The Punter's In-Play Blog: Scrap the plans; get with the off-the-pace outsiders at the Canadian Open

Can Roberto Castro come from off the pace in Canada?

Steve has wanted to be with the frontrunners all week in Canada but with a round to go, and after much rain, there's a change of plan...

“The rain has rendered the course defenseless and although Snedeker, Kuchar and Johnson, who have all had at least one bad day (probably because of fatigue after last week’s Open Championship), look the men to beat now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see someone win from off the pace, given what we’ve witnessed so far this week.”

11:55 - July 28, 2013
Saturday at the Canadian Open was one of the strangest day's play I've seen in a long while. It started with Dustin Johnson, who barely made the cut, climbing up the leaderboard at a rate of knots and, after a weather delay, it ended with another player who looked out of it at halfway, Brandt Snedeker, leading on -14.

All week, I've been banging on about how important it is to be up with the pace at Glen Abbey and yet the lead has been something of a poisoned chalice. First round leader, Brendan Steele, has plummeted down the field and now sits in a tie for 62nd. Halfway leader, Hunter Mahan, had to withdraw, minutes before his third round tee-time, when he received a call informing him that his wife has gone into labor early, and the man that took up the mantle, John Merrick, had an absolute mare!

Much fuss was made about Merrick having to play alone and it did seem to affect him. While everyone else was peppering the pins on the rain-softened greens and making a rash of birdies, Merrick was struggling to make par and he played the first four holes in three-over! To his credit, he finished the round in style, playing the final four holes in four-under and he'll begin round four just three behind Snedeker.

If absolutely forced to pick one to get stuck into in Canada it would be Matt Kuchar, who bounced back after a disappointing second round in fine style yesterday - shooting an eight-under-par 64 and he now trails Sneds by two. At around 5.59/2 he looks a fair price but I certainly wouldn't be going mad in these conditions and I've decided to side with a couple more outsiders instead. 

The rain has rendered the course defenseless and although Snedeker, Kuchar and Johnson, who have all had at least one bad day (probably because of fatigue after last week's Open Championship), look the men to beat now, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see someone win from off the pace, given what we've witnessed so far this week. I already have pre-event pick, Patrick Reed and in-running plays, Mark Wilson and Merrick onside and I've this morning added Roberto Castro and James Hahn, who both sit on -10 and four off the lead.

Had the course played firm and fast, I'd view this very differently but the soft conditions have meant low scores are out there and if the big three stutter, as all the front-runners have done so far, we could be in for an upset.

Thankfully, my in-running play at the Russian Open, Michael Hoey, has already assured a small profit for the week. At the time of writing, Hoey has a four-stroke lead with just five to play and as I layed him at 1.351/3 before round four and again at 1.051/20, the result of the event is now irrelevant.

I'll be back in the morning with my De-brief.

09.55 - July 27, 2013
They're off and running in round three of the Russian Open already and although I really didn't think I would, I've had another bet, siding with Michael Hoey at 8.615/2.

Rikard Karlberg leads at halfway, by two shots over a group of four that includes Hoey, and the leaderboard is jam-packed with non-winners and infrequent winners. The price about Hoey isn't spectacular but I thought he stood out as someone that can get the job done.

It looks as though I should have waited a bit longer at the Canadian Open, with yesterday's in-play wagers, Brendan Steele and Scott Brown, struggling in round two. Steele shot fully ten strokes more than he had on Thursday, following up his seven-under-par 65 with a three-over-par 75 to render his chance of victory almost nonexistent and Brown could only manage a lacklustre level par 72.

My pre-event pick, Patrick Reed, did OK though, shooting a second successive four-under par 68 and he'll start round three five off the lead and in the penultimate pairing alongside Bubba Watson, who sits alone in third on -9.

The final pairing is John Merrick, on -11, and Hunter Mahan, on -13 and history suggests they have an outstanding chance of victory. Four of the last five Canadian Open winners at Glen Abbey sat 1st or 2nd at halfway and five of the last six were within two of the lead at halfway. The only exception was Tiger Woods in 2000.

This really ought to be an ideal opportunity for Hunter Mahan to win again but on the two occasions he's led at halfway on the PGA Tour he's finished 8th and 9th. Add in his disappointing final rounds at both the US Open and the Open Championship and the last thing I want to do is dive in at just 2.506/4.

I'm not a mad keen Merrick fan either, although he did finally break his PGA Tour duck this year when winning the Northern Trust Open at Riviera back in February, and it's never easy backing up a low score but all things considered, I've felt compelled to back him modestly at 10.09/1.

10.25 - July 26, 2013
What a difference a week makes. Last Friday, I was enjoying, or should that be enduring, 11 hours of live coverage of the Open Championship - watching the world's best fighting it out for the Claret Jug. This week on the European Tour, Robert Rock, at 155th, is the highest ranked player in the Russian Open field and I'm not going to get to see a single shot as there's no coverage at all. Not that - that's a bad thing, given how poorly my two picks have started...

Morten Orum Madsen shot a three-over -par 75 and J.B Hansen shot a level-par 72 so both men have their work cut out already, but I'm not giving up hope just yet. Sam Little opened up with 74 and trailed by nine at the 2011 Russian Challenge Cup, held at this venue, before going on to win and the 2010 winner, Carlos Del Moral, shot 72 in round one, so a fast start isn't the be all and end all.

Rikard Karlberg, Wen-Chong Liang and pre-event favourite, Simon Dyson, set the early pace on day one, with five-under-par 67s but at the time of writing, Dyson, who's already been matched at just 4.216/5, has slipped back.

I've had one in-running bet so far, last night taking 310.0309/1 about multiple European Tour winner, Pablo Martin, who now goes by the name, Pablo Martin Benavides. I thought that was more than fair given he was just three off the lead after round one and I almost got excited when I woke up this morning to see him four-under-par through eight holes and atop of the leaderboard but he's since followed that with six straight bogeys!

I'll take a more detailed look at this event at halfway but there's every chance I've already had my fill of it and my attention is almost entirely fixed on the Canadian Open now, where yesterday's morning starters enjoyed a significant advantage...

Following an opening seven-under-par 65, Brendan Steele leads the way and Joe Affrunti, who lost a playoff on the Web.Com Tour just last month, is the only player in the top-15 that played in the afternoon. He's three behind Steele on -4. The morning starters averaged 1.61 strokes less than those that played after lunch and it's hard to see that levelling out today.

As detailed in the preview, Glen Abbey appears to be a tough place to make up ground so I thought I'd make a start in-running by backing Steele at 26.025/1 and Scott Brown (currently tied for 2nd) at 70.069/1. If they can hang around until then, both players should enjoy the breezy conditions forecast on Sunday.

Alongside Brown and Scott Gardiner on -6 is Matt Kuchar and he's understandably the favourite now at 5.79/2 but I'm still concerned that last week will catch up with him. The same applies to the likes of Hunter Mahan (-5), Bubba Watson (-4) and Brandt Snedeker (-2), who all trade below 20.019/1 this morning, and I'm sorely tempted to add a few more to the portfolio but I'm going to hold off for now.

In addition to the Steele and Brown wagers, I added to my sole pre-event selection of Patrick Reed, who shot -4 on day one, with Y.E Yang after the preview was published but before the event had started and I also backed one of Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me A 100 Winner selections, Mark Wilson, last night at 95.094/1. Yang shot a three-over-par 75 and is out of it already and Wilson dropped a shot almost as soon as I backed him!

Russian Open Pre-Event Selections
Morten Orum Madsen @ 30.029/1
J.B Hansen @ 34.033/1

In-Play Bets
Pablo Martin Benavides @ 310.0309/1
Michael Hoey @ 8.615/2

Canadian Open Pre-Event Selections
Patrick Reed @ 150.0149/1
Y.E Yang @ 180.0179/1

In-Play Bets
Brendan Steele @ 26.025/1
Scott Brown @ 70.069/1
Mark Wilson @ 95.094/1
John Merrick @ 10.09/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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