PGA Championship three-balls: Jimmy Walker fancied in second round

Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker

Ben Coley previews the second round of the 101st PGA Championship, where Jimmy Walker can be expected to win his three-ball just as he did on Thursday.

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2pts Jimmy Walker to beat Jason Dufner and J.T. Poston

Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner share plenty in common, not least the fact that they've won this tournament before only to have struggled more recently, but it's the former who looks to be heading towards the light.

Walker's PGA win came three years ago at Baltsurol, a course in the same part of the United States, designed by the same man, one which played a similar way, and he started nicely on Thursday with a level-par 70.

It should have been better. While Walker was far from alone in making a double-bogey, his coming at the 15th, having found the fairway off the tee it was a case of clumsiness rather than waywardness as he carded a frustrating six.

The way he responded with two birdies to claw his way back to level bodes well and having hit 14 greens, he produced the sort of measured display which is required at Bethpage.

Dufner managed just eight greens in regulation, placing enough pressure on his short-game to break it, and there were few positives in a round of 76 which came courtesy of consistently modest play rather than the odd shocker.

As for J.T. Poston, the late alternate who completes this three-ball, he shot 77, again hitting just eight greens.

Just like Dufner, there was nothing catastrophic here, but a back-nine 41 with six bogeys tells us that he simply struggled throughout with the sort of test he just hasn't been exposed to on the PGA Tour.

While there's recency bias built in to backing any player to win a three-ball for the second day running, Walker just looks far too big at 6/4 with BoyleSports and is a strong fancy.

Of the other evening options, Aaron Wise at odds-against to see off international duo Ryan Fox and Shugo Imahira looks rock-solid. He's a far brighter talent than both, won the three-ball in round one and ought to double up.

There's a similar case for Luke List at evens but if you're looking for a turnaround, consider Joaquin Niemann at 11/8 to outscore Adam Long and Craig Bowden.

The latter is a 50-year-old PGA professional who did quite well to shoot 78, while Long is the PGA Tour rookie who caused an upset in the desert back in January and started with a solid 73.

Niemann was a couple of shots worse after a difficult run from the 10th, but he's the best player in the group, he hits the ball wonderfully well off the tee, and he should be favourite despite Thursday's events.

Among the morning wave, Keegan Bradley to beat Martin Kaymer and Padraig Harrington appears the most solid option.

Bradley won this by four and five shots and he did so courtesy of his customarily excellent driving and approach play, with only a misbehaving putter costing him a place inside the top five or so.

Of course, that's usually the case with Bradley but as the week progresses, anyone exuding such control from the tee is expected to hold their own as short-games become harder to rely on.

Both Kaymer and Harrington missed as many greens as they hit and Bradley at 5/4 is a fair bet.

Finally, I did consider Corey Conners against Marc Leishman and Jim Furyk.

The Canadian is such a solid ball-striker, he showed up well in the Masters, and his first round at Bethpage saw him make 17 pars - more than anyone in the field and by some margin - plus one double-bogey.

Clearly, he'll be looking to add a birdie or two but the message is he's playing very well whereas Furyk and Leishman have questions to answer.

Leishman tailed off badly after a good start, enough to suggest the injury which saw him withdraw from the Byron Nelson remains an issue, while Furyk is hamstrung by a lack of length.

That being said, Conners is into 9/4 - a price which is probably about right.

Posted at 0930 BST on 17/05/19.

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