We are down to the final day at the US PGA at Oak Hill and our Golf tipster Jamie Worsley is back with his thoughts heading into the final 18 holes at the second major of the season…
US PGA Championship In-Play Tips – After Day 3
- Rory McIlroy 22/1 – 1/5 3 places – 1 pt ew
- Straight Forecast – Brooks Koepka/Rory McIlroy 25/1 – 1 pt
- Kurt Kitayama to beat Ryan Fox 11/10 – 2 pts
- Sahith Theegala to beat Patrick Cantlay 7/4 – 2 pts
- Double on Kitayama/Theegala 4.77/1 – 1 pt
For our second straight major of the year, Brooks Koepka enters the final round as the man to beat. He produced an incredible 66 – the best round of the day of anyone by two-strokes and six better than the field average – at Oak Hill yesterday, in tough, wet conditions, which gives the four-time major winner a two-shot lead heading into our final day’s play of this year’s PGA Championship.
Current Standings (Top 9):
1st – Brooks Koepka (-6)
T2 – Viktor Hovland (-5)
T2 – Corey Conners (-5)
4th – Bryson DeChambeau (-3)
T5 – Justin Rose (-2)
T5 – Scottie Scheffler (-2)
7th – Rory McIlroy (-1)
T8 – Michael Block (E)
T8 – Justin Suh (E)
It’s also a second consecutive major in which Norwegian star, Viktor Hovland finds himself in the top 3 entering the final round; his level-par 70 seeing him into the final group alongside Koepka. With his stripes very much earned there at Augusta and at The Open Championship last year, it now looks time for the former top-ranked amateur to turn one of these winnable final-round positions into a true contending performance on the last day of a major.
Those are the just two of a fascinating top end of the leaderboard as we look forward to tomorrow’s finale.
Canada’s Corey Conners led through much of the 3rd round and was bogey-free until doubling the 16th hole. Though still just one shot behind he has every chance and is paired with Bryson DeChambeau, as the 2020 US Open winner produced a solid level-par performance in the adverse conditions.
2013 US Open winner Justin Rose is 4 back after he fired one of just nine under-par rounds yesterday; looking to become the first Englishman to win this event in over 100-years. Whilst the world’s current second-best player, Scottie Scheffler could still have a huge say in the event from 4 back, as he looks to bounce back from his disappointing 73 yesterday.
One of – if not the most – exciting groups in the final round is that of two-time PGA Champion Rory McIlroy and PGA Professional Michael Block. Block – a golf coach in California by day – continues to defy logic and expectation, as he signed for a third repeated round of 70 to maintain his top-10 position with a round to go.
He’ll no doubt be champing at the bit to play with Rory tomorrow and as intimated by his playing partner yesterday, Justin Rose, the positive energy he possesses and brings with him from the following fans provided a huge boost. Something which McIlroy could feed off and use to find the type of final round he’s not unaccustomed to producing in majors, that would enable him to make a run at that fifth major championship – and first in nine years – from five back tomorrow.
We are set to enjoy the best conditions of the week tomorrow, with no rain, the sun beaming and though a strong breeze is forecast, it is nothing compared to what had been forecast the previous days; yet failed to appear.
The temperature should also be nice and warm by the time the leading few groups come out onto the course and it seems safe to assume that with the course no doubt still receptive from all of the rain the last two days, that scoring will be at its lowest today. Giving us a final round that sets up well for someone to go low (in relative terms) and make a thrilling run at claiming the Wanamaker Trophy from a few back.
Brooks Koepka is going to be a seriously difficult man to beat today. The 2018 & 2019 PGA Champion hasn’t found himself in this position in his second successive major by accident. He’s the second-best tee-to-green player in the field this week, as well as 14th in putting and found his best approach performance of the week yesterday when ranking 6th in the field.
He looks close to the relentless best we saw of him a few years ago and though he’s struggled in major final round in recent years – not just in this year’s Masters but in the final round of the 2021 PGA Championship, shooting +2 when entering the final round one off the lead – he looks determined to right some of those wrongs this week.
Koepka won’t have it all his own way though, as he’s set to be chased by an elite group of golfers, many of whom are also major champions. I do like the chances of Viktor Hovland today; the soft, easier scoring conditions should play into the hands of this high-class ball-striker but I feel he’s short enough considering he hasn’t quite convinced when in these positions in the past.
The major winning trio of Bryson DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler and Justin Rose are all playing well enough to make a run at it too. Scheffler in particular will be hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of yesterday but there’s one man who relishes flying up the leaderboard with a low one on the Sunday of a major and with him being close enough to actually win it this year if doing so I’m taking Rory McIlroy to give Koepka most to think about today; playing him both outright and in a straight forecast to finish runner-up to a potentially unpassable Brooks.
Rory McIlroy 22/1 – 1/5 3 places – 1 pt ew
Straight Forecast – Brooks Koepka/Rory McIlroy 25/1 – 1 pt
Rory started the week slowly and was +3 after nine on Thursday but battled back well to finish the opening round at +1, despite battling illness and struggling to keep his driver under control. He improved with a 1-under 69 in round two, as he found something on the greens but was still struggling off-the-tee, which it goes without saying is usually the key weapon in his arsenal.
The reason he appeals so much today is that he finally found something with the driver yesterday, ranking 4th in the field but also maintained his quality in approach, where he ranks 3rd for the week and put up another good day on the greens. His game looks to be peaking for the week at precisely the right time for that Sunday major charge.
This is something he has done often in the years since his last major win in 2014, no more memorable than when 2nd in The Masters last year, firing an incredible final-round 64 to finish 3-shots shy of Scottie Scheffler.
Though as insinuated, he often finds it when too far behind to challenge for the win, something I don’t believe to be the case today on a course which though more playable than recent days, is still bound to take a victim or two amongst those leading contenders. A possible situation McIlroy looks well placed to capitalize on.
Kurt Kitayama to beat Ryan Fox
Ryan Fox steadied the ship yesterday following a 73 in round two, which undid his good start to the event with a 1-over 71. However, Kurt Kitayama has been more consistent across his game this week, outshining the putter-reliant New Zealander with his approach play and if doing so today, can get the better of his playing partner.
Fox’s ranking of 5th on the greens is his superior stats but most concerning has been his approach play, where he ranks 69th of the 76 players to make the cut – a negative on receptive greens that should be at their most attackable today – compared to Kitayama’s ranking of 19th with his irons; an area he compliments this week by gaining strokes in every other area.
Another big plus for Kitayama is his win at Bay Hill, which has proven to be a strong correlating course this week. Rory, Scheffler and DeChambeau are past winners, whilst Hovland, Rose and Conner also have good records there.
Though Fox also performed well in the API this year, finishing 14th, he may just run out of steam today, on his first start in six weeks since Augusta – during which time he contracted pneumonia – and can leave the door open for Kitayama to outplay him in round four.
Sahith Theegala to beat Patrick Cantlay
Though I tipped up Patrick Cantlay outright, the thrilling talents of Sahith Theegala look just too big a price to ignore today. Both are out of contention in 20th, as Cantlay wasn’t able to sustain the quality of his second round performance yesterday, whilst Theegala carded a third consecutive round of 71.
However, that over par round was enough to outscore Cantlay for the second time in three days, in which time Theegala has bettered his playing partner’s birdie tally by 12-8 and with conditions putting Oak Hill at its most gettable, the most attack-minded of golfers should be best suited; a description which applies to Sahith as much as anyone.
Cantlay has driven it excellently the last two days but has flattered to deceive in other areas (besides a good approach round in round 2), whereas Theegala has driven it poorly but has produced three quality approach performances, whilst also gaining strokes with the short game over the week.
Regardless of where Cantlay ends up today, it has to go down as another underwhelming major championship performance for a player who possesses enough game to be a serious player in them. This in contrast to Theegala, who at the start of his young career is developing a solid foundation from which to build in these events in the future – including a 9th place finish on his first trip to
Augusta this year, as he closed with a 5-under 67 – and can go close to another top 10 finish if finding some of that final-round magic today.
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