08:10 - February 1, 2016
In conditions that ebbed and flowed between barely playable and totally unplayable, Brandt Snedeker shot what has to be considered one of the best rounds ever seen on the PGA Tour. At the time of yesterday's abandonment of play, the field were averaging 78.14 but incredibly, Brandt shot a three-under-par 69 and Paul Dunne sent him a tweet reading, "How you shoot 69 out there I'll never know! Best score I've ever seen!" Sentiments that were echoed by just about everyone, but will it be enough to win the title?
Play will continue at 8:00 today, which is 16:00 UK time and he's the latest standings with prices to back at 8:00 UK time.
Jimmy Walker -7 (thru 10) 3.02/1
Brandt Snedeker -6 3.02/1
KJ Choi -6 (thru 10) 7.06/1
Kevin Streelman -5 (thru 13) 13.5
Freddie Jacobson -5 (thru 11) 16.5
JB Holmes -4 (thru 13) 40.039/1
-3 and 65.064/1 bar
If Jimmy Walker can negotiate the final eight holes in level par today he'll almost certainly lift the trophy but that's a very big if.
According to the forecast, when the field reassembles at 8:00 they'll encounter conditions very similar to yesterday and if that's the case, Snedeker looks a big price. He's the only player to be under-par for round four and if it blows as hard today as it did yesterday, Walker is unlikely to get home in level-par or better. At the time of writing, 3.02/1 looks a great price about the clubhouse leader but diving in deep is certainly not advisable.
Betting big on the strength of a weather forecast isn't always wise but I can see him trading much shorter before a ball is even struck and as a general rule of thumb, in these situations, the man in the clubhouse is nearly always the value.
Having backed Sneds before the off, I layed him back in-running and I'll have more on that in the De-brief later but as it stands now, if I was approaching the event fresh, I'd most certainly be siding with Snedeker.
11:20 - January 31, 2016
With the well-fancied defending champ, Branden Grace, cruising to victory in Qatar, the layers will be relieved to be heading for a result at the Farmers Insurance Open, where an out-of-form Jimmy Walker is the only reasonably short player before the off to be right in-the-mix. Jimmy was a 40.039/1 shot at the off. Here's the third round leaderboard with prices to back at 11:10.
KJ Choi -9 9.08/1
Scott Brown -9 10.09/1
Jimmy Walker -8 6.25/1
Gary Woodland -8 8.88/1
Jonas Blixt -7 22.021/1
John Huh -7 26.025/1
Freddie Jacobson -7 28.027/1
Michael Kim -7 30.029/1
Dustin Johnson -6 12.5
JB Holmes -6 21.020/1
Martin Laird -6 34.033/1
Kevin Streelman -6 40.039/1
Jhonattan Vegas -6 44.043/1
Hudson Swafford -6 48.047/1
Ben Crane -6 50.049/1
Hiroshi Iwata -6 90.089/1
-5 and 50.049/1 bar
With 16 players within just three strokes, this is one of the most open looking third round leaderboards I've seen in a long while and with the promise of high winds and rain, this isn't an event to go piling in on.
To murky the waters even more, third round leaders have a terrible record in this tournament and the chances are we'll see a winner coming from off the pace. John Daly won a three-man playoff here 12 years ago, having led with a round to go, and Phil Mickelson converted from two clear in 2000 but the only other player to convert a 54-hole lead is Tiger Woods. And he used to be quite good.
I toyed with laying the leaders and trading the final round in-running but after much deliberation I've decided not to. Mainly because, despite the stats about the leaders, and regardless of how poorly another veteran performed yesterday with the lead (Paul Lawrie in Qatar), I quite fancy KJ Choi to go very close here.
The key here is usually length off the tee but with the rough up and the wind and rain in attendance, I fancy accuracy is going to be more important today and the fact that Choi has hit more fairways than anyone else so far this week is a big plus. The 45-year-old Korean has plenty of course form already in the book and he's a superb wind player, so although I don't expect anything spectacular, in horrid conditions, he may just have the wherewithal to hold off the youngsters.
Jimmy Walker is favourite but I'm happy to take him on. He hasn't been playing well of late and his stats suggest he still isn't. He's where he is thanks to a great week with the putter so far but he'll need to start finding a few more fairways and greens today if he's to convert.
Gary Woodland often flatter to deceive and he finished only 10th here two years ago having led after 54 holes. That's not a positive memory to draw upon and he's another I'm happy to swerve.
Scott Brown has talked about how the birth of his second child has brought about an upturn in fortunes but he looks vulnerable in front to me. He won the Puerto Rico Open in 2013 (his only win to date) having led with a round to go but that was very much thanks to an awful finish by Fabian Gomez and on the last two occasions he's been in with a great chance he's flopped badly. He led in Puerto Rico again last year but finished 10th and he fell from third (trailing by one after 54 holes) to 12th at the St Jude Classic in June.
This is absolutely wide open and extremely difficult to predict but in addition to a very small bet on Choi, I've also taken a tiny chance on John Huh, who's another I fancy to hang tough as the final round grinds on. Huh ranks second for Driving Accuracy behind Choi and third for Greens In Regulation so he should find less trouble than most and with a Putting Average ranking of 15 for the week so far, statistically at least, he looks to have a better chance than his odds suggest.
In an attempt to miss the worst of the weather, the tee times have brought forward and the leaders tee-off at 16:50 UK time. It's live on Sky from 16:30 and I'll be back tomorrow with my de-brief.
11:10 - January 30, 2016
We've reached the halfway stage of the Farmers Insurance Open and the majority of the fancied runners are already out of the reckoning. The well fancied favourite, Jason Day, and last week's Abu Dhabi champ, Rickie Fowler, have both missed the cut and so has Phil Mickelson, who finished his second round with three straight bogeys. We're left with a very open looking tournament to ponder now so here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 11:00 (UK time).
Gary Woodland -9 7.87/1
KJ Choi -9 13.012/1
Dustin Johnson -8 4.1
Billy Horschel -7 15.5
Martin Laird -7 22.021/1
Scott Brown -7 38.037/1
J.B Holmes -6 15.014/1
Si Woo Kim -6 28.027/1
Kevin Streelman -6 36.035/1
Freddie Jacobson -6 46.045/1
John Huh -6 50.049/1
Chad Campbell -6 55.054/1
Rob Oppenheim -6 150.0149/1
-5 and 34.033/1 Bar
At first glance, world number eight, Dustin Johnson, looks a big price at over 3/1. His record in this tournament is nothing special and this is far and away his best start. When he finished third here in 2011 he was outside the top-ten and five off the pace so after a great start, he's most definitely the man to beat. In his six other appearances, he's been at least seven back at this stage, so this is a big improvement on past performances. He could kick on over the weekend and make the price look massive but he's never played the South Course brilliantly and we're all well aware of his propensity to throw away a winning chance.
I thought I might find a nice fancy at this stage but having gone through the leaderboard with a fine -tooth comb, I've struggled.
I toyed with backing former FedEx Cup winner, Billy Horshel, and I can see JB Holmes being a factor too. He traded at odds-on during the final round last year but after much deliberation; I've decided to have just a tiny wager on the 2010 winner, Ben Crane.
The last two winners were four and five strokes behind and many a winner has come from off the pace, so at just four back, Crane isn't too far back and I was happy to throw a few pounds his way at a big price. It looks a devilishly tricky event to call though and caution is definitely advised.
The leaders are now on the back nine at the Qatar Masters and defending champ, Branden Grace, has just gone odds-on but I haven't given up on my man, Thorbjorn Olesen, just yet. You can catch the action live on Sky Sports.
18.45 - January 29, 2016
A putting tip from fellow Scot, Marc Warren, in Abu Dhabi last week has worked wonders for Paul Lawrie and a birdie at his final hole in round three today has seen him put daylight between himself and the field at the Qatar Masters. He leads by two with a round to go but with 15 players within five strokes of the lead, winning the title for a third time won't be easy. Here's the third round leaderboard with prices to back at 18:30.
Paul Lawrie -13 4.57/2
Branden Grace -11 4.1
Thorbjorn Olesen -11 8.415/2
Tommy Fleetwood -10 12.5
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -10 13.5
Gregory Bourdy -9 27.026/1
Andrew Johnston -9 40.039/1
Lee Slattery -9 42.041/1
Pelle Edberg -9 60.059/1
-8 and 34.033/1 Bar
It was impossible not to be impressed by Lawrie's bogey-free third round today and it's hard to pick holes in his in-contention record. He's led or co-led through 54 holes of a 72 hole event six times this century, since he won here in 1999, and he's converted four times. And he led by one after two rounds when he won this title for a second time in 2012, when the event was reduced to three rounds. He's a major champ and a Ryder Cupper so he has a wealth of experience to call upon tomorrow and third round leaders have an admirable record here with 10 of the last 17 winners having been clear or tied for the lead through 54 holes (not including Lawrie's 54 hole victory in 2012).
Since 1996, 143 players have led by two strokes with a round to go of a 72-hole event on the European Tour and 67 of them went on to win. Given Lawrie's record from the front, the record of third round leaders in this event and the fact that 47% of two-stroke third round leaders go on to win, I'm not going to talk anyone out of backing Lawire at around 4.57/2 and I was tempted to back him myself but a couple of things put me off...
Not only is Lawrie attempting to be the first to win this title three times, he's also attempting to win for the first time since 2012 and at 47-years of age, I can see the nerves kicking in tomorrow and if that happens, there are plenty of players ready to take up the running.
Defending champ, Branden Grace, has moved effortlessly into a tie for second and he's the man to beat according to the market. It's hard to imagine him failing to shoot four or five under par tomorrow but I've not been impressed with him in-contention lately and given he's attempting to break into the world's top-ten, as well as defend the title, I'm happy to leave him alone.
I'm already on board Thorbjorn Olesen and Tommy Fleetwood and of the two I very much prefer the former. He played some beautiful golf coming in the wind today - narrowly missing putts on the 14th, 15th, 16th, and 17th that would have seen him leading and he looks a fair price to me still. He knows how to get the job done and he appears to represent a bit of value at around 8.415/2.
The second round of the Farmers Insurance Open has started but I'm going to let that one roll for now. Despite backing two of the most fancied players - Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker - I could reach the halfway stage without a wager intact! Snedeker is over-par already at the easier North Course today and after a lacklustre effort on the North Course yesterday, Day is going to have to get a shift on today on the much harder South Course.
I'll take a look at that one tomorrow, after the Qatar Masters has finished.
17:15 - January 28, 2016
Having enjoyed a slight advantage with their early start on day one, today's afternoon starters got the worst of the weather at the Qatar Masters and although the rumoured sandstorms failed to materialise, the tricky winds were enough to see them average almost a stroke more than those that began their second rounds early.
It may have looked on TV as though they were significantly disadvantaged but over the two rounds, the difference between the two sides of the draw amounted to a mere 0.29 strokes. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 17:00.
Paul Lawrie -11 10.519/2
Nicolas Colsaerts -10 12.5
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -9 13.012/1
Gregory Bourdy -9 24.023/1
Andrew Johnston -9 40.039/1
Sergio Garcia -8 8.07/1
Thorbjorn Olesen -8 26.025/1
Tommy Fleetwood -8 27.026/1
Johan Carlsson -8 40.039/1
Pelle Edberg -8 85.084/1
Branden Grace -7 9.08/1
George Coetzee -7 28.027/1
Joost Luiten -7 29.028/1
-7 and 24.023/1 bar
Given he's now 47 and without a win in getting on for four years, I'm not entirely surprised to see the halfway leader, Paul Lawrie, somewhat dismissed by the market, but I'd be equally unsurprised if he were to contend all the way to the line.
As an experienced wind exponent and a course specialist with a fairly strong in-contention record, he's likely to hang around and highly likely to trade much lower than he is now and if I had to back one of those right at the front, I much prefer him to the constantly disappointing Nicolas Colsaerts in second or any of the three tied for third. This looks wide open though and having already wasted stakes on the extremely disappointing Louis Oosthuizen, who shot a one-over-par 73 today, I'm taking it easy.
We've seen winners come from some way off the pace before here and with more wind forecast over the next two days, another is a distinct possibility. Sky pundits, Tony Johnstone and Andrew Coltart, both won here from five back at halfway - as did Darren Fichardt in 2003. And Ernie Els, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia have all won having trailed by seven through 36 holes. That would suggest anyone within seven at this stage can't be ruled out so we've 45 players' chances to assess!
I'm happy to have Tommy Fleetwood on my side and I haven't given up on Louis, Brett Rumford, or even my each-way pick, Mikko Ilonen, yet and I've added three more.
Thorbjorn Olesen has shown he can play in very windy conditions and that he can take a chance when it presents itself. I thought he was fairly priced at 26.025/1 and I've added two big outsiders too.
Pelle Edberg is a player I often back at a huge price before the off but at odds in excess of 500.0499/1 this week, he slipped through the net. I'd be kicking myself hard if he eventually went and broke his European Tour duck and I wasn't on so I've had to have a very small bet on him and I also like Soren Kjeldsen at a triple-figure price.
Last year's Irish Open winner is unlikely to shoot the lights out over the last two rounds but I can see him grinding out a couple of three, four or even five under-par rounds out and he's just the type to climb the leaderboard as others topple back. I thought 90/1 was a very fair each-way price with four places still up for grabs and he's a nice price on the exchange too.
The Farmers Insurance Open has only just kicked off but there's some live coverage behind the red button on Sky shortly featuring pre-event favourite, Jason Day.
14:40 - January 27, 2016
The first round of the Qatar Masters has just drawn to a close and it looks as though the morning starters have had the best of it...so far.
When I first looked at the forecast over the weekend, the am-pm draw looked likely to be the favourable side to be on but by Monday night (after I'd published my preview) the forecast had changed significantly enough to look as though it had switched completely, so I'm a bit reluctant to give the present forecast too much credence.
If it's correct, the early starters tomorrow should just get the better of it but either way, it's a wide open event and one that I'm still cautious of.
As stated in the preview, I had an extensive list of players I liked this week but I decided to take it easy before the off, backing only Michael Hoey, my each-way pick, Mikko Ilonen, and Brett Rumford. The Aussie was on my list and when Paul Krishnamurty put him up in his Find Me a Winner Column, I felt compelled to follow him in.
I'm mildly frustrated with the current situation as a number of players I liked have started well and although I overlooked one of the co-leaders, Pablo Larrazabal, completely, he wasn't impossible to pick given he's a former runner-up at Gleneagles (see Angle-In section of the preview), that he's a great wind player, and that he was a huge price.
Soren Kjeldsen and Thomas Bjorn were both great wind and links exponents I considered carefully, and they sit tied for 37th and tied 24th after round one, and I also liked Paul's each-way fancy, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who's alongside Bjorn on -3 and four of the lead. And four of those on -5 and tied for sixth - George Coetzee, Tommy Fleetwood, Thorbjorn Olesen and Paul Lawrie - all came into the reckoning because of their links and Gleneagles form.
I really didn't want to start the event with eight or more picks before the off, especially given the confusing and conflicting weather forecasts, but I'm now wishing I had! I'm going to show restraint still, as it looks wide open but I have added two.
I couldn't leave out Fleetwood after his good start as he's the one I'm most irked about leaving out given I wrote this in last year's De-Brief: "As a fine links exponent and a Gleneagles winner, Tommy Fleetwood might be worth trying next year. He was disappointing on Friday, when he shot a two-over par 74, but he's finally shown signs that he's getting to grips with Doha and he will benefit from more usual windier conditions."
I've taken 46.045/1 but I should be on at 130.0129/1! And my only other pick so far is the man alongside Larrazabal at the head of affairs - Louis Oosthuizen.
I backed Louis in next week's event, the Dubai Desert Classic, last year; largely because he was attempting to win in his first start of the year for the fifth year running so I was well aware of his ability to play well after a break. And given he's an Open champ who's already finished runner-up here, he was most certainly one of those on my radar.
I was reasonably happy enough to let him go un-backed before the off at around the 24.023/1 mark but he's looked a great price all morning today and he's only just starting to shorten-up.
I nibbled away at him as the afternoon starters stuttered and I've got him on side now at an average of 7.613/2. Whether he's still in front by the time he tees off tomorrow is debatable, as is whether he's the right side of the draw, but at around 6/1, he represents the value at this stage.
The Farmers Insurance Open starts tomorrow (previewed here) but I'm already a little concerned about one of my two picks. Jason Day sat out the pro-am with flu-like symptoms yesterday and he's by no means a certainty to even start so I'm a little surprised to see he's still so steady in the market. I've toyed with laying my bet back but the old 'beware the injured golfer' adage would bite me on the backside if I did so I'm leaving it alone.
Qatar Masters Pre-Event Selection:
Mikko Ilonen @ 70.069/1
Brett Rumford @ 180.0179/1
Michael Hoey @ 250.0249/1
Qatar Masters In-Play Bets:
Louis Oosthuizen @ 7.613/2
Tommy Fleetwood @ 46.045/1
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 26.025/1
Pelle Edberg @ 100.099/1
Soren Kjeldsen @ 110.0109/1
Farmers Insurance Open Pre-Event Selections:
Jason Day @ 8.615/2
Brandt Snedeker @ 20.019/1
Ben Crane @ 95.094/1
KJ Choi @ 9.28/1
John Huh @ 26.025/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter