Paul Krishnamurty updates his in-running portfolio and runs the rule over today's last-16 matches at the WGC-Accenture World Match Play
"Harris English has been a revelation on his debut...He's hitting it long and straight, looks confident on the greens and holing out well. In short, the perfect combination of skills."
The second round at Dove Mountain saw both the tournament favourite and number one seed elimated yet, perversely, the field seems barely any weaker after their exits. Without any disrespect to either Rory McIlroy or Henrik Stenson, both were in very high-class sections of the draw to begin and the updated betting still points towards a high-class final day. It speaks volumes about the quality on show that, going into the last-16, the 'rank outsiders' are a seven-times Volvo World Matchplay champion (Ernie Els) and a player who won his most recent event (George Coetzee).
Two matches particularly take the eye, if not necessarily from a betting perspective. Defending champion Matt Kuchar, bidding for a 15th win from 17 matches here, faces the brilliant Jordan Spieth, while matchplay masters Hunter Mahan and Graeme McDowell get to repeat their famous Ryder Cup encounter. All are rock-solid candidates for the title and these matches look genuine toss-of-a-coin affairs, so trying to engineer a strong argument for a bet in either seems futile. Instead, the best plan today may be to try and build a position elsewhere in the draw, knowing that two of them must be eliminated today.
The main outright bet of two advised yesterday is still live and running, with Jason Dufner a clear favourite to beat Ernie Els and reach the quarter-finals. If he wins that, I'll update tomorrow with some advice for a cover.
Today, I'm adding one new position on Jason Day, who is fancied to make no mistake at odds-on against George Coetzee. The Aussie hasn't played all that well so far, needing to come from behind in both matches, but his temperament and putting under pressure was extremely impressive. As the weekend develops, so much will depend on players' scrambling skills and holing out from short range on these tricky, fast greens. Nobody looks more comfortable in those respects than Day and, of the market leaders, he has the easiest last-16 draw.
Back Jason Day 8u @ 9.89/1
Back Jason Dufner 4u @ 42.041/1
2 unit loss on Jonas Blixt
Back Harris English to beat Jim Furyk 5u @ 1.84/5
Surprisingly, Jim Furyk has never reached the quarter-finals of this event during his long career and, if his opponent repeats anything like his form of the first two days, that trend will be maintained. Harris English has been a revelation on his tournament debut, thrashing Lee Westwood with a birdie-blitz then standing tall in the best match of the last-32 against Rory McIlroy. He's hitting it long and straight, looks confident on the greens and holing out well. In short, the perfect combination of skills.
Back Rickie Fowler to beat Sergio Garcia 4u @ 2.35/4
Even long-standing Sergio-sceptics like myself have to admit to being impressed by his current form and mindset, in both strokeplay events and over the first two days. Whether he is a good bet at odds-on here is another matter though. Rickie Fowler's performance under pressure in claiming two notable scalps, Ian Poulter and Jimmy Walker, has been exemplary, confirming the promise we've seen before in other matchplay competitions. In strokeplay, Fowler's good work is often undone by a disastrous hole or two but in this format, such mistakes cost only one hole at a time.
Back Victor Dubuisson beat Bubba Watson 3u @ 2.56/4
Two days running, Bubba Watson has left the door open for European outsiders, only for Mikko Ilonen and Jonas Blixt to fluff their lines. Victor Dubuisson is a better player than either and, after two comfortable victories, can go one better. I'm loving the way the Frenchman, only 23, has taken immediately to the PGA Tour. He's already in the world's top-30, rising fast and should not be overawed today. He hits it almost as long as Bubba, and generally straighter. As argued yesterday, I always feel an erratic character like Bubba is vulnerable in this event, where one bad round is ruinous.