The Punter's In-Play Blog: Will Sharma get shaky?

James Morrison – tied for second in the Joburg Open
James Morrison – tied for second in the Joburg Open

India's Shubhankar Sharma has gone five clear at the top at the Joburg Open but is he a good thing at long odds-on? Read what our man thinks ahead of tomorrow's final round here...

“Shubhankar Sharma’s inexperience is the only negative. In the last 20 years, 80% of five stroke 54 hole leaders on the European Tour have successively converted their leads and he isn’t too short at 2/5.”

16:05 - December 09, 2017

A superb bogey-free, seven-under-par 65 has seen 21-year-old Indian, Shubhankar Sharma, move five clear at the top of the Joburg Open leaderboard. Here are the latest standings with Sportsbook prices at 16:00.

Shubhankar Sharma -20 2/5
Christofer Blomstrand -15 10/1
James Morrison -14 10/1
Erik Van Rooyen -14 10/1
Tapio Pulkkanen -13 28/1
Marcus Armitage -13 33/1
-11 and 66/1 bar

For the third week in-a-row an Indian goes into the final round of a European Tour event in front. SSP Chawrasia flopped in Hong Kong a fortnight ago and Arjun Atwal lost a playoff in Mauritius last week but Shubhankar Sharma looks set to make it third time lucky.

The 21-year-old was calmness personified all day today and just when it looked like he may finally make a mistake he produced this brilliance at the 18th hole.

Sharma looks and sounds confident. This is what he had to say after the third round.

"I want to stay within myself. I have a lead but people can still go low tomorrow. I'm going to be aggressive like I have been."

That's all well and good and there's nothing in his attitude or body language to suggest he can't convert what is a golden opportunity but tomorrow is a different day and he's never slept on a lead before at any level on any Tour.

His inexperience is the only negative. In the last 20 years, 80% of five stroke 54 hole leaders on the European Tour have successively converted their leads and he isn't too short at 2/5.

I've had a really disappointing day with my Finnish pair both shooting over-par rounds and I should probably just give it up as a bad job but I was happy to top-up on Tapio Pulkkanen at 50.049/1 on the exchange. He's gone low once already this week and I suspect he'll bounce back tomorrow. As a small word of warning to Sharma backers, Pulkkanen showed today how differently you can play with the lead and he wouldn't be the first halfway leader to bounce back to win after a poor third round.

Over at the QBE Shootout my pair, Steve Stricker and Sean O'Hair, lead after the first round but it's the Steele/Bradley pairing that now head the market. They trail my two by a stroke.

16:50 - December 08, 2017

We've reached the halfway stage of the Joburg Open and we're faced with an intriguing and puzzling picture to ponder. Here are the latest standings with Sportsbook prices to at 16:40.

Tapio Pulkkanen -14 9/2
Shubhankar Sharma -13 13/2
Erik Van Rooyen -12 11/2
Mikko Korhonen -12 6/1
JB Hansen -10 25/1
Daniel Brooks -10 25/1
Steven Brown -10 28/1
James Morrison -9 22/1
Adrien Saddier -9 33/1
Charlie Ford -9 60/1
-8 and 10/1 bar

It's a notable leaderboard for a number of reasons. Firstly, it contains no pre-tournament strong fancies. Louis Oosthuizen, who was a warm favourite on Monday, had to withdraw because of a freak injury to his fingers picked up via an airport trolley and last week's winner, Dylan Frittelli, who replaced him at the head of the market, finished poorly today to drop ten strokes off the lead. The South African was still very much in the hunt this morning and he was matched at just 10.09/1 at one point but tiredness may well have been a factor as he bogeyed three of his last five holes.

The defending champ, Darren Fichardt, hasn't made the cut and my other pick, Dean Burmester, despite the fact that he was the favourite to win after round one, has only just made it! After a six-under-par start on Thursday, around £10k was matched on Burmester at 7.26/1 and below before he started his second round today we three bogeys in his first five holes! He rallied on the back-nine to scrape in but just like Frittelli, he has too much to do now.

The only pre-event market leader in the reckoning is George Coetzee but he managed to hinder himself today too. Having got to within five of the lead with two holes to play, Coetzee made a complete mess of the par five 17th at the Bushwillow Course and he needed a monstrously long birdie putt at the 18th to get back to within six but he's still outside the top -ten listed above and so are many other South Africans...

Eight of the 11 Joburg Open winners to date (and seven of the last eight) have been South Africans so it's somewhat surprising to see just one, Erik Van Rooyen, in the top-ten at halfway. Van Rooyen may be the only South African in the top-ten but he's one of four that graduated to the European Tour courtesy of finishing inside the top-15 on the Challenge Tour money list last season. The other three are the leader, Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen, Englishman, Steve Brown, and Frenchman, Adrien Saddier.

It's a long time since I ran the rule over such a tricky looking leaderboard and if we're to follow the fine record of South Africans then Van Rooyen should perhaps be the play but I'm going to shout on the two Finns - Pulkkanen and Mikko Korhonen.

I backed the former, who finished the Challenge Tour season as the number one ranked player last season, early this morning in-running (when I also threw away a few pounds backing Frittelli!) and I followed in Joe Dyer and Paul Krishnamurty with Korhonen yesterday. He impressed me in-contention at the Portugal Masters last year and he's been a player I've been keeping an eye on ever since. He's definitely up to breaking his duck in a tournament like this and I was pleased to see Joe put him up in the each-way column and Paul in his Find Me a 100 Winner piece.

The QBE Shootout on the PGA Tour, which I've previewed here, has only just started and it's live on Sky 18:30.

Joburg Open Pre-Event Selections:
Dean Burmester @ 28.027/1
Darren Fichardt @ 28.027/1

Joburg Open In-Play Picks
Tapio Pulkkanen @ 14.013/1
Dylan Frittelli @ 16.015/1
Mikko Korhonen @ 26.025/1

QBE Shootout Pre-Event Selections:
Steve Stricker and Sean O'Hair @ 24.023/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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