Why pacesetting Walker is unfancied for USPGA success

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It used to be that if you held the lead or at least a share of it after the opening round of the USPGA and consolidated on day two, you could be pretty confident of it serving as a springboard to major glory.

That was certainly the case for Nick Price in 1994, Tiger Woods in 2000 and Phil Mickelson in 2005, so why is it that Jimmy Walker is as big as 7/1 despite following his Thursday 65 with a Friday 66 to sit joint-top with Robert Streb at the halfway stage?

One explanation is his lack of top-level pedigree having been cut at both the US Open and the Open Championship this season, while his finest major finish to date was tying for seventh with five other golfers at the final one of the year in 2014.

However, it is also true that none of the other three men to be in front after 18 and 36 USPGA holes in the past decade went on to claim first place, despite each having bettered Walker’s best major effort to date prior to their challenge.

Tiger Woods had won his two previous USPGAs when going round in 67 and 70 at Hazeltine in 2009 to rest four clear of the field at halfway. Even a 71 on the Saturday only saw his advantage halved, yet a final-day 75 gave Yang Yong-eun a chance to overtake which the Korean refused to pass up.

A year later, it was Matt Kuchar dreaming of victory just two months on from his first top-six finish in a major at the US Open with rounds of 67 and 69 putting him one stroke ahead on an American-heavy leaderboard. The follow-up was a 73 and a 72 and the consequence was an epic fall to T10.

In 2012, Carl Pettersson was the fall guy, setting the pace with an initial 66 and then hanging on for a share even after posting a 74 on Friday. 72 on a torrential Saturday placed him three adrift of Rory McIlroy with 18 holes to play and a repeat of that score on Sunday caused him to tie for third.

If it isn’t to be Walker, it isn’t likely to be Streb either, with the co-leader an even heavier 12/1 in the winner betting. Instead it is Jason Day, two adrift of the pair, who heads the market at 5/2, followed by Open champion Henrik Stenson, who is one further back, at 4/1.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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