Halfway leader, Sam Burns, still shows the way in Texas but can he hang on to win the Houston Open and his first PGA Tour title? Read Steve's final in-play thoughts for the week here...
“The world number one looks perfectly primed ahead of the US Masters next week and he could easily pick this title up before he moves on to Augusta. Odds of 6.05/1 are more than fair."
10:30 - November 8, 2020
In search of his first win in more than two and half years, Jason Day was matched at a low of 2.6213/8 when he hit the front at the Houston Open yesterday but a scruffy three-foot bogey at his final hole in round three sees him go into today's fourth and final round trailing the halfway leader, Sam Burns, by a stroke. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:20.
Having ended the second round with a two-stroke lead, Sam Burns bogeyed two of his first three holes in round three but he battled back nicely after that. As highlighted in yesterday's post, he lost a two-stroke lead at the Safeway Open recently and I'm far from convinced it will be plain sailing for the 24-year-old today.
He's an immense talent and he's already won on the Korn Ferry Tour so it's probably only a matter of time before he gets across the line but on a tricky track like this, I'm happy to swerve him today.
Trailing by just a stroke, Jason Day is Burns' clear and present danger but he might not find the heat of Sunday easy to cope with either. It's been a long time between drinks for the former world number one and he won seven of his 12 PGA Tour titles in the space of a year. There were three wins prior to July 2015 and there have been just two since May 2016. He won the Farmers Insurance Open for a second time in January '16 and the Wells Fargo in May.
Having watched Dustin Johnson yesterday, he looks very fairly priced at 5/1. Day by day he's improved form tee-to-green and if he'd had a little bit more luck on the greens yesterday, he'd already be up alongside Burns or maybe even in front.
Having had an enforced break due to a positive COVID test, the world number one looks perfectly primed ahead of the US Masters next week and he could easily pick this title up before he moves on to Augusta. Odds of 6.05/1 are more than fair.
18:15 - November 7, 2020
Oman Open winner, Sami Valimaki, who traded at odds-on during the final round of last week's Cyprus Open, before eventually finishing sixth at the same venue, is vying for favouritism with Thomas Detry and Robert McIntyre on the eve of the final round of the Cyprus Showdown. Detry and McIntyre are looking for their first European Tour titles.
As many as 19 players have made the final round (top-16 and ties qualified) and the scores have been reset. The first three-ball tees off at 7:50 UK Time and the live coverage on Sky begins at 10.00.
I'm looking forward to watching this in the morning, although it's obviously a wide-open affair. The three market leaders are all trading at 11.5 but I'm going to ignore the trio and scan further down the list for a couple of tentative picks.
James Morrison was on my radar before the off and I backed Steven Brown at a huge price here last week before he missed the cut. He was my Find Me a 100 Winner pick so I'd be kicking myself if I didn't have a few pounds on if he goes on to win tomorrow.
It really is a lottery though, with all 19 starting on level par, and it's not an event to get stuck in to but it looks like being a great Sunday morning watch.
I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the Houston Open which is now live on Sky Sports.
09:20 - November 7, 2020
The Cyprus Showdown has been a bit of a frustrating event to follow so far. As highlighted in the preview, it has a brand-new format with the top-32 and ties (although there were no ties) progressing to today's third round. After today's round, the top-16 and ties will contest tomorrow's final and decisive round with the scores again being reset beforehand.
It was frustrating on two counts. The second round didn't finish yesterday after a weather break and so there's been no chance to ponder the last 32 and my sole pre-event pick, Mikko Korhonen, has been knocked out after he came back this morning to finish off his second round to double-bogey the last when a birdie four would have seen him progress.
It's interesting to see that those that shot the best 36 hole totals have gone out early this morning and I think that's right. I wrote in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview that I felt an early start would be beneficial over the weekend but we'll just have to wait and see. I'll take a good look at the tournament before tomorrow's shootout and if I have any involvement, I'll update again but for now I'm concentrating on the Houston Open which itself has been frustrating enough.
It's never easy to work out what sort of test the players will be met with when we go to a new venue and a late change to the layout, less than 24 hours before kick-off, certainly didn't help any. With only three par fives instead of five, the dynamics of the tournament have changed completely.
To add to the confusion, the last few groups have yet to finish their second rounds so although the leaderboard is unaffected, with none of those yet to finish round two in-contention, no in-running stats have been produced.
Anyway, here's the current state of play with prices to back at 09:10.
Sam Burns -7 6.25/1
Jason Day -5 7.613/2
Carlos Ortiz -5 18.017/1
Corey Conners -4 17.5
Aaron Wise -4 22.021/1
Brandt Snedeker -4 27.026/1
Patton Kizzire -4 55.054/1
Dawie van der Walt -4 85.084/1
Adam Scott -3 17.5
Talor Gooch -3 32.031/1
JT Poston -3 36.035/1
Sepp Straka -3 44.043/1
Scott Brown -3 110.0109/1
Dustin Johnson -2 10.5
Tony Finau -2 18.5
-2 and 40.039/1 bar
For the second time in five starts, 24-year-old Sam Burns, who lives in Texas, leads a PGA Tour event by two strokes at the halfway stage. He led the Safeway Open by a couple back in September but rounds of 72 and 70 saw him slip back to seventh. He's yet to win on the PGA Tour but the experience at the Safeway should count for something and I expect him to cope better this time around.
Jason Day looks generously priced at first glance but he withdrew from the CJ Cup two starts ago with a bad neck when bang-in-contention after three rounds so he's not even guaranteed to finish the event. He's also in search of his first win in more than two and half years.
Following a couple of weeks off following a positive COVID test, Dustin Johnson improved on his opening round yesterday and he sounded fairly confident after yesterday's knock.
"It was very solid today. I felt like I played pretty well yesterday, just a little rusty. ... I swung it pretty well, just hit a couple bad iron shots. But I think that was more just from not trusting what I was doing, just from not being out there. But today did a lot better, hit a lot of really nice iron shots and felt like I managed my game very well, drove it well, hit a lot of quality shots."
With the US Masters now less than a week away, DJ will be keen to see the progression continue and I see no reason why it won't but the one I like this morning is Dave Tindall's pre-event pick, Corey Conners.
Memorial Park is proving to be a tougher test than I thought it would be and a strong tee-to-green game is crucial. Finding fairways is far more important than bombing it miles and that suits Conners perfectly. He's far from the greatest putter on the PGA Tour but he's having a decent week on the greens so far and if that continues a second PGA Tour title in Texas could be incoming on Sunday. Conners won last year's Texas Open by two strokes.
Cyprus Showdown Pre-Event Selection:
Mikko Korhonen @ 50/1 (Sportsbook)
Steven Brown @ 26.025/1
James Morrison @ 28.027/1
Houston Open Pre-Event Selections:
Denny McCarthy @ 80.079/1
Stewart Cink @ 85.084/1
James Hahn @ 90.089/1
Corey Conners @ 18.017/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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