The Punter's In-Play Blog: Birdie - eagle finish puts DJ in command

Golfer Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson - five clear at the Northern Trust

There's just one round to go at the Northern Trust so read our man's final in-running thoughts on this week's PGA Tour action here...

“One of the reasons for taking on DJ in running was the poor record of frontrunners at TPC Boston. Halfway leaders have a dire record and only two of the last 22 to lead or co-lead after three rounds have gone on to win here but none of them have led by five.”

10:15 - August 23, 2020

As a layer of Dustin Johnson, it looked like I was at least in with a fighting chance as the third round of the Northern Trust drew to a close.

Harris English, who was matched at a low of 2.6413/8, drew alongside DJ after 15 holes but he dropped shots at 16 and 17 before failing to birdie the straightforward par five 18th, and DJ then finished with a flourish. He stuck the knife in with a birdie from 18 feet on 17 before giving it an almighty twist when rolling in a 40-footer for eagle at the last and it now looks like a done deal. Here's the leaderboard with prices to back at 10:10.

Dustin Johnson -22 1.232/9
Scottie Scheffler -17 14.013/1
Harris English -17 16.5
Louis Oosthuizen -15 50.049/1
Daniel Berger -14 55.054/1
Danny Lee -14 260.0259/1
Harry Higgs -14 310.0309/1
Bubba Watson -13 300.0299/1
-12 and 500.0499/1 bar

One of the reasons for taking on DJ in running was the poor record of frontrunners at TPC Boston. Halfway leaders have a dire record and only two of the last 22 to lead or co-lead after three rounds have gone on to win here but none of them have led by five.

Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen and Vijay Singh have all been beaten having led by three strokes so DJ's last two holes yesterday really were a hammer blow and it's very hard to envisage him losing from here - although he has lost an event from even further clear.

He was beaten at the 2017 WGC HSBC Champions having led by six with a round to go! He also finished tied for 28th at the RBC Heritage last year having led through 54 holes when he shot 77 on Sunday.

Johnson's a mercurial character so there's a chance he could flop from here but those two results in China and South Carolina give the layers more a glimmer of hope than a realistic expectation that he fails to get the job done now. He has a 50% strike rate when leading or co-leading but as Justin Ray highlights below, the odds are very much in his favour today.

It would take a brave punter to wade in on DJ at 1.222/9 and as a layer I haven't given up on getting a result just yet but I have resigned myself to an uncomfortable Sunday evening. I'll be back tomorrow with my De-brief.

19:05 - August 22, 2020

Despite the ever-present wind, with tees moved up and some very fair pin placements, the scoring was pretty good at the Wales Open today. My two in-play picks were hopeless but James Morrison shot a five-under-par 66 and as many as 22 players broke 70 but Connor Syme is still tied for the lead after a one-under-par 70. He's been joined at the top by Matt Cooper's 100/1 pick, Sebastian Soderberg. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 19:00.

Connor Syme -7 2.8615/8
Sebastian Soderberg -7 3.613/5
Sami Valimaki -4 11.521/2
Thomas Pieter -3 9.89/1
Edoardo Molinari -3 34.033/1
-2 and 50.049/1 bar

With a three-stroke gap to Sami Valimaki in third, Syme and Soderberg understandably dominate the market and I'm a little surprised to see Soderberg almost a point bigger than the Scotsman. Soderberg won last year's European Masters via a five-man playoff so he has the advantage of knowing what it feels like to win on the European Tour.

Both men were in-contention here last week and both failed to break par on Sunday. Syme fell from first to third and Soderberg from third to tenth. Both men shot 71 and if they repeat the feat tomorrow, they may just be vulnerable.

I should probably take the hint and leave the event alone but given I wanted to back Valimaki on Monday but missed the price, I've felt compelled to have a very small sanity saving wager on him at a generous enough looking 11.521/2. Valimaki was incredibly impressive when winning the Oman Open in March and if the front two mess around in front, he may well be the one to take advantage.

Of those a little further back, James Morrison and Marcel Siem look fairly big at 80.079/1 and 90.089/1 respectively. Both were on the radar given their records at Paris National - the course that far and away correlates best with this one. Morrison was seventh there in 2011, having led with a round to go, and he was also the runner-up there in 2015. I've had a tiny bet on him and Marcel Siem at 90.089/1. Siem won the Open de France in 2012.

10:05 - August 22, 2020

Having entered the fourth and final round of the Celtic Classic in front last week at Celtic Manor, before eventually finishing tied for third, Scotland's Connor Syme began this week's Wales Open tied for the lead after round one and he now sits two clear of the field at the halfway stage. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 9:50.

Connor Syme -6 4.67/2
Haotong Li -4 6.86/1
Jordan Smith -4 8.615/2
Sebastian Soderberg -4 15.5
Nacho Elvira -4 23.022/1
Sihwan Kim -4 29.028/1
Liam Johnston -4 50.049/1
Romain Langasque -3 24.023/1
-2 and [30.0 bar

As detailed in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, 36-hole leaders have a decent record in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor and Syme is likely to fare better this week after the experience gained last weekend.

The nerves were evident last Sunday and after a bogey-free third round, he dropped a shot at the opening hole but he still battled on quite well. With last week's involvement in the bank, Syme could well go on to win this time around and two strokes is a fair lead but others are preferred. He looks short enough at around 7/2 with a group of six tied for second.

The most obvious danger to the leader is China's Haotong Li, who's brought his Harding Park form back to the European Tour. Li led the US PGA Championship at halfway two weeks ago and he was still in front until he lost a ball up a tree off the tee on the back-nine. He lost his way after that unlucky break but he still signed off the week with a sub-70 round on Sunday and I was surprised and happy to be able to back him last night at 8.07/1.

I also thought Liam Johnston was over-priced at 50.049/1. He's a two-time winner on the Challenge Tour and he should be comfortable playing alongside Syme in the final three-ball today. They know each-other well and they won a silver medal playing together at the European Golf Team Championships.

There was plenty of drama at the Northern Trust yesterday where low scoring was the order of the day. First to go low was Scottie Scheffler, who shot the 12th sub-60 round in PGA Tour history when he rolled in a birdie at the 18th to record 59 and to hit the front, but it looked like that effort was going to be eclipsed very quickly when Dustin Johnson began his second round like a scalded cat.

DJ started the round birdie-eagle-birdie-eagle-birdie to play his first five holes in seven-under-par before picking up two more strokes at seven and eight. He shot 27 on the front nine and when he birdied 10 and 11 to get to 11-under-par through 11, Scheffler's 12-under-par 59 looked like it might be beaten but it wasn't to be.

With golf fans pawing through the record books to see how much damage DJ was about to inflict, Johnson's momentum was lost and he could only record pars at the last seven holes. That was still enough to see him take the lead though and here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:55.

Dustin Johnson -15 2.747/4
Scottie Scheffler -13 8.88/1
Cameron Davis -13 22.021/1
Harris English -12 13.012/1
Louis Oosthuizen -12 14.013/1
Danny Lee -12 38.037/1
Kevin Kisner -11 28.027/1
Russell Henley -11 34.033/1
Daniel Berger -10 18.5
Matthew Wolff -10 26.025/1
Si Woo Kim -10 42.041/1
-9 and 40.039/1 bar

DJ's round yesterday typified the man perfectly. DJ can switch between sublime brilliance and the mundane instantly. Not only do we not know which DJ we're going to get from one week to the next, we can't even gauge which one we'll witness from one hole to the next. He's a mercurial character and trying to work out how he'll fare over the weekend now is nigh on impossible.

As you can see with Justin's tweet below, his record when leading is strong (although one of those wins was over 54 holes) but we still can't accurately predict how he'll perform this weekend.

I layed Johnson last night at 2.245/4 and I'm more than happy to remain against him and not just because of his performance at Liberty National in this event last year.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, this is a hard place to lead and 36-hole leaders have an appalling record at the course. Since halfway leader, Olin Browne, won at TPC Boston back in 2005, as many as 21 players have led or co-led and only one, Rory McIlroy in 2012, has gone on to win. And he came from three behind on day four after a poor third round.

In the last four editions of the Dell Technologies at TPC Boston, someone has held a clear advantage at halfway but they've gone on to finish third (Charley Hoffman), eighth (Kevin Chappell), fourth (Jon Rahm) and 49th (Webb Simpson).

From five back, Si Woo Kim looks an interesting runner at 42.041/1 and I've had a tiny play on him but my focus now will be on DJ and whether I continue to take him on as round three progresses.

I'll be back tomorrow with another look after the third rounds.

13:10 - August 21, 2020

The second round of the Wales Open is well underway and I'm more than happy to let play continue without any in-running involvement just yet. The wind is buffeting the entire UK and scoring is extremely erratic. We've already seen rounds in the high 70s recorded and it's only a matter of time before we get a few 80 plus scores but there's always one or two that somehow manage to post a score whatever the conditions throw at them.

Romain Langasque and Liam Johnston have both posted under-par scores this morning and the forecast suggests a gradual easing of the conditions this afternoon so we'll probably see a few more make big strides up the leaderboard later on. All things considered, I'm happy to sit and wait for now and take a good look at halfway. And the same goes for the Northern Trust on the PGA Tour where four men were tied for the lead after round one.

With four tied at the top and as many as 19 players within two of the lead, the Northern Trust looks even tougher to sort out now than it did before the off! Pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau, trails by seven having shot a lacklustre level par and Justin Thomas, who trails by four, has fared the best of the pre-tournament market leaders.

Matthew Wolff, who was one of seven players to sit tied for fifth and one of the lead after the opening day was the 14.5 favourite as play began today so there are plenty of juicy prices about but waiting and seeing what today brings, or backing a few in-running during round two, looks the way to go. Especially when we consider the in-running stats at previous tournaments at TPC Boston...

When Rickie Fowler won the now defunct Dell Technologies (formerly the Deutsche Bank) here back in 2015, he sat second after round one and he was never outside the front three places and Rory McIlroy was only sixth and three back after the opening round when he won here for the first time in 2012. They're the exception rather than the rule though and a slow start has been turned around on numerous occasions.

Incredibly, Chris Kirk won here after an opening 73 saw him trailing by ten in a tie for 65th in 2014. Henrik Stenson, in 2013, and Webb Simpson, a year earlier, had both sat outside the top-20 having trailed by four strokes after day one and the last three course winners, DeChambeau, Thomas and McIlroy, sat 33rd, 30th and 67th, trailing by five, five and six strokes. If your pick or picks have started slowly, there's no need to panic.

The one I'm going to have my eye on is Xander Schauffele, who I very nearly backed before the off. He trails by four after round one so he has work to do and he didn't putt brilliantly yesterday but the rest of his game looks in great order still. I'm not backing him now because he's starting on the back nine and as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, the back-nine is the harder nine. I'm going to watch him closely and see if I can get on in-running.

Wales Open Pre-Event Selections:
Sam Horsfield @ 16.015/1
Alexander Bjork @ 48.047/1

In-Play Picks:
Haotong Li @ 8.07/1
Liam Johnston @ 50.049/1
Sami Valimaki @ 11.521/2
James Morrison @ 80.079/1
Marcel Siem @ 90.089/1

Northern Trust Pre-Event Selections:
Collin Morikawa @ 27.026/1
Patrick Reed @ 34.033/1
Kevin Na @ 300.0299/1
Richy Werenski @ 650.0649/1

In-Play Trades:
Dustin Johnson layed @ 2.245/4
Si Woo Kim backed @ 42.041/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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