wells Fargo Championship winner Wyndham Clark, last season’s Rookie of the Year Cameron Young and last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson champion Jason Day.
So now we have the crib notes of the week so far, what does that mean for the weekend ahead?
Firstly – rain is on the way for moving day. While the wet grass will make the fairways “wider,” it will also make the thick rough heavier. We can expect more birdies but potentially more big numbers also! Surely the ball-strikers will continue to forge ahead out front. BetMGM has specials on whether Scheffler (+125), Rahm (+125) or Hovland (+170) will shoot 68 or lower tomorrow. Scheffler has been the best off the tee so could be worth a look.
Round 3 Match Ups at DraftKings provide some interesting two-balls.
A battle of the Aussies sees Adam Scott at +105 against Cameron Smith at -125. Scott has been great this week except for the end of his rounds. He double bogeyed 18 in round 1 and dropped four shots in three holes late in round 2. If he limits the mistakes, he provides value here.
McIlroy is the -130 favorite in a match up against Hovland at +110. While we know McIlroy has the ability to go low, if his driver is still missing, Hovland looks very tasty here.
You’ll get my Saturday night Draws and Fades tomorrow but be sure to see who Brady Cannon likes tonight. For the record I’m sticking with my two Thursday draws at this point in Scheffler and Hovland. And look for a “mudder” as a longshot in Englishman Rose or Irishman Shane Lowry.
Senior Writer, Golfbet Follow Ben Everill on Twitter.