10:35 - January 27, 2019
With double-bogeys at four and 14, and a bogey at the par five 18th, halfway leader, Justin Rose, chalked up three sixes during round three of the Farmers Insurance Open yesterday but he still played sensationally enough to break 70 at Torey Pines South and he's maintained his advantage over the field.
Hideki Matsuyama, who'd sat second and three behind Rose at halfway, put in an early charge and he's been matched at a low of 4.03/1, but he lost his way after that and he now trails by seven. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:30.
Justin Rose -18 1.491/2
Adam Scott -15 8.07/1
Jon Rahm -14 6.86/1
Doug Ghim -13 60.059/1
Talor Gooch -12 100.099/1
Rory McIlroy -11 65.064/1
-11 and 120.0119/1 bar
We've already seen a couple of players fail to convert a three-stroke 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour this season. Brandt Snedeker lost a playoff at the wraparound season opener - the Safeway Open - in October and Gary Woodland did nothing wrong at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the start of the year when Xander Schauffele fired a course-record-equalling 62 to beat him by one but since 1996, 115 players have led by three with a round to go on the PGA Tour and 59 successfully converted. That's a strike-rate of 51%.
Third round leaders have an appalling record in this event though and Tiger Woods, who led by four with a round to go in 2013, is only man to convert from the front since John Daly got the better of Luke Donald and Chris Riley in extra time 15 years ago.
This is the fourth time Rose has led by three through 54-holes and his record reads one from three so far. He went on to win the Indonesian Masters by eight in 2017 but he finished ninth at the Travelers Championship in 2010 after shooting 75 on Sunday and he was beaten by David Lingmerth in extra time at the Memorial Tournament in 2015.
I know he's the world number one, and the challengers are few and far between but given the strike-rate of three-stroke leaders on the PGA Tour, the record of 54-hole leaders in this event, and Rose's record when three clear with a round top go, it's impossible to argue a case for backing Justin at around 1.51/2.
I've already layed him at a lot bigger so I'm just going to see what transpires but had I not been already involved, I'd be playing the 2017 winner and pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm at 6.86/1. It's a long time since Adam Scott was in-contention like this and I much prefer the chances of the Spaniard.
I'm largely leaving the event alone but I have thrown a few pounds at Rory McIlroy. I know he trails by fully seven strokes but he won his first PGA Tour title from off the pace, he's twice won from six back with a round to go and we've seen winners come from five, six and even seven back in the last ten years so 65.064/1 about such a class act looked worth chancing.
20:45 - January 26, 2019
It was a frustrating day for me at the Dubai Desert Classic. Pre-event 200.0199/1 chance, Lucas Herbert, who's been matched at just 6.611/2, recovered well after receiving a two-stroke penalty on the third hole but he finished poorly and after hitting a low of 5.04/1, in-play pick, Alvaro Quiros, played the last seven holes in three-over-par. They're both still in with a faint chance but the pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau, has hit the front, despite not being at his best today, and he's going to take an awful lot of beating. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 20:40.
Bryson DeChambeau -16 1.9620/21
Haotong Li -15 4.3100/30
Matt Wallace -13 13.012/1
Ernie Els -13 36.035/1
Thorbjørn Olesen -12 28.027/1
Lucas Herbert -12 46.045/1
Alvaro Quiros -12 75.074/1
Kalle Samooja -12 100.099/1
Jordan Smith -11 55.054/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick -11 60.059/1
Jason Scrivener -11100.099/1
-10 and 110.0109/1 bar
It's impossible to think that Bryson DeChambeau is anything but a fair price with a round to go. He's an extremely reliable performer and in front is the place to be here. The last six third round leaders have all won.
Defending champ, Haotong Li, is the only man within three of the American but defending brings it's own pressures and the dangers to Bryson could come from further back. Matt Wallac, Thorbjørn Olesen and even, Matt Fitzpatrick, who trails by five, are capable of a really low round and they all have great strike-rates.
I've thrown a few pounds at Fitzpatrick at 60.059/1 as that's just too big if the front two falter but I fully expect to see DeChambeau get the job done tomorrow and at just a shade of odds-on, he's fairly priced.
11:35 - January 26, 2019
After a six-under-par 66 around the South Course yesterday, world number one, Justin Rose, has edged three ahead of the rest at the Farmers Insurance Open. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 11:30.
Justin Rose -15 1.9720/21
Hideki Matsuyama -12 8.07/1
Jon Rahm -10 9.28/1
Billy Horschel -10 28.027/1
Ryan Palmer -10 40.039/1
-9 and 25.024/1 bar
The question that needs answering here is - is Rose a back or a lay at a shade of odds-on? Here are the pros and cons.
The caddie situation is a plus. Rose will be inspired to win for his regular caddie, Mark Fulcher, who's just had major heart surgery and the stand-in, Gareth Lord, is a very able deputy. The experienced Lord is one of the best - he's caddied for Henrik Stenson for years and he was on the bag when the Swede won the Open in 2016.
Rose's three clear of only one player, Hideki Matsuyama, and five clear of the rest, so that has to be viewed as a big plus too but the positives are hard to find after that. The pre-event favourite and 2017 Farmers winner, Jon Rahm, is one of those tied for third and that's the first of several negatives...
Since 1996, three-stroke halfway leaders on the PGA Tour have a strike-rate of a fraction under 35% with 25 of 72 going on to win. Add to that the sorry record of halfway leaders here - only Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods (twice) have converted a 36 hole lead this century - and Rose's record when leading, and we have to conclude that he's a lay at odds-on. Justin's led or co-led at this stage on 23 occasions (including at the Desert Classic when the event was staged over five rounds) and he's won just eight times. That's the PGA Tour average again of just under 35%.
It's worth mentioning that he's won on four of the last six occasions that he's led at halfway so that has to be considered a plus but there is one further negative, and that's his tenuous position at the top of the world rankings. Being the world number one has been a bit of an issue for a few months now and on the three previous occasions he's had the opportunity to cement his position at the top of the rankings, at the BMW Championship, the Tour Championship and the Indonesian Masters, he's made a mess of it.
I'm more than happy to lay him at odds-on and see what happens from there. I'll be back this evening with a look at the Dubai Desert Classic before tomorrow's fourth and final round.
14:35 - January 25, 2019
We've reached the halfway stage of the Dubai Desert Classic and my 200.0199/1 pre-tournament pick, Lucas Herbert, is alongside the pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 14:30.
Bryson DeChambeau -12 3.1511/5
Lucas Herbert -12 10.519/2
Alvaro Quiros -11 26.025/1
Ernie Els -11 38.037/1
Haotong Li -10 13.5
Matt Wallace -10 14.013/1
Jason Scrivener -10 28.027/1
Callum Shinkwin -10 40.039/1
Matthieu Pavon -10 46.045/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick -9 @ 17.5
George Coetzee -9 50.049/1
Fabrizio Zanotti -9 120.0119/1
Kim Koivu -9 150.0149/1
-8 and 26.025/1 bar
I'm obviously delighted to have Herbert in the van. As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, being up with the pace is a big plus. This is the 30th edition of the event and up until now, we've only had two winners that weren't inside the top-ten places at halfway. Quiros, in 2011, was as many as eight adrift at this stage so winning from miles back is possible, but after that, five strokes is the furthest any other winner has trailed at halfway and the vast majority of winners have been within at least three strokes.
That suggests we need to be concentrating on the leaders, and that's good news for my Herbert wager, but just look at the quality alongside him and just behind him! I'm miffed I didn't have at least a saver on DeChambeau before the off and I thought he was a fair price yesterday but I'm just going to have to leave him now. I've backed both Quiros and Ernie Els very modestly but the dangers are plentiful.
Defending champ, Haotong Li, finished brilliantly today to move in to contention, Matt Wallace and Matthew Fitzpatrick are huge dangers and the 2017 winner, Sergio Garcia, last week's winner, Shane Lowry, and the ruthless Dane, Thorbjørn Olesen are alongside another of my picks, Jordan Smith, tied for 14th and just four off the lead.
It's a really competitive leaderboard, with the likes of DeChambeau, Li, Wallace, Fitzpatrick and Olesen all in-the-mix. They're all extremely reliable in-contention but it's just too bunched for now so, other than throwing a few pounds at Alvaro and Ernie, I'm going to see what tomorrow brings.
As Dave Tindall's tweet below shows, in stark contrast to the Dubai Desert Classic, being up with the pace hasn't been important at all at the Farmers Insurance Open of late!
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, the last eight winners all began the event on the South Course and we have to go all the way back to 1987 to find the last first round leader to go on to win. They're not great stats for the leader, Jon Rahm, who opened up the tournament with a ten-under-par 62 at the North Course to lead by a stroke over world number one, Justin Rose, and pre-event 1000.0 chance, Doug Ghim.
As highlighted in the preview, the field play a round each on the North and South Courses over the first two days before those that make the cut play the South Course over the weekend. For many years, the North had been much the easier track over the first tow days, averaging around three and half strokes easier but after Tom Weiskopf renovated the track in 2017 the differential reduced by around two strokes.
The scoring averages yesterday make for interesting reading. The South Course averaged 71.63 (just 0.37 under-par) and the North 69.4 (2.6 Under-par) so it looks like the North is playing easier this year than it has in each of the last two years but it could be argued that the better players played the North yesterday and that the differential may narrow today. We'll just have to wait and see.
It's quite tempting to lay Rahm at only 3.613/5 but instead I've added a couple that played the South Course yesterday. If we're to get a ninth winner in-a-row to play the South Course on Thursday, there are a few players at tempting prices. Charles Howell III, Chris Stroud and Brandon Hagy, who trail Rahm by four, are the only three inside the top-14 to have started the event there but I like a couple a further shot back - last year's runner-up, Ryan Palmer, and Argentine, Fabian Gomez.
15:20 - January 24, 2019
The majority of players at the top of the Dubai Desert Classic leaderboard after the opening day (14 of the top-18) were assigned a morning start but late starter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, managed to shoot a seven-under-par 65 and he leads by a stroke over a group of eight players that includes pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau, and the 2017 winner, Sergio Garcia.
The defending champ, Haotong Li, and experienced Englishmen, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, are among the group of nine players tied for tenth - just two strokes behind Fitzpatrick - and if the stats are to be believed, we probably don't want to be scanning much further down the leaderboard than that at this very early stage.
This is the 30th edition of the Dubai Desert Classic and it's the 28th edition to be held at the Emirates Golf Club. The 1999 and 2000 editions were held at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club but every other renewals has been held here at the Karl Litton-designed Majlis championship course and the vast majority of winners have been up with the pace throughout.
Alvaro Quiros won in remarkable fashion, having trailed by eight strokes after rounds one and two, and having sat tied 65th after the first day's play but every other winner has broken par on day one an they've all been inside the top-30 places. As many as nine winners have been leading or co-leading after round one and 18 of the 27 course winners to date have been inside the top-six after the opening round.
That may narrow the field down somewhat but it hasn't encouraged me to commit yet. I looked closely at Fitzpatrick before he birdied the 15th hole, knowing he had a good chance of picking up a couple of strokes at the short par four 17th and the par five 18th but I thought he was short enough at around the 14/1 mark. Of course, he then went and drained birdies at 15 and 16 also, before making the two I thought he might make at the last two holes and he's now just 8.415/2 for the win but DeChambeau at 6.86/1, and only one shot off the lead, is arguably more appealing.
Garcia is trading at a single-figure price and Tommy Fleetwood sits fourth in the betting at 14.013/1. The Englishman was matched at a low of 5.14/1 when he eagled the 18th (his ninth) to get to six-under-par but he played the front-nine hole (his second nine) in two-over par and he, along with the best of my sorry pre-event picks, Jordan Smith, is amongst the group of 12 tied for 19th and three off the lead.
A lot is going to depend on how Fitzpatrick performs in the morning so I'm going to wait and see how he gets on before getting involved. If I play anyone in-running tomorrow, I'll update Twitter and I'll be back tomorrow afternoon with a look at the state of play at halfway.
This week's PGA Tour event, the Farmers Insurance Open (previewed here), is about to kick off and there'll be some Featured Group coverage on Sky at 16:45 UK time.
Dubai Desert Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Jordan Smith @ 70.069/1
Lucas Bjerregaard @ 80.079/1
Andy Sullivan @ 90.089/1
Eddie Pepperell @ 95.094/1
Lucas Herbert @ 200.0199/1
Alvaro Quiros @ 25.024/1
Ernie Els @ 38.037/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 60.059/1
Farmers Insurance Open Pre-Event Selections:
Jason Day @ 21.020/1
Gary woodland 36.035/1
Brandt Snedeker @ 50.049/1
Billy Horschel @ 110.0109/1
Jhonattan Vegas 230.0229/1
Scott Stallings @ 400.0399/1
Ryan Palmer @ 65.064/1
Fabian Gomez @ 270.0269/1
Justin Rose layed @ 1.9620/21
Rory McIlroy @ 65.064/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter