Scottish Open: The Rahm Train Keeps Rolling

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There was a moment in the second round where it looked as if Jon Rahm had all but wrapped up the 2021 Scottish Open. Beginning his day on the back-nine, the world No. 1 turned in 6-under 29. In what may be described as disappointing, Rahm’s front-side was littered with missed putts from short-range. Still, he had gotten to 11-under and tacked on another unlikely birdie on the first to get to 12-under.

With birdie opportunities ahead of him, including the par-5 3rd, the drivable par-4 5th, the accessible par-3 6th, and the gettable par-5 7th, it wasn’t a matter of if Rahm would get to 15-under, but when. Breaking that threshold will have to wait as sloppy bogeys on the par-4 2nd and 4th dropped the Spaniard to 10-under. A bit peeved at this point, Rahm would only be able to get back to 11-under by the end of his round, grabbing the early clubhouse lead which would later be matched by Thomas Detry and Jack Senior in the afternoon.

That was to the delight of many, fans and players alike. In what would have likely turned into a rout, Rahm’s inability to transform his round of 6-under 65 into a more memorable day has left the door slightly a jarred with 36-holes to play. While there were times in his second round where Rahm drifted to the odds-on favorite, he has since backed up to +140 at PointsBet Sportsbook.

There are numerous candidates that are capable of catching Rahm and company if they were to slip up over the weekend, including a large English contingent led by Matthew Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood at 10-under. Westwood played his final three holes in 4-under to get to double digits, making his dinner taste all the sweeter. But you’d be hard pressed to find a better suitor than world No. 3 Justin Thomas, who played alongside Rahm the first two days.

While the American’s first-round was relatively stress-free, the same couldn’t be said of his second. Constantly in between clubs and missing the putting surfaces with numerous approach shots, Thomas grinded his way to a round of 2-under 69. Like Rahm, he too had his fair share of short misses with the flat stick and should be something to keep an eye on over the next couple of days. At 8-under, Thomas is three-strokes behind the trio at the top.

Rory McIlroy has the unfortunate honors of leading the group of players making the early trek to Sandwich, England for next week’s Open Championship. One-shot clear of the cut-line, 2-under, with six holes to play, McIlroy played this final stretch of golf in 2-over. After making a bogey on the par-4 4th, McIlroy was unable to take advantage of scoring opportunities coming in. To add insult to injury, he tacked on another bogey on the difficult 8th, all but securing an early exit.

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As for us, we find ourselves stuck in between a rock and a hard place. At the moment, it appears anyone we wager against in the matchup setting turns into the 2000 version of Tiger Woods. Yet, a few of our pre-tournament outright selections in Thomas, Ian Poulter, and Padraig Harrington are within shouting distance at the halfway point. With Rahm seemingly in control, we’ll add just one additional player to our arsenal with the hopes of a weekend charge.

Updated Odds to Win (Odds Via PointsBet):

+140: Jon Rahm

+650: Matthew Fitzpatrick

+100: Thomas Detry

+1100: Lee Westwood, Justin Thomas

+2000: George Coetzee

+2200: Ian Poulter

+2500: Scottie Scheffler

+2800: Jack Senior

+3000: Tyrrell Hatton

+4000: Xander Schauffele

+5000: Tommy Fleetwood, Collin Morikawa

+7000: Richard Bland

+9000: Ryan Palmer

+10000: Lucas Herbert, Robert MacIntyre

Round 3 Plays (Odds Via PointsBet):

Ryan Palmer (+9000 to win):

I am more than confident with someone from our pre-tournament trio coming through for us, but if it’s not meant to be, I’ll happily go to Palmer at this number. Outside of the Texan, the only other player I’d consider is Morikawa at +5000 given the back-nine he played today. If that’s more your speed, I can’t knock you, but I’d rather go with the more experienced player who has played a more complete 36-holes at nearly double the number.

It was just one hole that got the better of Palmer in his second round. A disappointing double-bogey seven on the par-5 3rd gave more than a couple strokes back to the field as it averaged 4.69 on day two. If he had just made par, modestly, he’d be sitting three-strokes behind the leaders. Instead, Palmer finds himself is in a tie for 16th at 6-under.

Obviously, that would be big change to the scorecard, but Palmer has done just about everything right through the first two rounds. While he sits 30th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, his ball-striking has been carrying the load. His tee-to-green numbers have been offset by his poor chipping, which are a bit skewed due to his performance on the 3rd hole today.

Come the weekend, it will simply be a case of whether or not he can make enough putts. While he is inside the top-50 in SG: Putting, that likely won’t be enough given the current deficit. Climbing out of a five-stroke hole is a tall mountain to climb for anyone. Factor in that it is to the world No. 1 and the task at hand becomes all the more difficult. That's why I've gone a bit down the board in search of a flier and given the way Palmer has struck the ball thus far, I’ll give him the nod.

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