With just a round to go at both events, Steve's in-play selections are well-placed but he's not resting on his laurels. The stats have been studied and further wagers have been placed so read his final in-running comments for the week here...
“Only two of the last nine third round leaders or co-leaders have won and in the last eight years, four men have led by three with a round to go and only Steve Stricker managed to convert.”
10.30 - June 7, 2015
As the final round of the Nordea Masters is already well under way, that's the sensible place to start...
Alex Noren, who I backed modestly on Friday has smoothly moved two clear of the remainder and has an outstanding chance to win. His record with a third round lead is no more than ordinary - he's led nine times previously and he successfully converted on four occasions - but he looks set to make it five from ten.
Sitting second, and two adrift, is Maximilian Kieffer, with fellow maidens, Sebastian Soderberg and Jens Dantorp tied for third and three back. The painfully slow Kieffer has struggled in-the-mix up to now and the two Swedes tied for third have so much to gain, it's hard to imagine them staying composed enough to win. Both would gain precious European Tour cards and that added pressure may just tell.
If Noren is to lose today, I fancy he's either going to play badly on a course that suits in conditions he's mastered on many occasions or someone from a bit further back is going to have a great day.
Last week's winner, Soren Kjeldsen, trails Noren by five and pre-event favourite, Henrik Stenson, is six back. That pair tee-off together, 18 minutes before Noren and Kieffer, and they're the two I'm fearful of but I'm not doing anything just yet. Given how far those two trail and how vulnerable his closest challengers appear, I think Noren should be odds-on, so I'm going to let my wager roll for now but it's a different story Stateside...
My sole pre-event pick at the Memorial Tournament, Jason Dufner, was a bitter disappointment yesterday but my only in-play punt, Justin Rose, has taken control. Here's the third round leaderboard with prices to back at 10:20.
Justin Rose -15 1.695/7
Francesco Molinari -12 13.012/1
David Lingmerth -12 20.019/1
Jim Furyk -11 12.011/1
Hideki Matsuyama -10 17.5
Brendon Todd -10 44.043/1
Kevin Streelman -10 55.054/1
Andy Sullivan -10 70.069/1
-9 and 70.069/1 Bar
It's a similar picture here to the one in Europe, where we have a clear leader with arguably weak immediate challengers. Francesco Molinari will no doubt be his usually shaky self in-the-mix and it's very hard to envisage David Lingmerth getting off the mark in an event this big. The market quite rightly views Jim Furyk as the most likely to benefit from a Rose slip but he looks short enough given his recent conversion record.
We do have to consider a Rose slip, he's led with a round to go 16 times and converted eight times, so his record is far from poor but this isn't an easy place to win from the front and recent history suggests he could be vulnerable to a closer...
Only two of the last nine third round leaders or co-leaders have won and in the last eight years, four men have led by three with a round to go and only Steve Stricker managed to convert.
Although I do fancy Rose to get the job done, I've been cautious and layed enough back at 1.695/7 to guarantee a decent profit on the week and I've also had a small play on Kevin Streelman at 55.054/1. He won the Travelers Championship from off the pace last year and looked fractionally over-priced to me.
I'll be back tomorrow with my De-Brief and my FedEx St. Jude Classic preview.
12.45 - June 6, 2015
We've reached the halfway stage of the Memorial Tournament and with ten players separated by four strokes, it looks wide open. Here's the current leaderboard with prices to back at 12:30.
David Lingmerth -12 15.014/1
Jason Dufner -11 8.07/1
Ryan Moore -10 10.09/1
Andy Sullivan -10 24.023/1
Hideki Matsuyama -9 8.07/1
Justin Rose -9 8.6015/2
Jim Furyk -9 12.011/1
Brendon Todd -9 23.022/1
Francesco Molinari -9 27.026/1
Patrick Rodgers -9 34.033/1
Jordan Spieth -6 15.014/1
-8 and 38.037/1
Pre-event favourite, Jordan Spieth, hit a low of 2.89/5 last night as he climbed the leaderboard effortlessly on the front nine but he stalled quite badly after turning for home, playing his last nine in three-over-par, and trailing by six, he has it all to do now. His task is far from impossible though...
Hideki Matsuyama won last year, having trailed by five at this stage, and he beat Kevin Na in a playoff, who had been nine back at halfway! Tiger Woods was six back through 36 holes in 2009 and 2007 winner, K.J Choi, and 2002 champ, Jim Furyk, were both seven adrift at halfway. So it is possible to come from some way off the pace, and with a leaderboard that can't be described as really strong, we could easily witness another off the pace winner this year but I'm going to play one that's just three adrift - Justin Rose.
We all have players that we never seem to get right and Justin is definitely one of those for me. He was pretty poor at Wentworth last time out when I thought he'd go well and it seems he celebrated his Zurich Classic win too hard to give himself a chance at the WGC Match Play when I again left my money behind.
He was right at the top of my list again for this week but I couldn't justify taking around 20/1 in an event so strong when I'd taken 13/1 in the much weaker BMW - PGA at Wentworth. He's a very fair price now though.
I'm a bit frustrated I didn't get with him last night before he birdied the last two holes but that's easy to say now and I could have equally taken the plunge an hour or so early at just 5.04/1, before he made a complete mess of the par 3 12th.
Ryan Moore and Jim Furyk also look poised to challenge over the weekend but at the prices, Rose looks the value so he'll do for now. I'm out tonight so I can't trade unfortunately but I'll be checking the scoreboard far too often though and I'll be really hoping my pre-event pick, Jason Dufner, can at least hang about until tomorrow when I can.
The third round of the Nordea Masters is under way after a two hour delay this morning and the live coverage has just started on Sky Sports. Henrik Stenson had looked like mounting a charge when he began the day eagle-birdie but he's given one back since. The leaders go out at 14:06 UK time.
21.50 - June 5, 2015
We've reached the halfway stage of the Nordea Masters and the draw bias in favour of those drawn late-early did materialise, and to the tune of just over two strokes. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 21:30.
Jens Dantorp -9 8.27/1
Marcus Kinhult -9 11.521/2
Maximilian Kieffer -7 8.27/1
Sebastian Soderberg -7 48.047/1
Alex Noren -6 7.613/2
Eddie Pepperell -6 11.010/1
Tom Lewis -6 20.019/1
Alexander Levy -5 16.015/1
Henrik Stenson -2 18.017/1
-5 and 40.039/1 Bar
They'll have the boost of the supportive galleries but I can't help but think the Swedish duo tied at the top - Jens Dantorp and Marcus Kinhult - look vulnerable. I'm mildly irritated I haven't got Dantorp onside - he was a pick last year at 330.0329/1, but after leading on day one he tumbled out of contention and that put me off him. That was a bit daft really as he's a year older and improving but it's no good moaning now.
I'm happy to have Alex Noren onside at a decent price earlier and I'm really pleased with my pre-event pick and Dan Geraghty's each-way fancy, Eddie Pepperell's second round. I'd be more than happy to just stick with those at this stage, had the weather forecast not changed a bit...
Noren is one of the best poor weather players on the European Tour and Pepperell showed his ability to compete in adverse conditions last Sunday in Ireland so the harder the wind blows the better but according to the forecast, although it looks pretty blowy on Sunday, tomorrow doesn't look too bad now so I've also added Alex Levy.
I really thought this venue would suit him but I'm not convinced the Frenchman is that great in very breezy conditions so given the forecast at the start of the week, I left him out. Now he's in-the-mix, on -5, and the forecast has improved a bit, I've had a very small bet on him as well.
Pre-event favourite, Henrik Stenson, has it all to do on -2 but he can soon make up ground if he gets his skates on. I can see why he's trading at less than 20.019/1, even though he trails by seven, but that's too short for my liking.
Over at the Memorial Tournament, my sole selection, Jason Dufner, has so far done me proud. He trails halfway leader, David Lingmerth, by a single stroke and since Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose have hit the buffers a bit in round two (currently live on Sky Sports), he's shortened up to around 8.07/1.
I'll take a good look at this one in the morning.
13.20 - June 5, 2015
The morning wave have finished their second rounds at the Nordea Masters and with the wind forecast to pick up this afternoon, now looks the time to strike in-running. I've managed to get a small bet matched on Alex Noren at 12.011/1 and that looks outstanding value.
Currently tied for 4th, Noren trails 18 year-old amateur, Marcus Kinhult, by three strokes and Sebastian Soderburg and Max Kiefer by one and I can't see him being any further off the lead at the close of play.
A lot will depend on what warm pre-event favourite, Henrik Stenson, does this afternoon but I can't see Noren being much bigger than 12.011/1 whatever Stenson does. Of course, the world number four could fly through the field but this isn't a pushover in any sort of breeze so it's highly unlikely. Only Alvaro Quiros, who shot a six-under-par 66, has bettered four-under this morning so given he went off at around 22.021/1, Noren looks a great price at anything around 10.09/1.
After kicking off this blog last night, my only pre-event pick at the Memorial Tournament, Jason Dufner, had a four foot birdie putt on the 17th to get to -9 and to take the lead. He was matched at just 7.613/2 but is now right out to 18.017/1! He missed the birdie putt then drove into the water on 18 before making a double-bogey 6. Unsurprisingly, he declined all interviews afterwards and I bet he was seething but he wasn't the only one to record a double at 18. So did Tiger Woods, Matt Kuchar and Phil Mickelson and being out of the lead might not be a bad thing anyway.
As detailed in the In-Play tactics section of the preview, only two first round leaders have ever won here. It's a hard place to make all the running and I fancy defending champ and joint first round leader, Hideki Matsuyama, looks plenty short enough at around 4.3100/30.
Matsuyama was tied with Bo Van Pelt after round one and like Dufner and Russell Knox, who's alongside Dufner in a tie for third; he's out with the morning starters very soon.
I'm leaving it alone for now and hoping Dufner can keep going but I'll be back later if I get involved.
22.30 - June 4, 2015
There are 12 players separated by just a stroke at the top of the Nordea Masters leaderboard after round one and ten of them were drawn late/early. With the wind dying slightly as the day wore on, only Sweden's Jens Dantorp (who's tied for the lead with England's, Chris Paisley, and Swedish amateur, Marcus Kinhult) and big-hitting Belgian, Thomas Pieters, played in the morning wave. The differential between the morning and afternoon starters was only 0.98 of a stroke but by the time they've reached halfway their advantage may increase further as the forecast suggests conditions will be better tomorrow morning than they will be in the afternoon.
I was quite happy that my strongest fancy, Alvaro Quiros, as well as another pick,Thomas Bjorn, and my each-way selection, Stephen Gallacher, were all drawn late/early but they haven't really capitalised on it. Bjorn and Gallacher only managed one-under-par 71s this afternoon and they trail by four and Quiros was very disappointing, shooting a three-over-par 75.
I'm going to leave that event alone for now and see what tomorrow brings and I've not got very involved at the Memorial Tournament either...
In addition to my sole selection, Jason Dufner, who's still finishing up his first round, and doing OK so far, I quite liked a few that I didn't play. Justin Rose was just too short before the off for my liking but he's started well and I really liked Bill Haas and Chris Kirk.
I've no complaints though, Rose isn't much shorter than he was before the off, after he matched pre-event favourite, Jordan Spieth's four-under-par 68, and Haas and Kirk are twice the price that they went off at. The man that's impressing is the defending champ, Hideki Matsuyama...
The Japanese star is flying along so far and is eight-under-par through 16 holes. He's looking like the one they all have to beat at this very early stage and is now just a 4.03/1 shot.
I'll take a more detailed look at this event in the morning but I've got a feeling I'll maintain my cautious stance.
Nordea Masters Pre-Event Selections:
Thomas Bjorn @ 40.039/1
Eddie Pepperell @ 42.041/1
Stephen Gallacher @ 46.045/1
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 70.069/1
Alvaro Quiros @ 100.099/1
Scott Hend @ 220.0219/1
Alex Noren @ 12.011/1
Alex levy @ 16.015/1
Memorial Tournament Pre-Event Selection:
Jason Dufner @ 75.074/1
Justin Rose @ 8.88/1
Kevin Streelman @ 55.054/1
Justin Rose - layed @ 1.695/7
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