09:15, July 24 2022
Has Scott Piercy flown the field? Or did he give them a little bit of hope with an 18th hole bogey in his third round?
He'd certainly started like a train on Saturday, ticking five straight birdies on the front nine before play came to a halt.
And, although he dropped a shot soon after the re-start, he added two more par breakers shortly after the turn.
Backed at a high of 360.0359/1 with most of the pre-event money around 290.0289/1, he was traded as low as 1.330/100 and for four figures at 1.42/5 and below.
However, he missed one fine birdie chance coming in, needed to scramble a bit for par elsewhere and then found water on 18.
But he's four blows clear of Emiliano Grillo and five ahead of Doug Ghim and Tony Finau.
Piercy has experience of one solo 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, when he went on to win the 2011 Reno Tahoe Open. He also converted a three-shot third round lead in the 2008 Wichita Open on the Korn Ferry Tour. Add in shared leads on both circuits and he has a total conversion record of 3-for-6.
In his first visit to TPC Twin Cities he carded a pair of 69s at the weekend. A repeat of that would make him difficult to pass. He missed the cut on his second start but then added 74-75 at the weekend last year - a repeat of that would bring the chasers into play.
After that back nine, the 54-hole leaderboard and prices, as at 9:15, are:
-18 Piercy 1.8810/11
-14 Grillo 7.26/1
-13 Ghim 13.012/1
-13 Finau 6.411/2
-12 Hoge 21.020/1
-11 Sigg 75.074/1
-11 Im 30.029/1
The big threat to Piercy is the water on this course - there is lots of it. Another visit early in his final lap could makes things interesting.
And also the fact that it is possible to go super-low on this layout.
Steve Rawlings wrote in his tournament preview: "We witnessed all sorts of shenanigans at TPC Three Cities in 2019, with three players trading at odds-on."
He also noted that two of the three winners had come from off the 36 hole pace (Cameron Champ had been matched at 700.0699/1) and that it is "an ideal course set up for late drama".
Those first three editions have seen the eventual winners make up ground in the third round. Two of them shared the 54 hole lead and one was two back of it. But it's far from out of the question that a winner will make a late move, although he'd obviously need some assistance from Piercy.
Fans of Doug Ghim's long game might be pleased to see that his excellent putting in the Scottish Open has been maintained and explains his prominence.
While Greyson Sigg found something with his flat stick yesterday and last year he did win twice on the second tier when needing to keep the pedal to the metal.
He's also coming off three top 30s and said in his post-round interview that in addition to a hot putter and good form his "attitude has improved a lot this week" after work on it.
I'm going to give the outsider of that top seven a small go.
I'll be back with the De-Brief tomorrow morning and then Steve returns from his well-earned holiday.
8:30, July 23 2022
We're all set for a cavalry charge at Hillside on Sunday with 14 players within four blows of Julien Guerrier's 54-hole lead.
The Frenchman continued his excellent week with a Saturday 69 that leaves him one shot clear on 12-under 204, a total that is currently most close chased by the trio of Richie Ramsay, Jens Dantorp and the pace-setter through the first 36 holes Paul Waring.
They're followed on the leaderboard by Alexander Bjork, Sami Valimaki and Grant Forrest. The first of those started his penultimate round two and a half hours ahead of the leaders, posted a brilliant 8-under-par 64 and has moved 26 places up the scoring to tied fifth.
Bjork was available at 34.033/1 before the off and has been backed at a high of 330.0329/1.
The leader has experience of one shared 54-hole lead at this level, slipping back to third in the 2018 Oman Open (see below for the odd links between that course, Al Mouj, and Hillside). He was also 2-for-3 at converting on the Challenge Tour. He's still chasing his first win on the DP World Tour, as is Dantorp, while Waring is after his second.
Ramsay is a five-time winner on the DP World and Challenge Tours - four of those victories came when he was tied second or better with 18 holes to play.
Here is the top of the leaderboard with prices as at 20:30:
-12 Guerrier 4.47/2
-11 Ramsay 5.24/1
-11 Dantorp 8.88/1
-11 Waring 6.411/2
-10 Bjork 9.417/2
-10 Valimaki 11.010/1
-10 Forrest 9.89/1
There's still little money washing around in this market and the prices reflect that it's really rather wide open. I can't be having Valimaki as the outsider of this bunch, but I'm a little wary of putting him up. I selected him in my each way preview for one thing and it might be clouding my judgment a little.
In his pre-tournament preview, Steve Rawlings highlighted the importance of finding fairways at Hillside and he's been proved correct: of that top seven only Forrest isn't ranking top 20 for Driving Accuracy and they are all ranking top 20 for Strokes Gained Off the Tee.
Another piece of his sage advice was that, "time and again we see two or more players trade odds on without winning on the DP World Tour and that could happen again."
And why might it be on the cards again? Because, Steve noted, last year the field averaged over-par scores on five of the last six holes. This year that tally is four and even the easiest of them (the 17th) has seen 10 double bogeys or worse (the fourth highest count).
And the clincher? The wind is forecast to be blowing, with gusts of up to 30mph. Throw in a general lack of experience at the top end of a leaderboard and volatility looks entirely possible. Hold on to your hats.
10.00, July 23 2022
Scott Piercy has pulled clear of the field in the 3M Open, adding a second round 64 to the 65 he opened the week with to total 13-under 129 for 36 holes.
He's not only three blows clear of Emiliano Grillo (67-65), he's five ahead of Callum Tarren (71-63) and six free of five players sharing fourth.
Backed as high as 360.0359/1, but mostly at 300.0299/1 before the start of the action, he's now 3.711/4 and has been traded at 3.55.
Some might feel that's a decent price for a man so far clear of the majority left in the field, given his nearest chasers are Grillo (who struggles to win) and Tarren (who is yet to win).
The fear is that this tournament has witnessed volatility and there is also a lack of confidence in Piercy.
He did win on the Korn Ferry Tour with a three shot halfway lead, but he blew the same advantage in the 2016 Safeway Open and also a one shot 36-hole lead in the 2018 CJ Cup. Counting shared halfway leads as well he is 2-for-5 at converting, with each of his last three opportunities spurned.
Here's the top of the leaderboard with prices as at 10:00:
-13 Piercy 3.711/4
-10 Grillo 6.25/1
-8 Tarren 16.5
-7 Finau 7.613/2
-7 Streb 40.039/1
-7 Hoge 16.5
-7 Im 9.28/1
-7 Ghim 19.5
Tom Hoge has been sensational with his approach work, gaining over nine strokes and ranking first, but he's been dire with the putter, losing strokes and ranking 65th of those left in the field.
He'd be of interest if he could find something on the greens but at the moment the market looks about right.
22.00, July 22 2022
Life was a little less straightforward for first round leader Paul Waring on Friday in the Cazoo Classic but the veteran dug deep to stay clear of the field at Hillside GC.
He swapped five birdies and two bogeys in a 2-under-par 70 that nudged him to 11-under 133 for the tournament and left him two shot clear of Jens Dantorp, Grant Forrest and Julien Guerrier.
Will he have noted that it is his best response to a first round lead? On the three previous occasions he failed to break 70 in round two and, as we noted yesterday, he is yet to push on and claim even a top 15 finish after a very fast start. Perhaps in stopping one trend, he'll put a block on another.
He's now 4.1 and I'd be keen to lay except I think the market is aware of his vulnerability.
This has the look of an absolutely wide open event at halfway. Here's the leaderboard as at 21.30:
-11 Waring 4.1
-9 Dantorp 9.417/2
-9 Forrest 11.010/1
-9 Guerrier 11.010/1
-8 Huizing 23.022/1
-7 Shinkwin 16.015/1
-7 Valimaki 16.015/1
-7 Porteous. G 40.039/1
Here's a weird thing: Al Mouj, host of the Oman Open, is in the desert, but, as I noted in my preview, it is by the sea and very definitely linksy in shaping and visuals (not always but often).
Of those near the top of the leaderboard currently, Waring, Dantorp, Guerrier, Huizing, Shinkwin, Valimaki and Matthew Southgate (a shot outside the top eight) have all been top three at the end of an Al Mouj lap (and so has the last winner at Hillside, Marcus Kinhult).
It was slightly frustrating that the market last night was so weak and lacking in depth that it felt a little pointless to suggest a back of Huizing, but someone might have taken note and be ready to take advantage.
Southgate is 40.039/1 and, although yet to win at any level above the third tier, his love of, and adeptness at, playing links golf suggests to me that, although I recommended him at a bigger price pre-event, he still represents a little value now.
08:50 - July 22, 2022
Over at the 3M Open there was quite an advantage in getting out early with both the two pace-setters and, in all, five of the current top seven among the morning starters (the two average were: AM 72.55, PM 73.01).
Scott Piercy (available at 280.0279/1 before the off) and Sungjae Im (who was 23.022/1 pre-event) both carded 6-under-par 65s to sit two blows clear of five sharing seconds. Piercy is now 20.019/1 with Im 4.84/1.
Tony Finau is in that pack just two shots back and the pre-tournament favourite (at 18.017/1) is now into 6.25/1.
It's worth considering that, although Michael Thompson was in the top two all week when he won here in 2020, the other two winners of this event were off the pace at this stage.
Inaugural winner Matthew Wolff was T49th and seven strokes back in 2019, while Cameron Champ last year was T38th and five back.
Moreover, in two of the last three years of the 3M Championship (the Champions Tour event which preceded this tournament and played on the same track) the winner was outside the top 30 after 18 holes and five back.
What about the conditions? Is a repeat of Thursday on the cards? Simple answer, no. Currently, there's nothing to suggest any difference.
Here's the state of play as of 08:50 -
-6 Piercy 20.019/1
-6 Im 4.94/1
-4 Hoge 21.020/1
-4 Garnett 42.041/1
-4 Ghim 23.022/1
-4 Finau 6.25/1
-4 Grillo 16.5
I'll be back later this evening with a halfway round-up of the Cazoo Classic.
20.35 - July 21, 2022
A third week of links golf for the DP World Tour, at Hillside GC in Southport, and the seaside specialists certainly came to the fore.
Last year's Fairmont St Andrews winner Grant Forrest, 2006 Amateur Championship winner (at Royal St. George's) Julien Guerrier and top three-finisher in the Scottish Open at Gullane Jens Dantorp all carded 6-under-par 66s.
Moreover, two-time Open top-12 finisher Matthew Southgate, one of my each way selections, registered a 67 alongside Craig Howie.
The wind dropped a little in the late afternoon but links prowess still proved valuable.
Back in 2019, when this layout hosted the British Masters, the first round leader was the Wirral's Matthew Jordan and the peninsula south of Liverpool again provided the pace-setter in the form of veteran Paul Waring.
He reached the turn in 3-under and then finished eagle-birdie to complete "the best back nine in Britain" (Greg Norman's assessment) in just 30 blows to grab a two-shot lead with a 9-under 63.
Unlike Jordan, Waring is not attached to a links club, but he plays plenty of it and took advantage of that expertise. It's a fourth DP World Tour first round lead for him (a second solo one) and he'll hope to improve on his previous experiences: he's yet to land a top 15 finish from this position.
His nearest challenger is Garrick Porteous, the 2013 Amateur Champion at Royal Cinque Ports, who posted a 65, while Richard Mansell maintained momentum after making the cut in last week's Open to slot in alongside the morning trio of 66 shooters.
The links theme even extended to the only man to match Southgate and Howie - the multiply-successful Open Final Qualifier Jack Senior.
Prospects for Friday? The wind is not forecast to change much all day - pretty much 8 to 10 mph throughout. However, it will flip from NNE to SE which might favour canny operators.
Here's the top of the 18-hole leaderboard with prices as at 20.30:
-9 Paul Waring 5.79/2
-7 Garrick Porteous 21.020/1
-6 Jens Dantorp 10.09/1
-6 Julien Guerrier 14.5
-6 Richard Mansell 8.415/2
Steve's pre-event pick Jorge Campillo carded a 68 and is now 22.021/1. Southgate is 5.69/2.
There's little action in, or depth to, the market currently so I'll sit on my hands. But I will keep an eye on Dutchman Daan Huizing. He was a winner of the Lytham and St Andrews Links Trophies as an amateur, and won at Portmarknock Links on the Challenge Tour last year.
Cazoo Classic Pre-Event Selection:
Jorge Campillo @ 46.0
Ewen Ferguson @ 90.0
Matthew Southgate @ 40.0
3M Open Pre-Event Selections:
Cameron Champ @ 70.0
Troy Merritt @ 90.0
Patton Kizzire @ 150.0
Greyson Sigg @70.0
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*And also regular In-Play Blogger @SteveThePunter