The Punter's In-Play Blog: Will Brendan show enough Steele to win?

Brendan Steele – vulnerable at the Open
Brendan Steele – vulnerable at the Open

The Portugal Masters has just started again but with Andy Sullivan clear of the field, Steve's turned his attention to the Open, where he fancies the leader, Brendan Steele, is worth taking on...

"Taking on the leader instead of trying to find the winner on such a competitive leaderboard makes sense and I’ve still got yesterday’s selection, Will Wilcox to cheer on. He’s one of the eight players tied for fourth."

Sunday, 10:10

With more bad weather forecasted, the plan today for the Portugal Masters, where Andy Sullivan leads by five after three rounds, was to have another shotgun start at 8:00 but heavy overnight rain has resulted in a two hour delay. Play has only just started and it's live on Sky Sports.

Although Thomas Bjorn gave up a five stroke 54 hole advantage at the BMW PGA Championship last year, 16 of the 21 to be five clear through three rounds on the European Tour since 1996 have successfully converted and I can't see the leader giving up his advantage.

The Portugal Masters may look like a done deal but the Open looks anything but. Here's the third round leaderboard with prices to back at 10:00.

Brendan Steele -14 5.04/1

Kevin Na -13 7.06/1
Andrew Loupe -13 19.5

Justin Rose -12 6.25/1
Emiliano Grillo -12 14.5
Graham DeLaet -12 16.015/1
Will Wilcox -12 18.5
Jason Bohn -12 20.019/1
Jhonattan Vegas -12 25.024/1
Kyle Reifers -12 36.035/1
Harold Varner III -12 38.037/1

Justin Thomas -11 20.019/1

-10 and 75.074/1 bar

Brendan Steele has been in front since the start but with 10 players within two strokes of his lead, I can see him getting swallowed up today. This is the first time he's held at least a share of the lead after three rounds since the 2011 USPGA Championship and he'll have to improve considerably on his final round performance there if he's going to contend here. Of course, that was a much bigger ask but on that occasion he shot a disappointing 77 to fall to 19th place.

Prior to that, he'd led once on the Canadian Tour with a round to go, back in 2006, but got beat and he'd led through 54 holes once on the Tour and once on the PGA Tour and he'd converted on both occasions, although he wasn't especially convincing.

Having thrown away a three stroke lead in Canada, he led by five at the 2010 Tour Championship on the Tour but shot 73 to fritter away his advantage and he needed to beat Colt Knost in extra time. By some distance, his most impressive performance came in the Texas Open a year later when he shot 71 in tricky conditions to maintain his one stroke advantage and I'm far from convinced he'll hang on here.

Steele is as short as 2/5 with the Sportsbook to finish inside the top five and I'd love to be a layer at that price. I've input a small lay at 1.75/7 in the Top 5 Finish market and hopefully I'll get matched because I'm happy to take him on at that price. And I've also layed him modestly in the Top 10 market at 1.282/7. It's hard to see him tumbling that far down the leaderboard but if the nerves kick in and he doesn't break par it's certainly possible.

Taking on the leader instead of trying to find the winner on such a competitive leaderboard makes sense and I've still got yesterday's selection, Will Wilcox to cheer on anyway. He's one of the eight players tied for fourth.

Saturday, 10:30

With torrential rain forecasted from lunchtime today until at least Tuesday, the organisers have very sensibly kicked off the third round of the Portugal Masters early.

I would be amazed if they got a fourth round in and it looks as though Andy Sullivan is home and hosed. He currently leads by five over my man, Thomas Pieters, and they're already halfway through the third round.

Over in the. States, Brendan Steele leads the Open at the halfway stage by two strokes but with five players tied for second and four players tied for sixth, he's going to have his work cut out to lead all the way.

Justin Rose is one of the four tied for sixth and three off the lead but the one I like at this stage is Will Wilcox.

The 29 year-old, who shot 59 on the Tour two years and who finished second at the Barbasol Championship in July, was one I wanted to keep an eye on this season and this looks a great opportunity for him to get off the mark on the PGA Tour.

It's a bunched leaderboard and a very open looking heat but at 15.014/1 I thought he was worth taking a chance on.

I'll be back in the morning to see where we stand at both events but I strongly suspect Andy Sullivan may already have been declared the winner in Portugal.

Friday, 09:00

For the second year in-a-row, Nicolas Colsaerts has ended the first round of the Portugal Masters at the top of the leaderboard and looking at the forecast he could have already played half of the tournament again.

He didn't have a putt on the 18th green for a 59 this time around and he doesn't hold the lead on his own but his opening seven-under-par 64 sees him tied at the top alongside England's Andy Sullivan and with so much rain forecast over the weekend, it's very much a case of déjà vu. The Belgian got passed by Alexander Levy in round two last year and didn't get a chance to wrestle back the initiative when the event was curtailed to 36 holes.

One of my four picks, Thomas Pieters, is in the group of four players tied for third and with the strong likelihood of another reduced event that's great news but the fact that two of the four tied for third alongside him were backed last week and performed woefully is a tad frustrating...

Thomas Aiken was never at the races at Woburn - a venue I thought ideal for his neat and tidy long game - but he missed the cut by a mile and David Drysdale, another very straight driver of the ball, who I'd backed to finish inside the top-ten, never looked like contending last week.

I'm not going to be around today so won't be able to trade, but if I was I'd be looking to back the leader after this morning's play. The greens didn't look the smoothest yesterday and those that played in the afternoon experienced much frustration.

Today's early starters will enjoy slightly better conditions and they won't know whether the score they shoot will be enough - if the event is reduced. The entire field will be well aware that there's a chance we'll get another 36 hole event and those playing this afternoon will know that aiming for the second round lead could be aiming for the title itself. Pressure that may well result in nobody being able to catch whoever leads after this morning.

I would have liked to analyse the stats after day one but some players didn't quite get finished so none have been produced yet and it's the same story over in the States, at the Open, where play was suspended for darkness before the first round had been completed.

Brendan Steele leads after a nine-under-par 63 but with Justin Rose shooting five-under and Rory McIlroy four, the event looks wide open. My sole selection, Brendan Todd shot three-under so isn't out if it just yet but I'm going to leave this one alone for now and see what today brings.

Portugal Masters pre-tournament Selections:

Thomas Pieters @ 33/1 (Sportsbook)
Pablo Larrazabal @ 80/1 (Sportsbook)
Pelle Edberg @ 140.0139/1
Alvaro Quiros @ 140.0139/1 pre-tournament Selection:

Brendon Todd @ 80/1 (Sportsbook)


Will Wilcox @ 15.014/1

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