There's just one round to go at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Safeway Open. Our man casts his eye over both leaderboards with his final in-play update here...
“Paul Waring finally won on the European Tour at the Nordea Masters last August so he has that experience to call upon and he must be playing brilliantly to have scooted around Carnoustie yesterday in just 65 strokes. He’s my idea of the value play this morning, but only just.”
10:40- September 29, 2019
With a round to go, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is dominated by outsiders. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:30.
Matthew Southgate -20 [4.5]
Victor Perez -20 [4.5]
Paul Waring -18 [8.6]
Tony Finau -17 [7.4]
Joakim Lagergren -17 [13.0]
Andrea Pavan -16 [23.0]
Jordan Smith -16 [30.0]
Luke Donald -16 [44.0]
Tyrrell Hatton -15 [32.0]
Lucas Bjerregaard -15 [50.0]
-15 and [50.0] bar
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship has often all but sorted itself out by now. Clear 54-hole leaders are common and they usually go on to convert. Tyrrell Hatton only led by a stroke at this stage last year and he soon went five clear before blowing up on the back-nine when attempting to win the event for a third time in-a-row but six of the previous seven winners all successfully converted a 54-hole lead of at least three strokes. We haven't seen two players tied at the top since 2008 when Martin Kaymer and Jarmo Sandelin were caught and passed by Robert Karlsson.
So, at first glance, third round leaders do have a really good record and the furthest back any winner has come from is seventh place or five strokes. Karlsson was seventh but only three adrift and Colin Montgomerie was five back but sitting in second in 2005. Kenneth Ferrie let that one slip.
This year's co-leaders began the event trading at huge prices and they're both looking to win on the European Tour for the first time. Matthew Southgate was a [370.0] chance and Victor Perez was generally a [490.0] shot and whether either can keep up the strong record of 54-hole leaders is debatable.
I haven't seen much of Perez in-the-mix, although I do recall him dropping four shots in three holes of round three in Mauritius in November when bang in-contention, but he has won a couple of times on the Challenge Tour so that should stand him in good stead. Southgate's a player I've backed on numerous occasions, and especially when playing at links venues, so it's a bit frustrating to see him in the van here but he's been repeatedly poor in-contention and I certainly wouldn't want to rush to back him today at just a shade over 3/1.
Paul Waring finally won on the European Tour at the Nordea Masters last August so he has that experience to call upon and he must be playing brilliantly to have scooted around Carnoustie yesterday in just 65 strokes. He's my idea of the value play this morning, but only just.
Trailing by just three strokes, Tony Finau is the classiest player on the leaderboard but he has a devil of a job to win on the PGA Tour and he's often very disappointing in-contention and Joe Dyer's excellent each-way fancy, Joakim Lagergren, who's alongside Finau, can't be dismissed lightly either.
One of my pre-event picks, Andrea Pavan sits four off the lead and tied for sixth and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that another of my picks, Tyrrell Hatton, who trails by five, can regain the trophy, or that the defending champion, Lucas Bjerregaard, makes a strong run from alongside Hatton.
It really is a tricky one to call. The stats say concentrate on the leaders but neither man is easy to fancy. I can see nerves playing a big part in proceedings and if either of the leaders starts well and trades really short, opposing them might be a good tactic but for now I've had a very small bet on Waring at [9.0] and I'm going to sit back and cheer on Lagergren, Pavan and Hatton.
Over at the Safeway Open, once again the overnight leader has tumbled down to 15th place and last year's Sanderson Farms Championship winner, Cameron Champ, has struck the front. Adam Scott followed his opening 65 with a pair of 73s (now tied for 36th!) and Bryson DeChambeau followed opening rounds of 68 and 64 with an atrocious 76 yesterday. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:35.
Cameron Champ -14 [2.64]
Sebastian Munoz -11 [10.5]
Adam Hadwin -11 [11.0]
Nick Taylor -11 [16.0]
Justin Thomas -10 [8.0]
Collin Morikawa -10 [12.5]
Chez Reavie -10 [20.0]
Nick Watney -10 [36.0]
-9 and [55.0]
Sang-Moon Bae successfully converted a four-stroke lead here in 2014 but no other 54-hole leader has gone on to win and the experienced Brandt Snedeker blew a three-stroke advantage here 12 months ago.
That's a big negative for Champ and the fact that he's emotional about trying to win for his ailing grandfather isn't a plus either. Although others may see that as a positive. On the plus side, Champ won impressively enough at the Sanderson Farms last year (by four strokes) having led by four with a round to go and the stats on three-stroke 54-hole leaders on the PGA Tour make for good reading for Champ fans too.
Since 1996, 118 players have led a 72-hole stroke play event by three strokes and 61 (52%) of them went on to win.
Given those numbers and the fact that he's successfully converted a big lead on the PGA Tour previously, I'd rather be a backer than a layer at around [2.6] but given the tournament is on so late in the UK (leaders tee-off at 22:00), I'm not going to get any further involved here.
Justin Thomas is obviously a huge danger and last week's winner, Sebastian Munoz, will be playing with lots of confidence but if the leader is going to flop, I'll be hoping my man, Collin Morikawa is going to be the one to benefit. He certainly has the ability to close the gap and win his second title in two months but whether I can stay awake long enough to see it is debatable. I'll be back tomorrow with the De-brief.
12:15- September 28, 2019
A superb second round 64 at the Safeway Open has seen Bryson DeChambeau ease two clear of the field. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:10.
Bryson DeChambeau -12 [3.35]
Nick Watney -10 [19.0]
Justin Thomas -9 [4.6]
Dylan Frittelli -9 [15.5]
Cameron Champ -9 [25.0]
Adam Long -9 [36.0]
Nick Taylor -9 [38.0]
Collin Morikawa -8 [15.0]
John Oda -8 [100.0]
-7 and [30.0] bar
At first glance, five-time PGA Tour winner, Bryson DeChambeau, looks a very fair price at over 2/1 to convert his two-shot halfway lead but if he's going to do so, he's going to have to achieve a couple of firsts.
Although prolific and one to trust in-contention, he's yet to convert a clear halfway lead. This is his fourth attempt. He has won twice when tied for the lead at this stage but we're yet to see a halfway leader go on to win a Safeway Open at Silverado. Since the event moved here in 2014, we've seen five men hold a clear halfway lead and all five have been beaten. We witnessed much change yesterday, with the first-round leader, Adam Scott, plummeting to tied 15th and we've seen a number of winners come from quite some way off the pace...
Kevin Tway trailed by four last year, Emiliano Grillo beat Kevin Na in a playoff in 2015, after the pair had trailed by six at halfway, and Brenden Steele won the first of his two titles, in 2016, having trailed by nine at halfway!
Justin Thomas looks a huge danger to the leader if he can back up yesterday's low round and the same applies to my pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, but given the stats, I've backed three experienced pros with work to do - Harris English and Jim Furyk, who trail by six, and Brandt Snedeker, who trails by eight. It's highly likely that someone muscles in on the act from off the pace - it's just a case of picking the right one.
The third round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is well underway and live on Sky at 13:00 and I'll be back again tomorrow morning with a look at the state of play at both events with a round to go.
22:30 - September 27, 2019
After a six-under-par 66 around Kingsbarns on Thursday and an eight-under-par 64 around St Andrews today, 23-year-old Englishman, Matthew Jordan, leads the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship by a stroke.
The last time we saw Jordan on the European Tour was at the British Masters in May when he finished tied for 15th, having led after round one. His local course is Royal Liverpool, so it's no surprise he's a bit of a whiz on the links and he looks like a star of the future, having already won on the Challenge Tour back in Italy back in June.
Despite that win, and his fine effort at Hillside in May, Jordan was matched before the off at [1000.0] and he's still available to back at [29.0] now. It's very hard to imagine him winning, and he's playing the hardest of the three courses, Carnoustie, tomorrow but it might be a mistake to dismiss him lightly. The last two winners were in front at halfway and seven of the 18 winners to date were either leading or tied for the lead at halfway.
In addition to those up-with-the pace winners, we've also seen a number of winners win from way off the pace. The inaugural winner in 2001, Paul Lawrie, was tied for 28th and eight off the lead at this stage and we've also seen winners come from four, five and six adrift at this stage. With 31 players within six strokes of Jordan, it's wide open and if you're looking for a wager at this stage, the best place to start is the hole averages at the three different venues. Here are the cumulative hole averages at each course so far...
St. Andrews Par 72 68.84
Kingsbarns Par 72 68.95
Carnoustie Par 72 70.77
Most of the big names played Kingsbarns today and as a result, the cumulative hole average there was lowered by a whole stroke. Kingsbarns averaged 69.95 on Thursday but 67.95 today. The wind was perhaps not so strong today but that's still quite a difference and we can expect a similar drop at St Andrews tomorrow when the best players pitch up at the home of golf.
The Carnoustie-Kingsbarns-St Andrews rotation has traditionally been the best rotation to be granted and four of the last six winners have played the three courses in that order. Anyone granted that rota gets the toughest course out of the way on day one and then St Andrews two days in-a-row, after piling in the birdies at Kingsbarns on Friday, and I can certainly see why Justin Rose heads the market.
He'll be kicking off at St Andrews tomorrow, trailing Jordan by just two and he looks a perfectly fair price at around 9/2 but it's still wide open and as already mentioned, winning from off the pace is perfectly possible. I have three pre-event picks inside the top-20 so I'm quite happy with my lot at this stage and I've also added Sweden's Alex Noren at a juicy price. He trails Jordan by five in a tie for 21st.
I'll be back at some point tomorrow with a look at the Safeway Open at halfway and I'll take another look at the Alfred Dunhill on Sunday morning, prior to the final round.
11:25 - September 27, 2019
The last two winners of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship played St Andrews on day one but the four previous winners all began the event at Carnoustie and I won't be in the least bit surprised if this year's winner will be someone that played there yesterday too.
Somewhat bizarrely, given the courses aren't far apart geographically, Carnoustie appeared the course least affected by wind on day one but according to the figures, St Andrews played easier than expected too.
The hole averages for round one for the three courses are as follows.
St. Andrews Par 72 68.89
Kingsbarns Par 72 69.95
Carnoustie Par 72 70.82
Here are last year's tournament averages
St. Andrews Par 72 71.54
Kingsbarns Par 72 71.48
Carnoustie Par 72 73.11
So, St Andrews played 2.65 shots easier yesterday than it did 12 months ago, Kingsbarns was 1.53 easier and Carnoustie 2.29. It will be interesting to see what today's averages are but it does appear that starting at Kingsbarns yesterday might again be the worst draw.
It's really difficult to find an opportune time to assess this event in-running through the first three days as the stagger doesn't unwind properly until everyone has played all three courses and given the nature of the event, we don't have a traditional AM-PM start prior to the cut.
I'll have a better look tonight when things are a little clearer and if I get involved, I'll post another update but I'm leaving the event alone for now. I'm pleased to see that one of my big outsiders, Tapio Pulkkanen, has started nicely but Rory McIlroy has started well this morning too.
I expressed my minor concerns about Rory being partnered with his dad in the preview and it was interesting to see that he mentioned how tricky it was after his round yesterday but it looks like he might be feeling a bit guilty about his slightly mean comments this morning. He's certainly started in determined fashion - playing his first five holes in five-under-par!
Over at the Safeway Open, Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Andrew Landry, is tied for the lead alongside another Texas Open winner, Adam Scott, after the first round so the course correlation between Silverado and TPC San Antonio that Ben Coley spotted (mentioned in the preview) looks spot on so far. Last year's Texas Open winner, Corey Conners, is tied for eighth on four-under-par, and just three off the lead.
Scott heads the market but I prefer the look of Francesco Molinari at around [10.0]. It's odd that he's playing this week given he was defending at Wentworth last week and that (I assume) he'll be playing in Italy the week after next but he looks like he might make the most of his quick hop to California. He trails by just a stroke but he does play in the afternoon wave today so that might hinder him so I'm sitting on my hands for now.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Tyrrell Hatton @ [40.0]
Andrea Pavan @ [90.0]
Eddie Pepperell @ [150.0]
Andy Sullivan @ [250.0]
Tapio Pulkkanen @ [290.0]
Alex Noren @ [60.0]
Paul Waring @ [9.0]
Safeway Open Pre-Event Selections:
Collin Morikawa @ [38.0]
Phil Mickelson @ [110.0]
Brendan Steele @ [140.0]
Harris English @ [110.0]
Jim Furyk @ [130.0]
Brandt Snedeker @ [250.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter