Jordan Smith takes a one-stroke lead into the final round of the ISPS Handa International in Ireland today, but our man thinks he's opposable. Read Steve final in-running thoughts for the week here...
"Smith is only one in front of four-time European Tour winner, David Horsey, and at around the even money mark, he looks too short."
08:30 - August 1, 2021
Pre-event 46.045/1 chance and first round leader, Jordan Smith, is back in front at the ISPS Handa World Invitational after a bogey-free five-under-par third round around Galgorm Castle and he's already been matched at a low of 1.824/5. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 08:20.
Jordan Smith -15 2.021/1
David Horsey -14 3.613/5
Daniel Hillier -11 20.019/1
Masahiro Kawamura -10 19.5
Darius Van Driel -10 38.037/1
Justin Harding -9 28.027/1
Vincent Norrman 9 44.043/1
-8 and 75.074/1 bar
As highlighted yesterday, it's now four years since Smith won his one and only European Tour title, and that came courtesy of a little help from Alex Levy, who missed a short putt for the title.
Smith had led by two with a round to go on that occasion before he won in extra time and on the only occasion that he's led through 54 holes since then he was beaten - at the BMW International Open two years ago - when he shot 72 to slip to third.
Smith is only one in front of four-time European Tour winner, David Horsey, and at around the even money mark, he looks too short.
It's now six years since Horsey last tasted success - at the Made In Denmark - and it's four years since he even contended seriously. He led the Made in Denmark by a couple of strokes with a round to go two years after taking that title but finished second after a disappointing 70 on Sunday.
Horsey is almost certain to feel the nerves today but he's the value with a round to go given he trails by just one and that the two at the top are three clear of the remainder.
Pre-event pick, Justin Harding, isn't completely out of it, but trailing by six, he needs a special final round and some help from the leaders and anyone seeking an alternative to the front two might be better off siding with the halfway leader, Daniel Hillier.
Nerves got to the young New Zealander yesterday and he began round three with three bogeys in his first five holes but he recovered nicely on the back-nine and we've witnessed many a halfway leader bounce back on Sunday after a disappointing Saturday but I'm happy to chance Horsey modestly.
Horsey has been shortening up all morning and I can see why. The tournament could very easily develop into a match between the two Englishmen and the more experienced of the pair might just have the edge.
17:10 - July 31, 2021
A birdie at the par four 18th in round three saw halfway leader, Xander Schauffele, edge back in front in the Men's Olympic Golf tournament and he's the warm favourite ahead of tomorrow's final round. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:00.
Xander Schauffele -14 2.8615/8
Hideki Matsuyama -13 4.47/2
Paul Casey -12 8.27/1
Carlos Ortiz -12 14.5
Rory McIlroy -11 11.521/2
Sebastian Munoz -11 26.025/1
Mito Pereira -11 40.039/1
Sepp Straka -11 55.054/1
Shane Lowry -10 48.047/1
Tommy Fleetwood -10 50.049/1
-9 and 90.089/1 bar
Although Xander Schauffele shot the lowest 36, 54 and 72 hole totals at the 2020 Tour Championship, he finished the week in third place behind Dustin Johnson because the FedEx Cup leader, DJ, started the week with a headstart, and so we can't count that as an occasion when he led through 54 holes before going on to win, and that's something he's yet to achieve.
On five occasions in total, Xander's led or co-led a tournament on the PGA Tour and he's yet to convert. He hasn't won a title in more than 2 ½ years and he looks short enough at less than 2/1.
Paul Casey only trails by two and he'd love to emulate his fellow Englishman, Justin Rose, who won gold five years ago in Rio but he isn't the most resolute in-contention either. Casey has trailed by two strokes with a round to go on ten occasions previously and his only success came at the Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea ten years ago.
Alongside Casey, Mexico's Carlos Ortiz makes more appeal at a much bigger price. He was an impressive winner of the Houston Open back in November when he held Dustin Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama at bay impressively, just one week before DJ rocked up at Augusta to win the Masters.
Rory McIlroy will have his supporters given he only trails by three but I'm happy to stick with pre-event pick, Hideki Matsuyama.
The Masters winner will be under plenty of pressure to win gold in his homeland, but I see no reason to desert him. In his entire career, he's only ever trailed by a single stroke once before (the 2017 USPGA Championship) and he came up short but not before trading at odds-on and given that was the first occasion that he'd challenged strongly at a major championship, his fifth placed finish there is easily forgiven.
Hideki was solid enough at Augusta in April when converting a four-stroke lead and given his impressive strike rate in Japan, I'm not deserting him now.
I was tempted to throw a few pounds at Colombia's Sebastian Munoz, who sits alongside Rory in a tie for fifth, but he looks fairly-priced and no more, but I've had a modest wager on England's Tommy Fleetwood at 50.049/1.
Fleetwood isn't the most reliable when leading or very close to the lead but he won the Nedbank from six back in 2019 and he lost a playoff at the Shenzhen International back in 2017 having trailed by eight with a round to go! If anyone's going to win from slightly off the pace, he's as good a candidate as any and 50.049/1 is a decent price.
I'll be back in the morning with a look at the ISPS World Invitational with a round to go. The third round is currently live on Sky and England's Jordan Smith is threatening to pull away.
22:45 - July 30, 2021
Playing on an invite and without playing privileges on either the Challenge Tour or the European Tour, pre-event 160.0159/1 chance, Daniel Hillier, has seized the opportunity to play in this week's European Tour event - the ISPS Handa World Invitational - by following up his opening round of 67 around Massereene Golf Club with a sensational 62 around the host course - Galgorm Castle, to lead by one over England's Jordan Smith. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 22:35.
Daniel Hillier -11 5.79/2
Jordan Smith -10 4.67/2
Garrick Porteous -8 16.5
David Horsey -8 17.5
Nacho Elvira -7 18.5
Eddie Pepperell -7 19.018/1
Matthias Schmid -7 24.023/1
Carlos Pigem -7 80.079/1
Justin Harding -6 16.015/1
Masahiro Kawamura -6 19.5
-6 and 27.026/1 bar
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, in seven previous tournaments at Galgorm no winner has trailed by more than four strokes at any stage, suggesting we should probably be concentrating hard on the leaders but I'm not so sure.
Although he's won a couple of times in his native New Zealand, and he's done nothing so far this week to suggest he's flaky, it's a huge ask to expect the leader to kick on and win and what little evidence we have suggests he may struggle.
He's sat third at halfway twice this year, trailing by just a stroke - once on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and once on the Challenge Tour - but he didn't fare well over the weekend on either occasion. He finished 36th in the Cape Town Open in May and ninth in the Challenge de Espana in June.
Jordan Smith heads the market but I'm in no rush to side with him either. It's four years to the day since he won the Porsche European Open in a playoff after Alex Levy traded at 1.011/100 before missing a tiddler for the title and he's not really impressed in-contention since.
Garrick Porteous, who sits alongside David Horsey in a tie for third, has only won once before, on the Challenge Tour four years ago, and Horsey hasn't tasted victory in almost six years. Both men are hard to fancy given there are a further 11 players sitting within four and five of the lead.
Eddie Pepperell commands respect, as does last week's winner, Nacho Elvira, and I certainly haven't given up on Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Matthias Schmid, who sits alongside those two and Spain's Carlos Pigem in a tie for fifth, or my pre-event pick, Justin Harding, but I've now added a couple of course winners who are on the heels of the leading pack - John Catlin and Jack Senior.
Catlin won the Irish Open here last year and Jack Senior won this event two years ago. I managed to get a small bet matched on the former at 40.039/1 and I took 44.043/1 about Senior, who played brilliantly three weeks ago at the Scottish Open.
I'll be back at some stage tomorrow with a look at the Olympics after the third round has been completed.
13:10 - July 30, 2021
For the second day in-a-row, play was suspended in Japan, so the Men's Olympic Golf competition hasn't quite reached the halfway stage. England's Paul Casey, who sits tied for seventh and four off the lead, has one hole to play of his second round and my sole pre-event pick, Hideki Matsuyama, who sits tied for third, has two left to play. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 13:00.
Xander Schauffele -11 2.727/4
Carlos Ortiz -10 10.519/2
Hideki Matsuyama -8 6.05/1 (Thru 16 holes)
Alex Noren -8 26.025/1
Mito Pereira -8 32.031/1
Sepp Straka -8 50.049/1
Rory McIlroy -7 13.012/1
Paul Casey -7 21.020/1 (Thru 17 holes)
Shane Lowry -7 25.024/1
Jazz Janewattananond -7 75.074/1
-6 and 32.031/1 bar
It looked for much of the second round that Carlos Ortiz would set the pace at halfway in Japan but Xander shot past the Mexican late on with an eagle three at the par five 14th and three birdies to finish at 16, 17 and 18.
Xander is clearly the man to beat now but he looks short enough at around 2.77/4 given he hasn't won anywhere in two and half years and that his record when leading at this stage is far from great. He's led or co-led six times on the PGA Tour but converted only once.
There have been plenty of complaints about the coverage but with so many sports being played out at the same time, and many to a conclusion, it's not really surprising that the early stages of the golf isn't getting much airtime.
It's frustrating not knowing when and where it will be shown but given all the action is taking place in the early hours in the UK anyway, I'm happy to just leave the event alone.
Matsuyama is nicely positioned, and I'm just going to wait and see what happens to him tomorrow. Not being able to watch the action or analyse any stats on a course I'm not in the least bit familiar with are all major hindrances so I'm just going to leave the event alone.
A week after James Morrison just failed to reach the first lay back target of 10.09/1 at the Cazoo Open (matched at a low of 13.012/1 on day one), one of this week's Find Me a 100 Winner selections, Matthias Schmid, has also come close.
Backed before the off at 160.0159/1, the young German has been matched today at 11.521/2 to win the ISPS Handa World Invitational but having finished his second round, he trails the leader, Daniel Hillier, by four.
I'll be back late today with a look at that event at the halfway stage.
Men's Olympics Pre-Event Selection:
Hideki Matsuyama @ 15.014/1
Tommy Fleetwood @ 50.049/1
ISPS Handa World Invitational Pre-Event Selection:
Justin Harding @ 16.015/1
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back 2 u Bryden Macpherson @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back 1 ½ u Matthias Schmid @ 160.0159/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
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