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The Punter's In-Play Blog: Koepka poised to win again

Golfer Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka - The Punter's fancy with a round to go at the Honda

There's one round to go in Florida and our man thinks the leaders look vulnerable. Read Steve's final in-play thoughts for the week here...

“The leaders do look vulnerable and the three-time major winner, Koepka, has developed in to a bit of a machine in-contention. He started yesterday’s third round poorly, double-bogeying the second, but if he gets off to a better start today, he’ll get everyone’s attention and I thought the [8.4] available this morning was more than fair.”

12:10 - March 03, 2019

I went to bed with two picks, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Brandon Stone, bang in-contention at the Oman Open but woke up this morning with both completely out of it. The tournament's live on Sky now and it's a typical low-profile European Tour event with the lead changing hands repeatedly as nerves play a huge part. There are three tied for the lead deep in to the back-nine and I'm continuing to be cautious but I may back the first in the clubhouse.

Over on the PGA Tour, after three rounds, the Honda Classic is set up brilliantly, with the leaderboard containing a pleasing mix of rookies, veterans and top-class players. Here's the current standings with prices top back at 12:00.

Wyndham Clark -7 [7.4]
Keith Mitchel -6 [9.8]
Kyoung-Hoon Lee -6 [13.5]
Vijay Singh -6 [17.0]
Rickie Fowler -5 [4.8]
Brooks Koepka -4 [8.0]
Michael Thompson -4 [22.0]
-4 and [26.0] bar


First and second round leaders don't have a terrific record at PGA National but a third round leader or co-leader has gone on to win eight of the 12 Honda Classics held at PGA National so far. Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els both won from three strokes adrift but that's as far off the lead any winner's been so we probably shouldn't scan too far down the leaderboard.

However, we may not have witnessed it yet but it's certainly not impossible for someone to win from off the pace given three men have been beaten in-playoffs, having trailed by five, and Daniel Berger lost out to Harrington in extra time four years ago, having began round three nine strokes adrift!

Those stats are big plus for the leader, PGA Tour rookie, Wyndham Clark, but he's not for me. He's putted superbly so far but will that continue when the heat's turned up today? He's yet to win and he's yet to produce the goods in-contention. Only last week he sat fourth and three off the lead with a round to go at the Puerto Rico Open but he shot 72 to tumble to 10th and he was beaten by six. That was a far less prestigious event than this and he looks vulnerable.

Keith Mitchel is also yet to win anywhere and he too has been disappointing in-contention. He's was tied for the lead with a round to go on the Latinoamérica Tour back in 2015 before losing a playoff and his three subsequent efforts have been particularly poor. He was also tied for the lead on the Web.com Tour through 54 holes in 2017 and he's also sat just one off the lead and three back on that Tour but on all three occasions he finished sixth, beaten by five strokes. He's not for me either.

Kyeong-Hoon Lee has won four times in total - twice on the Japan Tour and twice in his homeland. He won the 2015 edition of the Korea Open from the front and then repeated the feat 12 months later to make a successful defence but on the last three occasions he's led or been tied for the lead on the Web.com Tour he's been beaten. He's more experienced than the Clark or Mitchel but it's a big ask for the pre-event [1000.0] shot.

There's absolutely no doubt about the big story of the week so far and if Vijay Singh should go on to win today he'd smash the record for the oldest player to win on the PGA Tour. Sam Snead currently holds the record for the oldest winner, at 52 years, ten months and eight days. Singh turned 56 last week!

The veteran Fijian won his first PGA Tour title back in 1993, before today's final pairing partner, Clark, was even born and it's 11 years since he won the last of his 34 PGA Tour titles. It would be an utterly astonishing story should he go on to win but I'm not convinced I believe in fairy-tales.

The 2017 winner, Rickie Fowler, heads the market and I can see why. He's not great in front and he's nicely placed just tucked in behind the leaders. He clearly loves the venue and he's definitely the one to beat but I fancy Brooks Koepka, just a stroke further back, represents better value and having pondered backing him yesterday, I've done so today.


The leaders do look vulnerable and the three-time major winner, Koepka, has developed in to a bit of a machine in-contention. He started yesterday's third round poorly, double-bogeying the second, but if he gets off to a better start today, he'll get everyone's attention and I thought the [8.4] available this morning was more than fair.


11:50 - March 02, 2019

Play was suspended for the day at the Oman Open yesterday when the wind refused to drop and having finished the second round in really challenging conditions this morning, round three is yet to start. The leaders go out at 17:10 local time (13:10 UK time) and there'll be plenty of golf played tomorrow.

It's probably not surprising to see that the two leaders, Max Kieffer and J.B Hansen, had early tee-times yesterday so they didn't have much golf to play this morning and I'm very happy to have two picks, Gaganjeet Bhullar and Brandon Stone, tied for third and just one off the lead.

Chris Paisley's tweet below sums up how tough it was out there this morning so my pair have performed heroically given they've played their entire second rounds this morning.


Both Bhullar and Stone hit the front during their second rounds but both played their last six holes in two-over-par. I didn't get to see any of Bhullar's play but Stone was mightily impressive and I'm hoping for more wind tomorrow - although it isn't forecasted to blow too hard. He relished the test today and he's one to have on your side whenever the wind blows on today's evidence.


Given the bulk of the event is going to played out while I'm asleep now, I'm just going to leave it alone and see what I wake up to. Hopefully it's good news.

We've reached the halfway stage of the Honda Classic in a timely manner but it's no easier to work out than the Oman Open. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:40.

Sungjae Im -6 [9.6]
Keith Mitchel -6 [14.5]
Lucas Glover -5 [13.5]
Brooks Koepka -4 [5.2]
Sung Kang -4 [36.0]
Danny Lee -4 [36.0]
Adam Schenk -4 [44.0]
Ryan Armour -4 [48.0]
Wyndham Clark -4 [55.0]
Adam Svensson -4 [60.0]
Kyoung-Hoon Lee -4 [70.0]
Freddie Jacobson -4 [95.0]
Sergio Garcia -3 [23.0]
-3 and [23.0] bar

There are 12 players within two of the lead at halfway and ten of them were trading at [130.0] or bigger before the off. The world number four, Brooks Koepka, was a [16.0] shot, Lucas Glover was trading at [80.0] and joint-leader, Sungjae Im, was a [130.0] chance. The other nine were priced up at [300.0] plus! Working out where we go from here isn't easy.

Sungjae Im doesn't turn 21 until the end of the month but the number one ranked player on the Web.com Tour last season has already won twice and his future is clearly very bright. He's been tied for the lead three times previously without converting and both his Web.com Tour wins came from just off the pace and that's where most of the winners here have come from...

In 12 previous editions of the Honda Classic at PGA National we've seen 17 players lead or be tied for the lead at this stage but only three of them went on to win - Y.E Yang (2009), Camilo Villegas (2010) and Padraig Harrington (2015). That suggests leading isn't a big plus but that doesn't mean we can go scanning too far down the leaderboard. Ernie Els trailed by five strokes in 2008 but he was still inside the top-six places and no other winner has been any further than three back at this stage.

Those stats narrow the field down somewhat but I'm not convinced that makes the task of picking the winner much easier. There are nine players tied for 13th so with 21 players within three of the lead, we're up against it and I'm going to sit on my hands.

With so many outsiders in-contention, I was quite tempted to play Koepka at in excess of 4/1 but I've decided to leave it alone for now and see where we are tomorrow. He's found water a couple of times already this week but he sounds confident enough.

"I love when it plays tough. I love when the wind is up. I love the firm greens and the Bermuda. I'm excited to be back on some Bermuda. It's a good spot for me, just need to clean a few things up this weekend and not hit any more balls in the water on the par threes."

11:00 - March 01, 2019

Play has been suspended at the Oman Open due to sandstorms, with much of the second round still to play, and I'm leaving the event alone for now. The forecast doesn't look brilliant for tomorrow morning either so it looks like we're heading for a messy weekend.

A few of my picks have started okay so I'm just going to see how it pans out. According to the Tournament Director, Miguel Vidaor, we might get some play later today and if that's the case, anyone that gets in the house with a decent score might be worth siding with. Those yet to start round two will end up playing a lot of golf in tricky conditions tomorrow (provided they can play) and having successfully completed the second round will be a big plus.


Over on the PGA Tour, Jhonattan Vegas has opened-up the Honda Classic with a six-under-par 64 to lead by two but the same three that headed the market before the off, dominate it after round one.

Justin Thomas, who sits tied for 20th and four off the lead on -2, and Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, who both shot -3 to sit tied sixth, are all trading at single-figure prices in the same order at the head of the market as they were before the off, with Sergio Garcia, on -3, trading as fourth favourite at [11.5]. Vegas is available to back at [18.5] but no first-round leader has ever gone on to win at PGA National in the 12 years the Honda Classic has been staged here.

Although first round leaders have a bad record, the majority of winners haven't been too far back after day one. The first Honda Classic winner here, Mark Wilson, sat seven off the lead and tied for 53rd in 2007, Adam Scott, the victor in 2016, trailed by five in a tie for 23rd, and Rory Sabbatini was 20th and four adrift before he won in 2011 but the other nine winners were all within three of the lead after the opening round.

As highlighted in the preview, Open Champions have a fair record at this venue so I've thrown a few pounds at a couple of veterans that might just keep grinding - Zach Johnson and Ernie Els - who both shot four-under-par 66s yesterday to sit tied for second alongside Ben Silverman and Lucas Glover.

Johnson and Els don't play until the afternoon today but we look set for another benign day and the scoring differential between the Am and PM starters yesterday was just 0.14 of a stroke so unusually for Florida, the draw doesn't look like it will make any difference to the scoring.

Oman Open Pre-Event Selections:
Alex Levy @ [25.0]
Ross Fisher @ [30.0]
Brandon Stone @ [120.0]
Gaganjeet Bhullar @ [140.0]
Alvaro Quiros @ [250.0]

Honda Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Russell Knox @ [85.0]
Patton Kizzire @ [230.0]
Martin Kaymer @ [270.0]
Martin Trainer @ [400.0]
Johnson Wagner @ [440.0]
Shawn Stefani @ [600.0]
Ben Crane @ [750.0]

In-Play Picks:
Zach Johnson @ [24.0]
Ernie Els @ [100.0]
Brooks Koepka @ [8.4]

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Steven Rawlings,

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