The Punter's In-Play Blog: Reed shows the way at Liberty National

Golfer Patrick Reed
Patrick Reed - the third round at Liberty National
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Patrick Reed leads the Northern Trust but will we see a third off the pace winner at Liberty National? Our man has all the stats ahead of today's final round here...

“Reed’s in-contention stats shouldn’t put anyone off backing him but the in-running stats from the two previous editions of the Northern Trust at Liberty National might do.”

12:55 - August 11, 2019

With the wind picking up at Liberty National yesterday afternoon, we witnessed much change on the Northern Trust leaderboard. Having driven superbly for two days, halfway leader, Dustin Johnson, lost his game off the tee and that eventually told as he played his last six holes in three-over-par but Brandt Snedeker climbed 31 spots with his eight-under-par 63 in the earlier calmer conditions. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:50.

Patrick Reed -14 [3.2]
Abraham Ancer -13 [8.2]
Jon Rahm -12 [5.3]
Brandt Snedeker -12 [13.5]
Justin Rose -11 [13.5]
Danny Willett -11 [26.0]
Harold Varner -11[46.0]
Rory McIlroy -10 [14.0]
Louis Oosthuizen -10 [38.0]
Dustin Johnson -9 [36.0]
-9 and [160.0] bar

After a brilliant four-under-par 67 yesterday, Patrick Reed has struck the front and he might take some shifting. This is the eighth time he's led or been tied for the lead at this stage and he's successfully converted on four occasions. That's a decent strike-rate but he hasn't broken 70 since the first time he led with a round to go and he's had a couple of horror shows.

Reed shot 77 to fall from two clear to four back and 11th place at the 2014 Quicken Loans National and he fell from first (one clear) to 12th at the Wells Fargo in 2017. He was also beaten on the last occasion he was tied for the lead - at the 2018 DP World Tour Championship - so he's actually been beaten on three of the last four occasions he's led but I'm not sure we can begin to call him unreliable. He did manage to convert a three-stroke lead at Augusta to win the US Masters last year.

Reed's in-contention stats shouldn't put anyone off backing him but the in-running stats from the two previous editions of the Northern Trust at Liberty National might do. On both occasions two men were tied for the lead and the four shot rounds of 73, 75, 77 and 78 and both winners here, Heath Slocum and Adam Scott, won from some way off the lead. Slocum sat sixth, trailing by four, and Scott was 13th and six adrift with a round to go.

We witnessed the leaders struggling yesterday and Snedeker showed us that much ground can be made up here so I wouldn't put anyone off backing a few from off the pace. Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson, Brian Stuard and Ian Poulter are all in the same position as Scott was in 2013 - tied for 13th and six off the lead. All four are available to back at triple-figure prices and so too are the two players alongside DJ in tied 10th. I've backed them all for very small stakes in the hope that we get another off the pace winner.

10:25 - August 10, 2019

We've reached the halfway stage of the Northern Trust and the 2017 playoff protagonists, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, sit first and second. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:15.

Dustin Johnson -12 [3.45]
Jordan Spieth -11 [9.4]
Jon Rahm -10 [7.2]
Patrick Reed -10 [13.5]
Abraham Ancer -10 [34.0]
Troy Merritt -10 [44.0]
Rory McIlroy -9 [9.2]
Justin Rose -9 [13.5]
Louis Oosthuizen -9 [34.0]
Andrew Putnam -9 [50.0]
Wyndham Clark -9 [90.0]
Kevin Kisner -8 [100.0]
Ian Poulter -8 [100.0]
Harold Varner -8 [250.0]
Justin Thomas -7 [30.0]
-7 and [100.0] bar

The big talking point yesterday was the seemingly ridiculous two-stroke penalty given to Rory McIlroy on the par three 14th. Having hit his tee-shot in to the greenside bunker, Rory went to remove what he thought was a stone sitting adjacent to his ball but as soon as he touched what he had thought was the stone, he immediately realised in was merely a small ball of sand. As you're not able to touch the sand, he was given a two-stroke penalty but since the close of play, there's been a change...

Opinion was predictably divided on-line as to whether the penalty was just and while I can see the logic for it being issued, common-sense has prevailed with the rescinding, although having rulings overturned, way after play has finished, is far from ideal when it comes to trading. Rory's price spiked at [30.0] when he was given the penalty. He's now trading at less than [10.0]. He still has plenty to do from three adrift though and I certainly don't see his current price as value.

DJ is understandably heading the market and so he should. After a spell of decidedly poor play, it looks like he's got his mojo back and if his putter had been hot yesterday, he would have had a much bigger lead this morning.

His record when leading or when tied for the lead through 36 holes is very good and he's definitely the man to beat. Starting with the Los Angeles Open in 2010 and ending with the Mexico Championship in February this year, his finishing positions when leading or when tied for the lead at halfway read 3-1-1-4-49-1-2-1-6-1-1-2-2-1-3-1-1.

Only once has he truly imploded (at the 2015 Open Championship) and he has a better than 50% strike-rate (9/17). He's already won four FedEx Cup events, including this event twice, and it's impossible to crab his price.

The only two previous winners of this event here, Heath Slocum (2009) and Adam Scott (2013), both sat tied for fourth and four off the lead at this stage but that would be a strange reason to be put off a player of DJ's calibre. He's very much the man to beat and the price is more than fair, especially when we consider the fragility of his nearest challenger...

Justin Ray's tweet below says it all really. Jordan Spieth is desperately struggling to string four solid rounds together and he'll certainly be hoping to improve on last week's appalling third round. Sitting just four of the lead and trading at [17.0], Spieth looked like figuring over the weekend at the Wyndham Championship but he failed to make a single birdie on Saturday and after a disastrous seven-over-par 77, he missed the second cut and didn't even get to tee it up on Sunday! He's hard to fancy here.

Trailing by two, Jon Rahm is the man the market makes most likely to overhaul DJ's lead but his driving became a little ragged yesterday and that would be a concern. Patrick Reed is the only man yet to make a bogey at Liberty National this week but he hasn't won since last year's US Masters and his putting figures aren't great this week and while Justin Rose is putting very well again, he's still having issues getting to the greens.

DJ represents a bit of value at around [3.4] given his stats and obvious liking for the venue and I've had a small bet on him but I also thought the three players tied for 12th and only five off the lead were over-priced too.

Admittedly, it would be a huge shock if Harold Varner got his hands on the trophy but Ian Poulter, who revealed in an interview with Sky this week that he knows the course well, is a two-time WGC winner and Kevin Kisner is looking for his second title of the year having won the WGC-Match Play in March. The tiny Varner play is speculative in the extreme but I'm not entirely convinced Poulter and Kisner should be trading at [100.0] given the first two course winners won from off the pace. Either or both could easily be in the mix come Sunday.

08:40 - August 09, 2019

I felt before the off that the Northern Trust would be a tough tournament to bet on so I'm not too disappointed that both of my pre-event picks have started slowly. Brooks Koepka, who played in the easier morning conditions after heavy overnight rain, was particularly disappointing. He set the tone for the day when he bogeyed the 11th (his second hole) and his one-under-par 70 sees him languishing in a tie for 65th , eight strokes off the early lead, held by Troy Merritt, who equalled Kevin Chappell's course record of 62.

It was one of those days for Koepka, he played well tee-to-green but the putts just refused to find the bottom of the cup and he missed six putts from inside 11 feet. And my other fancy, Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the afternoon, endured a similar tale of woe. Tommy made a promising start and he was two-under-par through six but that's how he ended the day. A cold putter really didn't help his cause either and he missed four putts from inside ten feet.

I'm going to have to apologise for the brevity of today's post but as detailed in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, the previous two renewals at Liberty National suggested a fast start is from essential and the event is still wide open. If absolutely forced to name someone to side with at this early stage it would probably be the bang-in-form Webb Simpson, who trails the first-round leader by three, but I'm more than happy to wait and see what today brings.

Justin Rose, who like Simpson shot a six-under-par 65 yesterday, is the only player in the top-eight to have played in the slightly tougher afternoon conditions yesterday. I've seen a couple of different figures for the scoring differential - one showing the AM wave as averaging 69.1, compared to 69.66 in the afternoon, and Rob Bolton on Twitter quotes 69.02 and 69.82.

Whichever is correct, or indeed the closest to being correct, the actual difference wasn't too pronounced on paper but it certainly looked a lot easier yesterday morning and if that balances out today, Rose may represent a bit of value at around the 10/1 mark. The Englishman is bidding to become the first player to win back-to-back FedEx Cup titles though and that might just play on his mind so all things considered, I'm more than happy to sit on my hands for now.

Pre-Event Selections:
Brooks Koepka @ 9/1 Win Only
Tommy Fleetwood @ 25/1 each-way (eight places)

In-Play Picks:
Dustin Johnson @[3.45]
Ian Poulter @ [100.0]
Kevin Kisner @ [100.0]
Harold Varner @ [250.0]
Webb Simpson @ [140.0]
Troy Merritt @ [180.0]
Jordan Spieth @ [220.0]
Max Homa @ [280.0]
Brian Stuard @ [600.0]

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Steven Rawlings,

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