Matt Cooper

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The Roundup: Piercy pounces

Friday, October 19, 2018

Recap of the day
A second round of contrasts. 
For Scott Piercy, Brooks Koepka and Alex Noren it was a splendid Friday as each one of them posted 7-under-par 65. It left Piercy top of the pile on 9-under 135, Koepka solo second on 8-under 136 and Noren joined Ian Poulter (69) in a tie for fourth on 5-under 139.
But the pre-round pace setters? Leader Chez Reavie fared best, scrapping for a 2-under-par 70 to hit halfway solo third on 6-under 138, but three back of Piercy's lead. But the pair sharing second overnight struggled. Danny Willett shot 77 and Si Woo Kim 73. Another home hope, Byeong Hun An, limped in with another 77.
Low round of the day: Brian Harman thrashed nine birdies in his 8-under-par 64 which saw him leap 58 places to T6 on 4-under.
Revised outright betting: Koepka 6/4, Piercy 11/2, Noren 11/1, Poulter 14/1, Woodland 22/1, Thomas 22/1
Saturday weather forecast
A clear and sunny day with temperatures in the low 60s, zero chance of rain and nothing but a zephyr of wind. 
Leaders at 36 holes
Scott Piercy (65, 135) - A long game exhibition, landing 13 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. The two he missed? Saved par both times. 
Brooks Koepka (65, 136) - Closed out the day by giving himself 165-yards to the 568-yard par-5 final hole, knocked it close and drained for eagle-3. Made four bogeys through 36 holes, but weighed in with the par breakers.
Chez Reavie (70, 138) - 100% for fairways found on day one, but missed four Friday. However he hit more greens (16 to 15), yet he also made three bogeys rather than one.
Alex Noren (65, 139) - Swedish precision was the order of the day as he went flawlessly round the course, ticking seven birdies. Missed only two greens in regulation.
Ian Poulter (69, 139) - A sloppy start (two bogeys in the first three holes) but recovered in style: five birdies from the sixth. 8-for-8 at scrambling for the week.
Fate of the favorites
Justin Thomas (70, 143) - A tale of two nines. Three bogeys, one birdie to the turn; two birdies and an eagle-3 at the 18th on his way back to the clubhouse. Huge improvement in finding the fairways on Friday (up from just four to 12 of 14). 
Brooks Koepka - see above
Jason Day (71, 144) - Missed only one fairway but couldn't capitalize and he landed only 13 of 18 greens in regulation. Hit the turn in 3-under, was still at that mark with three holes to play, made two late bogeys.
Scott Piercy (65, 135) - "The wind was down a little bit and from a little bit different direction, so 10 miles an hour wind versus 20's is quite a big difference. The difference between Malaysia and here obviously is about 25 degrees (F) temperature wise. I definitely like the heat better."
Brooks Koepka (65, 136) -  "I guess you can call it like caveman golf:  You see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. I'm trying to shoot the best score I can, it doesn't matter if it's 5 over, 7 under.  It doesn't matter, I'm still just trying to grind it out and shoot the best score I can. Trying to enjoy it and have fun, but I would say you're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it."
Road to victory at Nine Bridges
2017 Justin Thomas - R1: 1st, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
Note: A very small sample, but having blitzed the course in round one, Thomas was overtaken by Luke List prior to fighting his way back into a share of the 54-hole lead.
Focus on - Danny Willett
Not a great second round for the Englishman, who had tweeted "One of the best ball-striking rounds I've had in a long time" after piping all 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens in regulation on his way to a Thursday 69. His driving was not far off on Friday (12 fairways), but his irons were less compact (13 greens in regulation) and completing only one of his five Scrambles that really hurt. He opened with two bogeys, quickly got the shots back and then limped home over the front nine with three bogeys, a double bogey and no par breakers for 77.
Of course we're all well aware that his career has been in freefall since he won the Masters in April 2016. He started working with Sean Foley at the 2017 PGA Championship and slowly the form (and his fitness to play; he struggled badly with injury) turned around, at least on the European Tour.
His first round 69 was a bolt from the blue at PGA Tour level. Incredibly it was only his fourth sub-70 round in 60 laps since he picked up the green jacket. It's also telling that all four of those rounds were 69: he's not gone lower. Also note that in following up with a 77 he maintained a trend: It was his 20th second round since the Masters win and he hasn't broken 70 once and he averages 74.35. Of course, one reason this is the pressure his first round often puts him under; another is the tension that comes with lacking any sort of consistency (other than being violently inconsistent).
This will be only the fourth time he has played all four rounds in a PGA Tour event in his last 15 starts: one of those was a WGC event, the other two the Open Championship, this week he was guaranteed a full week. He's been honest about his struggles, you hope the first round was a ray of hope, not the second a bleak reality.
Focus on - Ian Poulter 
Surprised to see the Englishman in contention? Of course there are plenty of reasons you shouldn't be. He's a PGA Tour winner this year, he was a star of Europe's Ryder Cup victory and he's a fine performer in Asia (a winner in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan).
But he's also dynamite in the closing three months of the year:
Jan-Mar: 117 starts - 1 win (1%) - 9% top five - 19% top ten
Apr-Jun: 160 starts - 5 wins (3%) - 10% top five - 21% top ten
Jul-Sep: 162 starts - 2 wins (1%) - 11% top five - 20% top ten
Oct-Dec: 84 starts - 8 wins (10%) - 26% top five - 37% top ten
Here is the last quarter in more detail:
October: 33 starts - 2 wins - 21% top five - 27% top ten
November: 45 starts - 5 wins - 29% top five - 44% top ten
December: 6 starts - 1 win - 33% top five - 33% top ten
Tied fourth after 36 holes and just four back, he's worth keeping an eye on.

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