We've reached the halfway stage of the WGC HSBC Champions and the 2013 winner, Dustin Johnson, has taken up the running. Read Steve's latest thoughts on the tournament here...
First round leader, Brooks Koepka, backed up his opening 64 with a perfectly respectable bogey-free, four-under-par 68 on day two of the WGC HSBC Champions, a round bettered by only three players all day, but he still finds himself trailing at the halfway stage, thanks to a quite superb nine-under-par 63 by the 2013 winner, Dustin Johnson. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 12:50.
Dustin Johnson -13 2.02
Brooks Koepka -12 4.20
Justin Rose -9 12.50
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -9 32.00
Patrick Reed -8 30.00
-7 and 30.00 bar
The stats suggest we can't look very far down the leaderboard. In 11 previous renewals here, every winner has been within four strokes of the lead at halfway and within the top eight places. I'm obviously happy with the two bets placed yesterday, covering both D.J and Koepka, and I'm going to leave the event alone for now and see what tomorrow brings.
Johnson has already been matched at a low of 1.82 but I'm not sure I'd be rushing in now at even money. Hideki Matsuyama led by three at this stage last year before winning and D.J was five clear through 36 holes in 2013 but he didn't win easily and Francesco Molinari is the only other halfway leader to take the title. Although being right up with the pace is crucial, winning from the front from some way out isn't easy.
Johnson's record when leading through two rounds is pretty good. He's led or co-led 11 times in 72 hole stroke play events and he's gone on to win on six occasions. His price of 2.00 looks fair but no more. Backing up a low round is notoriously difficult and given he trails by just a stroke, Koepka looks the value at over 3/1.
Over at the Sanderson Farm Championship, five men are tied for the lead after the opening round. One of Dave Tindall's three, Ryan Armour, is one of those tied at the top but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, a slow start can be overcome in this event and it's still wide open.
I'll take a better look at the halfway stage tomorrow but I've thrown a few pounds at the 2011 winner, Chris Kirk, who also finished runner-up 12 months ago. He started slowly yesterday but a decent back-nine saw him finish on two-under-par and just four adrift and I thought odds of over 50.00 were fair.
11:00 - October 26, 2017
Francesco Molinari, who won wire-to-wire in 2010, is the only first round leader to win the WGC HSBC Champions since its inception in 2005 but being up with the pace has been pretty crucial here at Sheshan International.
Of the 11 previous winners at this venue (Ian Poulter won the event at Mission Hills in 2012) only one winner has trailed by more than four strokes after round one and nine of the 11 have been inside the top-10 after round one. Phil Mickelson sat five adrift and tied for 13th in 2009 and Bubba Watson won here three years ago having trailed by four in a tie for 19th.
Brooks Koepka leads after an opening eight-under-par 64, nine players are within three of the lead and a further ten are tied for 11th on four-under-par. And if the past results are anything to go by, we can't look past that top-20.
Molly is the only first round leader to go on to win here and Koepka has previously led three times after round one without winning, so they're two negatives to bear in mind, but I still thought he looked a very fair price at 6.00 towards the close of play.
Xander Schauffele disappointed after a bright start (bogeyed three of his last six holes to finish on -1) but my each-way fancy, Tony Finau, has started nicely (sits three off the lead) and my other pre-event fancy, Daniel Berger, is one of those tied for 11th and four adrift so it's not been an awful start.
Given how the stats suggest a fast start is essential, in addition to backing Koepka, I've also added the 2013 winner, Dustin Johnson. The par five eighth hole (which cruelly denied him any chance of victory two years ago when his approach shot ricocheted in to the water off the flag) tripped him up again today but he saved himself from finishing the day with back-to-back bogeys when he made par from 12 feet on the ninth.
This course clearly suits D.J and he's close enough to build on that par save and put in a charge tomorrow. I was happy enough to back him at around the same price he went off at - especially considering the poor start made by market rivals, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm.
WGC HSBC Champions Pre-Event Selections:
Daniel Berger @ 48.00
Xander Schauffele @ 50.00
Brooks Koepka @ 6.00
Dustin Johnson @ 9.00
Sanderson Farms Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Scott Stallings @ 65.00
Chris Kirk @ an average of 55.00