Wells Fargo: Tight Leaderboard Provides Value

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·4 min read
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That sound you’re hearing is Rory McIlroy creeping up the leaderboard. The two-time winner of the Wells Fargo Championship made easy work of Quail Hollow Friday morning, carding a 5-under 66. The ball-striking that we have grown accustomed to seeing from McIlroy was on full display in Round 2. The world No. 15 gained strokes in all four major statistical categories, with his irons leading the way, gaining just over four strokes in Stokes Gained: Approach. McIlroy sits at 4-under for the championship and two-strokes behind a surprising cast of leaders.

Matt Wallace, Gary Woodland, and Patrick Rodgers all co-lead at 6-under. All were off in the morning wave in Round 2 and were able to hold onto the lead as the day progressed. Both Wallace and Rodgers are looking for their first PGA Tour victory, while Woodland seeks to return to major championship form before the PGA Championship.

While many took advantage of the calm morning conditions, Round 1 leader, Phil Mickelson, struggled. He never got any momentum going on his front-half and leaked oil coming home. Mickelson turned in a round of 4-over 75, but still sits inside the top-10 and only three-strokes behind the leaders.

As predicted, the winds picked up during the afternoon hours, making the late wave's scoring average more than a stroke higher than the morning's. Those who fell victim to the conditions include Sungjae Im who started the day at 3-under only to shoot an 11-over 82 and Jon Rahm who battled back from an opening round 75 to make things interesting, but fell just short of making the cut.

Our overnight selection of Joaquin Niemann struggled for the majority of his round, but was able to make his way into the weekend. Niemann went 3-under over his final three holes and picked up one-stroke on the leaders to sit six back.

Despite this, the oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook have Niemann at +10000, so if you missed yesterday’s article, a better number is now available for your taking. With such a bunched leaderboard, I believe there is value to be found deep down the odds board, as you will see with my selections.

Updated Odds (via PointsBet):

+450: Rory McIlroy

+800: Matt Wallace

+850: Gary Woodland

+1600: Abraham Ancer

+1800: Patrick Rodgers

+2000: Carlos Ortiz

+2200: Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, Viktor Hovland

+2500: Justin Thomas

+3000: Scott Stallings

+3300: Keith Mitchell

+4000: Brian Harman, Phil Mickelson

+5000: Corey Conners, Kramer Hickok

+6000: Luke List, Matt Jones

+6600: Emiliano Grillo, Stewart Cink

+7000: Joel Dahmen, Scott Piercy

Russell Knox (+20000 to win):

This is pure value play. At 1-under and five-strokes back of the co-leaders, Knox is not only right in the thick of things, but also has a real potential to play a factor in this tournament. The reason being is that through the first two rounds, Knox leads the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, thus displaying outside of putting, his game is in tune.

We had a similar thought process when Justin Thomas was in the same position last week at the Valspar and unfortunately it did not work out. Thomas was not able to overcome his putting woes, but I believe this week could be a bit different.

Most of Knox’s poor putting occurred on Friday, as he lost nearly three-strokes on the greens. Round 1, while not a completely different story, wasn’t all that bad. He was only slightly negative on Thursday, so a slight improvement from that performance is what we will be looking for. For someone who is striking the ball better than anyone in the field, this number is too long. I’ll jump on in and hope the putter shows up over the next couple of days.

J.T. Poston (+50000 to win):

There’s a real chance that a player goes out early tomorrow and is able to position himself nicely going into Sunday. Yes, you could go with Bryson DeChambeau or Xander Schauffele, or even Thomas, but instead, I’ll be going with Poston.

He played quite nicely on Friday, carding a 1-under 70 in the difficult afternoon conditions. Poston struck the ball beautifully, gaining more than one stroke off-the-tee as well as on approach. After a disappointing day with the flatstick on Thursday, Poston even got it going on the greens. And that’s the main reason I love Poston moving forward, he can roll the rock with the best of them, as he ranks 5th on the PGA Tour this season in SG: Putting.

The main risk with Poston is simply his short game. Through the first two rounds and specifically today, it has looked horrendous. Chipping across greens, flubbing pitch shots, it's been completely out of sorts. Had his short game shown up this week, Poston could easily be two or three-under at the moment, but instead he sits at even-par and six-strokes back. I’m hoping that it can make a weekend appearance and propel the 2019 Wyndham Championship winner up the leaderboard.

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