The Punter's In-Play Blog: Colsaerts has to be opposed

Golfer Nicolas Colsaerts
Nicolas Colsaerts - three clear in Paris

There's just a round to go at the CJ Cup and the Open de France so read Steve's final in-running thoughts for the week here...

“With a three-stroke lead, Colsaerts is clearly the man to beat now. Since 1996, 119 men have led a European Tour event by three strokes and 83 of them (70%) have gone on to win, suggesting the Belgian is a great price at around even money but there are other factors to consider here…”

18:40 - October 19, 2019

Over at the CJ Cup, a three-shot swing at the final hole in round three has seen Danny Lee draw alongside my sole selection, Justin Thomas. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 18:25.

Justin Thomas -15 1.758/11
Danny Lee -15 4.94/1
Cameron Smith -12 11.521/2
Jordan Spieth -11 18.5
Wyndham Clark -11 50.049/1
Byeong Hun An -10 50.049/1
-9 and 90.089/1 bar

Thomas has already been matched at a low of 1.341/3 but given he led by three strokes with just one hole to play in round three, that's perhaps not surprising. Playing together in the final three-ball, Danny Lee eagled the 18th and Thomas, for the second time this week, bogeyed it.

It's always hard to back up a low round so after his 63 on Friday, I was a little concerned that Thomas might have a pedestrian third round. I didn't think he was a great price at odds-on yesterday but I like his chances now and anything around 1.84/5 looks decent. I expect him to kick on and put the event to bed now. Thomas has led or co-led after three rounds 11 times previously and he's successfully converted on eight occasions.

In contrast, Lee has led or co-led three times previously and he's yet to convert. The dangers to Thomas, if there are any, could well come from further back and anyone looking for an alternative may want to chance their arm with Cameron Smith. The Australian has an excellent temperament and if Thomas is to falter, he could well be the man to capitalize. I've had a very small bet at 11.521/2.

With very little wind and no rain, scoring was better than expected at the Open de France today. There were three 65s, registered by players in the pack, Mike Norman's each-way pick, Jamie Donaldson recorded one of two 66s and Nicolas Colsaerts has shot three clear after a four-under-par 67. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 18:30

Nicolas Colsaerts -13 2.01/1
George Coetzee -10 6.611/2
Kurt Kitayama -9 10.09/1
Jamie Donaldson -9 15.5
Richie Ramsay -8 24.023/1
JB Hansen -8 25.024/1
Gavin Moynihan -8 55.054/1
Martin Kaymer -7 50.049/1
Benjamin Hebert -7 50.049/1
Brandon Stone -7 65.064/1
-6 and 70.069/1 bar

With a three-stroke lead, Colsaerts is clearly the man to beat now. Since 1996, 119 men have led a European Tour event by three strokes and 83 of them (70%) have gone on to win, suggesting the Belgian is a great price at around even money but there are other factors to consider here...

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, eight of the last ten 54-hole leaders have been beaten here and Colsaerts' record when leading or co-leading through 54 holes isn't great either. He's held at least a share of the lead through three rounds seven times but he's converted only twice. Add in the weather forecast, suggesting a stiff, ever-present breeze, together with intermittent rain, and I'm more than happy to swerve him.

Since 1996, we've never seen anyone win from any further back than tied eighth after 54 holes so passing lots of traffic is tough but making up strokes isn't. Alex Noren trailed by seven before going on to win last year and Graeme McDowell was eight back before he defended the title in 2014. We've also seen winners come from one, two, three, four and five back in the last 12 years so nobody in the top-12, or even further back, can be discounted.

Kurt Kitayama endured a poor day on the greens today but a birdie at the last has kept him on the premises and Jamie Donaldson is alongside the American in a tie for third so I've got two pre-event picks with live chances and I've also added two more that might just put in a charge tomorrow - Martin Kaymer and Benjamin Hebert.

JB Hansen recovered brilliantly today, birdying four holes-in-a-row after making an horrific quintuple nine at the 13th hole and I was tempted to side with him but he's just a shade short at 25.024/1 so I'm going with just the two for now.

Kaymer has always played this course brilliantly but has lost all his confidence in-contention, so being off the pace may well help him tomorrow and nobody played better tee-to-green golf than Hebert today but he just couldn't make any putts. If they start dropping tomorrow, he could be the one.

10:25 - October 19, 2019

With the wind still blowing, it looked like my pre-event pick, Kurt Kitayama, might go into today's third round in front, following his hard-fought three-under-par 68 in the tricky morning conditions yesterday but the wind dropped considerably in the afternoon and both Nicolas Colsaerts and George Coetzee squeezed by the American. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:10.

George Coetzee -9 5.69/2
Nicolas Colsaerts -9 6.25/1
Kurt Kitayama -8 5.39/2
Richie Ramsay -7 10.09/1
JB Hansen -6 17.016/1
-5 and 15.014/1 bar

Although he's been caught and passed, Kitayama still heads the market. He's the only player in the top-five at halfway that was drawn PM-AM over the first two days and that's perhaps not surprising. Those drawn AM-PM enjoyed an advantage of an average of 1.49 strokes and it really was noticeable how much easier conditions were in the afternoon yesterday.

Both the two leaders have questionable in-contention records and the dangers to my man could well be behind him, rather than in front. Paul Krishnamurty's each-way selection, Richie Ramsay, is bang there in fourth and Mike's fancy, Jamie Donaldson is now tied for 11th after a strong finish yesterday. All five each-way picks have made it through to the weekend and looking at previous results, it might be daft to write any of them off, although Callum Shinkwin has plenty to do from 11 strokes back.

Last year's Open de France winner, Alex Noren, was trailing by nine at this stage and in the last nine years we've also seen two players win from eight back at halfway and one from seven adrift. There's a long way to go here and backing any of the leading bunch may not be wise.

There's definitely scope for playing a few outsiders from off the pace so I've added South Africa's Brandon Stone at 40.039/1 and America's Hudson Swafford at 110.0109/1 and I could have easily added a few more. Stone trails by four in tied sixth and Swafford is one of seven players tied for 13th, six shots off the lead.

10:55 - October 18, 2019

The second round of the Open de France is underway and it'll be live on Sky at 11:00. One of my pre-event picks, Kurt Kitayama is currently tied for the lead, having played 11 holes of his second round, and my each-way pick, Kalle Samooja is currently in the frame so it's been a decent start so far. I did add three more picks after the preview was published (detailed below) but none of them have performed especially well.

I'll be back tomorrow morning with a more comprehensive look at the halfway stage but I'd be inclined to side with anyone that gets in the house this morning with a decent score. The weather isn't as good as it was yesterday and being in the clubhouse is the place to be.

Over in Korea, this week's PGA Tour event, the CJ Cup, has already reached the halfway stage and my sole selection, Justin Thomas, is showing the way. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.

Justin Thomas -13 1.9520/21
Byeong Hun An -11 8.615/2
Danny Lee -11 16.5
Jordan Spieth -9 13.012/1
Emiliano Grillo -9 24.023/1
-8 and 27.026/1

Justin Thomas birdied his first four holes of his second round before adding another five for a bogey-free nine-under-par 63 and the pre-event favourite is now an odds-on chance.

Having backed him before the off at 9.08/1, I've now layed my stakes back and I was tempted to lay a bit more back. I haven't watched a single shot so far this week and I may not watch any of the action over the weekend so I'm not in any position to try and gauge how he, or anyone else, is playing, but I've asked myself whether I'd want to back him now at odds-on and the answer is an unequivocal no.

We've only got two renewals to look back on but both winners to date (Thomas in 2017 and Brooks Koepka last year) trailed at halfway and remembering the inaugural event is one of the reasons I've layed my stakes back...

Thomas opened up the tournament with a 63 to lead by three but he followed that up with a 74. In his defence, the weather was foul and he bounced back brilliantly to win in a playoff when running on fumes but there's been other instances like that with Thomas. He led the Genesis Open by four after a 64 in round three in February but shot 75 in the final round to lose by a stroke and when he won the CIMB Classic for a second time in 2016, he went from two clear at halfway to four back through three rounds before he bounced back to win by three. That's the only time Thomas has previously led by two strokes at halfway.

Maybe I'm being too negative but that's three occasions that he's let a lead go when failing to follow up a low round and there's still a long way to go here yet.

Gary Woodland won the US Open back in June, having led by two strokes through 36 holes, but the last six players to lead by a couple at halfway on the PGA Tour have all been beaten and the strike-rate for two stroke leaders at halfway on the PGA Tour since 1996 is only 31%.

Of course, not all two stroke leaders are even close to the calibre of Thomas but all things considered, I'm happy to take my stakes back and I wouldn't be in a rush to take odds-on.

Open de France Pre-Event Selections:
Kurt Kitayama @ 46.045/1
Stewart Cink @ 65.064/1 (added after preview published)
Jamie Donaldson @ 95.094/1 (added after preview published)
Tapio Pulkkanen @ 150.0149/1 (added after preview published)
Charlie Saxon @ 450.0449/1

In-Play Picks:
Brandon Stone @ 40.039/1
Hudson Swafford @ 110.0109/1
Martin Kaymer @ 55.054/1
Benjamin Hebert @ 55.054/1

CJ Cup Pre-Event Selection:
Justin Thomas @ 9.08/1

In-Play Trades
Justin Thomas layed @ 1.9720/21
Cameron Smith @ 11.521/2

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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