Stewart Cink may already have one arm slipped into the tartan jacket. The 47-year-old followed up his first round 63 with another 63 on Friday to take a five-stroke lead into Round 3. Cink, a two-time winner of this event, currently sits at 16-under and is very much in control heading into the weekend. Even though Cink has a healthy lead, he wasn’t the only player to turn in a solid round of golf in Round 2.
Corey Conners came storming out of the gates Friday morning. Conners birdied two out of his first three holes, but ran into trouble on his fifth hole of the day, the par-3 14th. After his tee shot found the water, Conners went on to make a double-bogey, the only blemish on his scorecard. He turned in one-under 34, but finished strong and came home in 30, carding a seven-under 64 to stand at 11-under for the tournament.
Conners was not alone in shooting 64, as Emiliano Grillo carded his second straight bogey-free round en route to the 7-under number. Grillo stalled in the middle of his round, making nine consecutive pars before making birdie on both the 17th and 18th hole. Grillo stands alone in third place at 10-under, six back of Cink.
As for Round 1 leader, Cameron Smith, the putter that came to his rescue him time and time again on Thursday was nowhere to be seen. Despite gaining more than 2.3 Strokes: Tee-to-Green, Smith carded a disappointing even par 71 due to an uncooperative putter. Smith sits seven back of Cink at 9-under, alongside Billy Horschel, Collin Morikawa and Sungjae Im.
The oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook have Cink as the clear favorite at the halfway point. He is currently listed at +150. Conners, who is in solo second and five strokes back, is listed at +550. As for our Round 2 play, Im sits a mere seven strokes behind Cink and is +1400, a far cry from the +4000 that was available after the completion of Round 1.
Updated Odds (via PointsBet)
+150: Stewart Cink
+550: Corey Conners
+750: Collin Morikawa
+1200: Cameron Smith
+1800: Billy Horschel
+3000: Matthew Fitzpatrick
+5000: Shane Lowry
+6000: Harold Varner III
+8000: Michael Thompson
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Round 3 Plays:
Abraham Ancer (+400 top-5 finish)
It’s a tough pill to swallow realizing you’re wagering on a player nine strokes back, and while it may be too much to overcome, Ancer only sits two back of the top-5. After a so-so first round of 69, Ancer found his irons during the morning wave of Round 2. Ancer led in Strokes Gained: Approach for the day, gaining 4.33 strokes on the field. Despite carding a round of 5-under 66, Ancer actually lost strokes putting.
Now, I know Ancer isn’t Ben Crenshaw on the greens, but I expect some improvement going into the weekend. Ancer made only one putt over 10 feet and that came on his first hole of the day. He had birdie look after birdie look, only for a number of them to fall by the wayside. For Ancer to be a legitimate contender, not only will he have to putt better, but he’ll also need to play the par-5's better. He’s only 3-under on them through the first two days and will likely need to play them at least 3-under tomorrow in order to make up ground on the players in front of him.
This may not be a matchup that jumps off the page, but Frittelli's approach numbers certainly do. The South African currently ranks third in SG: Approach through the first two rounds. He came out firing on Friday, playing his first two holes in 3-under, but was unable to keep the momentum going as he played his remaining 16 holes in just 1-under. I expect Frittelli to roll in a few more putts and keep the pedal to the metal and post something in the mid-60's tomorrow.
While Frittelli has been getting the job done with his irons, Stuard has relied primarily on his chipping and putting. I never love to put stock in a player who is hitting his irons poorly and needing to play well around the greens in order to shoot a good score. If Stuard doesn't find his ball-striking quick, he may be going backwards on the leaderboard.
It pains me to pick against Kim, but the numbers are telling me to do so. The Pete Dye specialist had a fantastic day on the greens in Round 2 gaining more than two strokes on the field with his putter. Sadly, I don't see that continuing into Saturday. The rest of his game is holding up just fine, but I expect a performance similar to Thursday when he putted below field average and carded a round of even-par 71.
The fact of the matter is, Kuchar and Kim's ball-striking numbers are very similar. So, this matchup really comes down to who do I trust more on and around the greens. The answer is Kuchar. As I highlighted in the previous paragraph, I'm not sold on Kim's putting. Kuchar has time and time again proven that he is a solid putter, especially on these greens. Despite his unorthodox grip, I'll side with the wily veteran in this one.
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