Brandt Snedeker will take a three-stroke lead in to the final round of the Safeway Open later today but is he opposable at odds-on?
“I think Snedeker will win but I’ve still backed the two players sitting in third and fourth, Sungjae Im and Bill Haas, who are just too big to ignore, given I don’t like the chances of Tway.”
11:15 - October 07, 2018
With his two closest challengers, Ryan Moore and Phil Mickelson, fading tamely, halfway leader, Brandt Snedeker, leads by three at the Safeway Open with a round to go and he's a warm favourite to convert. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:10.
There isn't any reason to expect anything but a victory for Snedeker now. The last four players to lead by three through 54 holes on the PGA Tour all won and 53% of three-stroke leaders have converted since 1996. Snedeker has led or co-led with a round to go a dozen times previously and although he's only converted on six occasions, he's only twice led by more than one-stroke. He won the Permian Basin Classic in a playoff on the Web.com Tour 12 years ago having led by two with a round to go and he won the Fiji International almost exactly two years ago by fully nine strokes having led by three after 54 holes.
Kevin Tway is Snedeker's nearest challenger but I'm not at all convinced he's his biggest danger. He's only ever won once on the Web.com Tour and on the last two occasions he's been in-contention he's been awful. He sat third and just two off the lead at the Houston Open in April but finished 32nd and back in July, at the Canadian Open, he was tied for the lead through 54 holes but he finished 17th. On both occasions he was beaten by ten strokes!
I think Snedeker will win but I've still backed the two players sitting in third and fourth, Sungjae Im and Bill Haas, who are just too big to ignore, given I don't like the chances of Tway. I wrote about Im after round one and I've been impressed by how well the 20-year-old has hung around. He clearly has a big future but he might just have enough bottle to take advantage of any mishaps by the leader and Haas, who hasn't played well in a long while, is just too big at [32.0] for a former FedEx Cup winner and a multiple PGA Tour champ.
21:25 - October 06, 2018
The weather forecast suggests we're in for a dramatic finale at the Alfred Dunhill Championship, with winds set to gust at up to 40 mph. With that in mind, there's now a shotgun start for round four, with the leaders teeing off at 8:40. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:20.
Tyrrell Hatton -14 [2.04]
Marcus Fraser -13 [11.0]
Tommy Fleetwood -11 [5.8]
Stephen Gallacher -11 [15.5]
Lucas Bjerregaard -10 [22.0]
Andrea Pavan -10 [32.0]
Brooks Koepka -9 [25.0]
Brandon Stone -9 [55.0]
-9 and [130.0] bar
The shotgun start adds an interesting dimension. Tommy Fleetwood and Andrea Pavan tee off at the first hole at 8:30 before Tyrrell Hatton, Marcus Fraser and Stephen Gallacher also play the course conventionally ten minutes later. Lucas Bjerregaard and my pre-event pick, Brandon Stone, get to start on the easy 18th, which could see them get off to a flier, but Brooks Koepka will begin his final round at the toughest hole on the course, the 17th.
Hatton is odds-on across the boards on the High St but I can see why he's being opposed on the exchange. If the wind blows as forecasted, we could see a lot of drama tomorrow and shots can be lost in no time at all. It increases the chances of a shock off the pace winner significantly. No matter how bad the weather is, someone always manages to go against the grain and score fairly well and if they're within five or six before the start of the round they might just take the title.
I'm happy to be on Hatton at [4.1] and I'm not laying anything back at this stage but I've added five others and I'll look to trade in-running tomorrow too. Bjerregaard at [22.0] looks a decent price. He finished the recent European Masters in fine fashion before losing out in a playoff and I can see him bouncing back tomorrow after a disappointing third round and I've backed Tapio Pulkkanen, Matthias Schwab, Edoardo Molinari and Benjamin Herbert at [180.0] plus. They're all within five or six strokes and not out of it given the forecast.
10:55 - October 06, 2018
After a dodgy spell during round two of the Safeway Open, my pre-event pick, Phil Mickelson, composed himself nicely and he birdied five of his last ten holes to draw alongside Ryan Moore at the top of the leaderboard but Brandt Snedeker, who played in the afternoon, was soon past both of them. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.
Snedeker has led twice previously by three strokes at halfway and he has a 50% strike rate. He won the Permian Basin Classic in a playoff on the Web.com Tour 12 years ago but he was beaten at his beloved Torrey Pines in the January of 2007. In his defence, that was his first year on the PGA Tour and having played his first ten holes in ten-under-par, he opened up with an 11-under-par 61 to tie the course record on the North Course, but he couldn't hold off the predictable Tiger Woods charge and Snedeker eventually finished third, beaten by three.
He's held a lead or co-lead 14 times in total and he's gone on to convert just four times but it's perhaps worth noting that he's done so on three of the last five occasions so he appears to be better than ever in-contention. His last success came in the Wyndham Championship in August where he opened up with a 59 so it's hard to make a case for opposing him and I'm not going to. He has a great chance of converting and he looks a perfectly fair price to do so.
Of the chasers, I'm obviously hoping Lefty can kick on again and I'm slightly surprised to see him so much bigger than Moore, who's hardly prolific, but the dangers could come from much further back. Sang-Moon Bae sat second and just a stroke off the lead after 36 holes when he won here on the first occasion that the event was staged at Silverado in 2014 and last year's winner, Brendan Steele, was also second and just a stroke back at halfway but there's evidence to show you can come from some way off here.
When Steele won the first of his two titles, in 2016, he trailed by nine at halfway and the two playoff protagonists in 2015, Emiliano Grillo and the runner-up, Kevin Na, were both half a dozen strokes adrift at this stage.
Sungjae Im is one to keep a close eye on. He won twice on the Web.Com Tour last year and he's the second youngest (behind Jason Day) to win on that Tour. He was 19 years and 292 days old when he won the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic in January. He doesn't look an especially big price at around [20.0] here given he's five back at halfway but he's one to look out for going forward.
Having written yesterday that I was tempted to back Snedeker after round one, I'm regretting my decision not to and I'm going to leave the event alone for now and see what today brings but I wouldn't put anyone off the favourite. He could very easily kick clear today and put it to bed.
They've already started at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and Tyrrell Hatton has moved a couple clear of the field but Tommy Fleetwood has started with a couple of birdies so those two dominate the market. I'll be back tonight or tomorrow morning with a look at that event with a round to go.
19:20 - October 05, 2018
We've reached the halfway stage of the Alfred Dunhill Championship and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard has hit the front but he still has the toughest of the three courses, Carnoustie, to play tomorrow before the whole field play St Andrews for a second time on Sunday. Here are the latest standings with prices to back and courses to be played tomorrow.
Lucas Bjerregaard -9 [7.8] Carnoustie
Tyrrell Hatton -8 [4.1] St Andrews
Andrea Pavan -8 [16.0] Carnoustie
Matthias Schwab -8 [20.0] Kingsbarns
Marcus Fraser -8 [28.0] Kingsbarns
Mikko Ilonen -7 [34.0] Kingsbarns
Ashley Chesters -7 [44.0] Carnoustie
Ryan Fox -6 [28.0] Carnoustie
Lee Slattery -6 [90.0] Carnoustie
Peter Karmis -6 [150.0] Carnoustie
Tommy Fleetwood -5 [7.6] St Andrews
Tony Finau -5 [14.5] St Andrews
Matt Wallace -5 [40.0] Carnoustie
-5 and [80.0] bar
The inaugural event winner, Paul Lawrie, came from 28th and eight strokes adrift at halfway in 2001 and Stephen Gallacher, in 2004, and David Howell, in 2013, both trailed by six but the vast majority of winners have been up with the pace at this stage.
With a benign day forecasted tomorrow, I can't look past the favourite and hattrick seeking, Tyrrell Hatton, and 3/1 looks like a fair price. Tyrrell's playing St Andrews tomorrow so I expect him to score well and to be trading shorter by this time tomorrow. With the forecast suggesting a really blustery day on Sunday, I'll have another look after round three and decide what to do then but I'll be surprised if Hatton has a slow day tomorrow and he looks worth getting onside now.
The second round of the Safeway Open is underway and Ryan Moore has hit the front. My man, Phil Mickelson, birdied the first hole but he's largely struggled since. I'll be back in the morning with a look at that one in more detail at the halfway stage.
09:35 - October 05, 2018
The wind blew so hard yesterday that it didn't seem to matter where you played at in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, scoring was tough. Carnoustie is always the hardest course and the stroke index there was 75.61 but St Andrews was no pushover, averaging 74.34 and Kingsbarns, arguably the easiest of three in poor weather, averaged 73.5 - more than two strokes less than Carnoustie but still tricky.
I wrote in the preview that I'd take a good look at those that fared well at Carnoustie on day one. With the toughest track out of the way, and with the wind easing today and tomorrow, that makes sense but none of them make much appeal. Co-leader, Marcus Fraser, is exceedingly hard to get across the line and young Austrian, Matthias Schwab, doesn't look especially big at less than [40.0] given he's yet to win.
I'm going to wait and see what today brings and take another look tomorrow. The likes of Brooks Koepka, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood have all kicked the event off well given the intensity of last week's Ryder Cup and it looks a tough one to call at this stage.
Over at the Safeway Open, my man, Phil Mickelson, has started the tournament well and despite the fact that he failed to birdie three of the four par fives yesterday afternoon, and that he struggled to find fairways all day, he managed to fire a bogey-free seven-under-par 65.
I was tempted to get Brandt Snedeker onside. He sits just one behind Mickelson in a tie for fourth but after some deliberation I'm going to sit this one out for now too. I'll be back tomorrow at the halfway stage of both events.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Chris Wood @ [42.0] (added after the preview published)
Ross Fisher @ [55.0]
Haotong Li @ [75.0]
Padraig Harrington @ [75.0]
Brandon Stone @ [90.0]
Matthew Southgate @ [120.0]
Callum Shinkwin @ [220.0]
Oliver Fisher @ [250.0]
Safeway Open Pre-Event Selections:
Phil Mickelson @ an average of [35.0]
Tyler Duncan @ [220.0]
Sungjae Im @ [12.0]
Bill Haas @ [32.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter