The Punter's In-Play Blog: Extra time at Sea Island

Mackenzie Hughes – the vulnerable leader at Sea Island
Mackenzie Hughes – the vulnerable leader at Sea Island

Four men return to the Seaside Course at Sea Island today to decide the outcome of the RSM Classic. Read our man's assessment of the current situation ahead of the resumption of play here...

“Mackenzie Hughes has led after rounds one, two, three and four and he’s been extremely impressive to boot. The Canadian Tour graduate is playing in just his sixth PGA Tour event and given how gutsy he’s been, nobody could begrudge him the win.”

10:00 - November 21, 2016

A dramatic finale saw the RSM Classic go to extra time yesterday with five men - Billy Horschel, Camilo Villegas, Mackenzie Hughes, Henrik Norlander and Blayne Barber - all finishing the tournament on 17-under-par.

Horschel was the first to be eliminated when he made this horrendous putt to save par at the first extra hole.

"They say you learn more from losses than wins. I believe it's true," Horschel tweeted after the playoff. "For me, I didn't take my time over that short putt. Simple as that."

After Horschel's horror show, the four remaining all parred the 18th again in very gloomy conditions and play had to be stopped. The playoff will resume today at the par three 17th at 8:00 local time (13:00 UK and Ireland) and I'll publish my De-Brief once that's all over.

I'm hoping that Blayne Barber, who I backed at 46.045/1 after round one, will oblige but I'm not confident. The Sea Island resident didn't look at scoreboards yesterday and I think that always shows a weakness. He has no choice but to know where he stands today and that might be a negative. On the plus side, he slept in his own bed last night and he has no pressure regarding his playing rights. He parred the 17th in regulation on all three occasions.

Camilo Villegas is the man to beat according to the market but he's not playing without pressure. Without a top-ten since he won the Wyndham Championship in 2014, after finishing 152nd on the FedEx Cup last season, the four-time PGA Tour winner hasn't got full status on Tour this year and could really do with the win. He bogeyed the 17th on Friday but he birdied it on Saturday and again yesterday.

Mackenzie Hughes has led after rounds one, two, three and four and he's been extremely impressive to boot. The Canadian Tour graduate is playing in just his sixth PGA Tour event and given how gutsy he's been, nobody could begrudge him the win. He parred 17 three times in regulation.

Henrik Norlander, who missed out on retaining his PGA Tour card last season by a mere $788, would do me. I managed to back the Swede in-running yesterday so I'm shouting him on too but he has no PGA Tour status this season and he needed a sponsor invitation to get in to this week's tournament. A win for him would be massive and that could easily lead to nerves getting in the way. Norlander parred 17 in rounds two and four but he bogeyed it on Saturday.

To conclude, if forced to pick a bet at this stage I'd plump for the Canadian. He deserves the victory, has nothing to lose and he looks (so far) to have plenty of bottle.

The playoff is live on Sky Sports News.

14:35 - November 20, 2016

After a thrilling final day at the DP World Tour Championship, Dan Geraghty's each-way selection, Matthew Fitzpatrick, has edged out Mike Norman's fancy, Tyrrell Hatton, by a stroke. I'll have lots more on that tournament in tomorrows De-Brief but for now my attention is turned to the RSM Classic where Canadian rookie, Mackenzie Hughes, still holds sway. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 14:25.

Mackenzie Hughes -16 6.25/1

Billy Horschel -15 4.3100/30
Camilo Villegas -15 7.06/1
Cheng Tsung Pan -15 7.87/1

Chesson Hadley -14 18.5

Charles Howell III -13 16.5
Patrick Rodgers -13 20.019/1
Blayne Barber -13 29.028/1

-12 and 50.049/1 bar

Mackenzie Hughes
deserves an awful lot of credit for the way he finished his third round yesterday. He looked highly likely to drop away when he triple-bogeyed the 11th hole (his only over-par hole this week) but he rallied superbly, birdying the 13th, 15th and 16th to get back into the lead. He's clearly one tough cookie and he'll be buoyed by the way he bounced back there but he still looks extremely vulnerable in a tournament that's seen numerous off-the-pace winners.

As highlighted in the preview, we've only had six renewals to date but already we've seen winners come from five off the pace (twice) and seven strokes back with a round to go. Tommy Gainey hit 60 in round four to win by a stroke in 2011 before Ben Crane came from seven shots back to win in 2012. Robert Streb began the fourth round trailing by five strokes and trading at 110.0109/1 before he went on to win in 2014 and 12 months earlier, Tim Clark very nearly did the same thing. He also began round four trading at a triple figure price and five off the lead and he was matched at just 4.03/1 after he'd shot a final round of 62 (one better than Streb and Crane).

Given those past results, I've plumped for three from off the pace (Jim Furyk, Russell Henley and Kevin Streelman) and I'm going to monitor the early play to look for any early movers.

Of those towards the head of the market, I much prefer Sea Island resident, Billy Horschel, and I can see why he's been steadily backed all morning but given how crowded the leaderboard is and how often closers have won here, I'm more than happy to leave him out.

15:00 - November 19, 2016

The combination of a shortened course with easy pin positions and a wobbly halfway leaderboard has resulted in much change at the DP World Tour Championship. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 14:50.

Victor Dubuisson -13 4.84/1

Matthew Fitzpatrick -12 6.86/1
Tyrrell Hatton -12 6.86/1
Nicolas Colsaerts -12 9.08/1

Francesco Molinari -11 9.08/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -11 10.519/2
Lee Westwood -11 12.5

-9 and 36.035/1 Bar

Although two of my in-play picks, Joost Luiten and Byeong Hun An, were very disappointing in round three today, it's still been a good day. Pre-event pick, Victor Dubuisson, has moved to the front and Matthew Fitzpatrick, backed after the first round, is bang there in a tie for second. He was Dan Geraghty's each-way selection before the off and alongside Fitzpatrick now is Mike Norman's pick, Tyrrell Hatton. And the market, quite rightly, believes those are the three to beat. Nicolas Colsaerts is alongside Fitzpatrick and Hatton but on all known evidence, he's not the greatest in-contention.

This is the third time Dubbuisson has led with a round to go and on both previous occasions he won. He was five clear at the Turkish Airlines Open in 2013 before duly obliging by two to win his first European Tour title and two years later, he won the same event by a stroke having been tied at the top with a round to go. That bodes well for the mercurial Frenchman and so do the stats at this event...

In the previous seven renewals, the third round leader or co-leader has gone on to win five times and it could have very easily have been seven from seven. Andy Sullivan did nothing wrong last year when he was collared by an inspired Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, who had led after 54 holes in 2010, lost a playoff to Robert Karlsson.

In addition to those two positives for Victor, in the last 20 years on the European Tour, 183 players have led by one through 54 holes and 77 of them have gone on to win. That's a return of 42%. All things considered Dubuisson isn't too short at getting on for 5/1.

Having got the first two in the market covered at juicy prices, I'm in a strong position with a round to go but I'm not resting on my laurels. I'll trade the event in-running tomorrow and try and cover any moves from off the pace but with the likes of Colsaerts, Francesco Molinari, Lee Westwood and Rafa Cabrera-Bello in-the-mix, I'm hopeful one of my two can oblige. All four are notoriously tricky to get across the line and the big danger to my pair looks to be Mike's man, Hatton. I've had a small bet on Tyrrell at 7.06/1 and I'm going to leave it at that for now.

Over at the RSM Classic, first round leader, Mackenzie Hughes, played brilliantly yesterday to follow up his opening low round 62 at the Seaside Course with a respectable 67 around the Plantation Course and he now leads by two but it's absolutely wide open and I'm leaving the event alone for now.

I've thrown enough darts already and I want to keep at least some stakes back for tomorrow. As highlighted in the preview, in stark contrast to the tournament in Dubai, the winners at this event have won from way off the pace and I've always had the intention of picking out a few outsiders before round four so I'll be back tomorrow with my plan of action.

13:20 - November 17, 2016

We've reached the halfway stage of the DP World Tour Championship and Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari lead on nine-under-par. Here's the 36 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:15.

Sergio Garcia -9 4.3100/30
Francesco Molinari -9 5.14/1

Lee Westwood -8 13.012/1

Bernd Wiesberger -7 14.013/1
Tyrrell Hatton -7 15.014/1
Charl Schwartzel -7 15.014/1
Joost Luiten -7 21.020/1

Matthew Fitzpatrick -3 32.031/1
Nicolas Colsaerts -5 46.045/1

Byeong Hun An -5 40.039/1
Victor Dubuisson -5 50.049/1
Soren Kjeldsen -5 100.099/1
Nacho Elvira -5 100.099/1

Alex Noren -4 28.027/1

-4 and 25.024/1 bar

In the seven previous renewals, ten men have led or co-led at halfway here and five of them went on to win. Andy Sullivan did little wrong 12 months ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy, after he'd led after 36 holes, and five of the six winners before him were all in front at halfway. This isn't a good course to play catch-up golf.

We perhaps shouldn't get too hung up on those stats though. The first edition developed into a duel between European Tour heavyweight Lee Westwood and the fairly inexperienced Ross McGowan and the other three players to win from the front were Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson (twice) and Alvaro Quiros. Three very solid players in-the-mix. I'm not sure the same can be said about Sergio and Moli.

I always want to be against that pair when they're in-contention and the same can be said of Westwood in third. My pre-event pick, Victor Dubuisson, and three of our five each-way selections are still on the premises and I've added one of them to my portfolio too now.

Byeong Hun An is more than capable of going really low and of all those lurking behind the vulnerable-looking leaders, he represents the best value at around 40.039/1."

At the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour, Canadian grad, Mackenzie Hughes, skipped round the Seaside Course in just 61 strokes to take up the early running on nine-under-par. He leads veterans Stewart Cink and Jonathan Byrd by a stroke and all three will play the easier Plantation course today.

The Seaside course averaged 68.29 yesterday, which is 1.71 strokes under its par of 70, and the Plantation averaged 69.06 - 2.94 strokes below its par of 72.

Although a number of winners have come from way off the pace after three rounds, the 2012 winner Tommy Gainey is the only man in the event's six year history to be trailing by more than four strokes after round one so with that in mind, I've thrown a few pounds at Cink, Byrd and Blayne Barber.

I'm a little annoyed I didn't back any of those at a monstrous prices as I backed a number of Sea Island residents before the off but I left those three out. I included this list of Sea Island residents in my preview and I should have just started at the top of it! Barber is a stroke behind Cink and Byrd and he too plays the Plantation Course today.

There's no doubt who would be the most popular winner this week. Accompanied by his wife yesterday, who's undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Cink's 62 yesterday was his lowest career round and he sounds very positive: "I've just been really encouraged by the way she's been able to fight and handle it. She's had a lot of ups and downs but she feels pretty well and she got a good report Monday. Real good. She's really an inspiration for me."

15:00 - November 17, 2016

The first round of the DP World Tour Championship has finished and the stars haven't really shone. A rusty looking Rory McIlroy, who was matched before the off at just 3.814/5, started poorly and although he birdied three of his last five holes, a double-bogey at the 16th hampered the recovery. He shot a three-over par 75 and he looks to have too much on his plate already. As do the other three men attempting to win the Race to Dubai. Henrik Stenson shot level par and both Danny Willett and Alex Noren could only manage one-under-par 71s. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 14:55.

Lee Westwood -6 11.521/2

Nicolas Colsaerts -5 24.023/1
Julien Quesne -5 55.054/1

Sergio Garcia -4 8.88/1
Francesco Molinari -4 10.519/2
Joost Luiten -4 25.024/1

Louis Oosthuizen -3 15.014/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick -3 36.035/1
Alex Levy -3 70.069/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -3 70.069/1
Jaco Van Zyl -3 90.089/1
Marcus Fraser -3 140.0139/1

-2 and 18.017/1 bar

This is the eighth edition of the DP World Tour Championship and the first seven winners all started quickly at the Earth Course. No winner has shot any worse than a four-under-par 68 on day one, all seven were inside the top-six places, and Alvaro Quiros, in 2011, is the only winner to have trailed by more than two strokes after round one. That's bad news for Rory, Henrik, Danny or Alex fans. If we're to follow those stats religiously then we need only concentrate on the top-six.

Lee Westwood has responded well to the disappointment of missing out on next week's World Cup (details here) with an impressive six-under-par 66 and that's the same score he shot when he won the inaugural edition of this event. On that occasion he sat second at this stage before powering away to win by six strokes. He looks a tempting price at 11.521/2 but he's not the force he once was and he hasn't won outside of Asia in over four years.

Nicolas Colsaerts has a habit of starting well but finishing poorly and it's hard to envisage Julien Quesne winning a tournament of this magnitude so if the winner is already inside the top-six, it maybe one of the three tied for fourth...

Sergio Garcia was matched at just 4.03/1 after he'd eagled the par five 14th but a double bogey at 16 saw the two strokes gained readily lost and he makes no appeal. He's notoriously hard to get over the line and the same can be said of Francesco Molinari.

The Italian won his national open impressively two months ago and he's since finished sixth in the WGC-HSBC Champions and a fast finishing fourth at the Shriners on the PGA Tour. It's impossible to crab his current form and he has a reasonable record here with figures reading 30-6-6-34-13-16-4 but he's not a player I can put faith in. His strike rate is simply not good enough.

At more than twice the price of Sergio and Molli, Joost Luiten appears to represent a bit of value. Like the Italian, Luiten won his national title for a second time this year and he too has some course form in the book. He finished fourth here in 2013, despite beginning the tournament with a one-over-par 73, and I thought there was enough juice in his price to warrant a bit of support. I've also had a couple of tiny bets on two players a further stroke back and tied for seventh...

Dan Geraghty made a good case for Matthew Fitzpatrick before the off at 50/1 and I've often highlighted how he's one to follow when he starts well so I thought he had to be backed at 44.043/1. The Sheffielder misses plenty of cuts but when he does start well he's proven to be one to side with. His lack of length is a negative (as it is with Luiten) but that's more than factored into the prices.

And finally, I've had a very small bet on Alex Levy at 80.079/1, who doesn't need worry about a lack of length. The big hitting Frenchman, who won the European Open two months ago, really ought to enjoy this course given how far he whacks it off the tee and after a bright start, 80.079/1 was just too big.

I'll be back tomorrow after round two.

20:00 - November 16, 2016

The DP World Tour Championship, which I've previewed here, kicks off at 03:40 tomorrow morning and it's live on Sky Sports at 08:00 but it's the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour that I've been busy with.

I wrote in my RSM Classic preview (here) that I had some more outsiders that I was trying to get matched on and now that I have, here they are.

Cody Gribble wasn't on my shortlist at the start of the week but he's drifted to a very attractive price now. Gribble won the Sanderson Farms Championship three starts ago at around the same odds he is now and I can't quite understand that. We now know he has the bottle to win on the PGA Tour, he's currently ranked as the best putter on the PGA Tour (over the last three months) and we know he can putt well on Bermuda. He's simply too big at a triple-figure price.

Trey Mullinax, who's based in Sea Island, is another great putter - currently ranked fifth for Putting Average over the past three months on the PGA Tour. He finished 25th last year as a tournament invite and I can see him building nicely on that.

Seamus Power is another Tour grad based in Sea Island that's currently ranked inside the top-ten for Putting Average over the past three months and he's featured a couple of times already on PGA Tour leaderboards this season.

Brian Gay fired his best round in three years when he shot 64 on Sunday in Mexico. He's a former winner of The Heritage at Harbour Town, an event that correlates well with this one, and he was fourth at a huge price here on his last appearance in 2013.

Tournament host and Harbour Town Links specialist, Davis Love III, led here with a round to go in 2012 and he won on the PGA Tour as recently as August last year when he caused a big shock at the Wyndham Championship. I was happy to throw a few pounds at him at a huge price and the same can be said of fellow Sea Island resident, Rick Lamb.

Lamb's form is very in-and-out, hence the monstrous price, but he won on the Tour in July when he Monday qualified for the LECOM Health Challenge where he ranked second for putting.

DP World Tour Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Thomas Pieters @ 44.043/1
Victor Dubuisson @ 65.064/1

In-Play Picks:
Joost Luiten @ 26.025/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 44.043/1
Alex Levy @ 80.079/1
Byeong Hun An 42.041/1
Tyrrell Hatton @ 7.06/1

RSM Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Cody Gribble @ 110.0109/1
Trey Mullinax @ 150.0149/1
Seamus Power @ 150.0149/1
Brian Gay @ 250.0249/1
Michael Thompson @ 300.0299/1
Davis Love @ 440.0439/1
Rick Lamb @ 800.0799/1

In-Play Picks
Stewart Cink @ 17.5
Blayne Barber @ 46.045/1
Jonathan Byrd @ 50.049/1
Jim Furyk @ 55.054/1
Russell Henley @ 110.0109/1
Kevin Streelman @ 170.0169/1
Henrik Norlander @ 25.024/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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