The Punter's In-Play Blog: Dunne and Dufner lead the way

Jason Dufner – the leader at the RBC Heritage
Jason Dufner – the leader at the RBC Heritage

The first three rounds have been completed at both the Trophée Hassan II and the RBC Heritage so our man assess the situation at both this week's events ahead of today's final rounds here...

“Last year’s winner, Branden Grace, trailed by three with a round to go and the three winners before him were all four adrift through 54 holes. Brandt Snedeker won from six adrift in 2011 and back in 2004, Stewart Cink took the title having trailed by nine with a round to go!”

08:25- April 16, 2017

Ireland's Paul Dunne leads the Trophée Hassan II by a couple of strokes over Italy's Renato Paratore with Lasse Jenson, Paul Waring and my pre-event pick, Pablo Larrazabal tied for third and three off the lead.

This is the first time Dunne has led through 54 holes since he sat tied at the top after three rounds of the Open Championship in 2015 when still an amateur and he's almost certain to fare better here than he did then. On that occasion, an understandably nervous Dunne bogeyed the opening two holes before going on to shoot 78 around St Andrews to finish tied for 30th.

It took him a while to get over that disastrous finish and he's never actually been placed on the European Tour before so I'm not convinced he's a great price to convert today at less than 2/1.

My three in-play picks were a big disappointment. Gregory Havret never really got going but Trevor Fisher Jnr birdied the first three holes in round three and Lucas Bjerregaard did OK after a poor start but all three finished round three horribly. Havret played the last eight holes in three-over-par, Fisher Jnr played them in four-over and Bjerregaard bogeyed the final three holes! The terrible trio now trail Dunne by four strokes so they'll need a big bounce back today if they're going to trouble the judge.

This event still looks very difficult to call and I'm going to leave it alone now. If Dunne kicks on and gets the job done so be it but in Larrazabal I've got a chance of profit and I haven't given up on the other three yet either.

Many a winner recovers in round four after a disappointing third round, once the pressure is off, and that's exactly what happened here last year. Jeunghun Wang sat second at halfway but slipped to fifth after a 74 in round three before a final round 70 in tricky conditions saw him get into the playoff. Maybe one of Havret, Fisher Jnr or Bjerregaard can match his exploits this time around? I won't hold my breath.

Over at the RBC Heritage, my pre-event picks have been poor and my in-play betting has been equally unsuccessful. I backed Russel Henley after round one, only to see him drop away after a bright start to round two and my halfway pick, Adam Hadwin, almost mirrored Henley. The Valspar winner birdied three of his first five holes to be matched at a single-figure price but he failed to pick up another stroke and gave those gained back at the 11th, 13th and 18th holes. His level par 71 sees him trail third round leader, Jason Dufner, by eight strokes.

I get the impression that Dufner's a bit erratic at times. He often starts brightly and fades but it's impossible to crab his in-contention record at the business end of tournaments. This will be the eighth time he's led with a round to go and he's always previously finished inside the first three places - winning four times.

He's going to need all his in-contention nous today though as this has not been a great place to lead lately. Last year's winner, Branden Grace, trailed by three with a round to go and the three winners before him were all four adrift through 54 holes. Brandt Snedeker won from six adrift in 2011 and back in 2004, Stewart Cink took the title having trailed by nine with a round to go!

Given the number of off-the-pace winners of late, I've thrown a few more darts this morning and I've backed Ian Poulter, who trails by three, as well as Luke Donald, William McGirt and Wesley Bryan, who all trail by four.

09:35- April 15, 2017

Gregory Havret threatened to run away with the Trophée Hassan II yesterday morning and he was matched at a low of 4.3100/30 as he raced four clear of the field but bogeys at 17 and 18 saw him slip back and Lucas Bjerregaard and Trevor Fisher Jnr are now within a stroke of the 40-year-old Frenchman at halfway.

In the six events at Royal Golf Dar Es Salem since 1996, four winners were leading at this stage and the other two sat second so it might not be wise to scan too far down the leaderboard but that does pose a bit of a problem as the leaders aren't exactly the type to go to war with given they rank 236th (Bjerregaard), 400th (Havret) and 412th (Fisher Jnr) in the world rankings.

Although highly promising, Bjerregaard is yet to win, Havret hasn't won for nine years and Fisher Jnr is yet to win outside his native South Africa, so with very little effort, I could pick huge holes in the chances of all three leaders but it wouldn't be impossible to do that about the next wave on the leaderboard either.

Despite obvious reservations, I'm letting the course stats dictate me and at a combined price of 9/4, I'm happy to take a very tiny chance on those three against the field.

Over at the RBC Heritage, my in-running pick, Russell Henley, started round two nicely and he was matched at just 7.413/2 but after two early birdies he lost his way quite badly and he now trails the leaders - Graham DeLaet and Luke Donald - by fully seven strokes.

I should probably stick to the initial plan and wait until the end of the third round before investing further but I can't resist a small wager on Adam Hadwin at 38.037/1. The Canadian has been in cracking form of late, shooting 59 at the CareerBuilder Challenge and winning the Valspar Championship. He currently tops the Scrambling stats - the most important stat for the tournament - and he's in touch now after a five-under-par 66 second round that sees him trail the two leaders by five.

08:50 - April 14, 2017

I have to confess, after such a sensational US Masters last week, mustering enthusiasm for this week's meagre fare in Morocco has been tough. It's great to see the European Tour back up and running but the Trophée Hassan II looked tough before the off and it doesn't look an awful lot easier after the opening round.

As many as 34 players are under-par and within three strokes of the lead and it looks an absolute minefield. Only one of my three pre-event picks, Pablo Larrazabal, managed to break the par of 73 yesterday and he's one of 21 players on -1. I topped up on Mikko Korhonen before the off when he drifted to 65.064/1 but after a disappointing one-over-par opening round he's been matched at a triple-figure price now.

As highlighted in the In-Play section of the preview, the plan here was to concentrate on the leaders from early on but given how incredibly congested the leaderboard is at this stage, waiting for it to thin out a bit and looking at the situation tomorrow, at the halfway stage, makes sense.

Over in the States, unusually benign conditions at the RBC Heritage saw Bud Cauley shoot an eight-under-par 63 to lead course specialist, Luke Donald, Graham DeLaet, and Sam Saunders by two strokes. I picked out half a dozen huge outsiders before the off and they were largely disappointing but 600.0599/1 chance, Ben Crane, shot five-under and he sits alongside my first in-play pick of the week - Russel Henley.

In contrast to the Trophée Hassan II, my plan here was to wait until the end of round three and to look at getting a few onside from off the pace. As detailed in the In-Play section of the preview, the last four winners have come from four back with a round to go and there have been others that have won from even further back. I will still look to employ those tactics on Saturday night/Sunday morning but I'm also happy to back Henley.

I liked a number of players towards the head of the market but I felt they were all a fraction short. Defending champ, Braden Grace, who's certainly not out of it on -3, Kevin Kisner and Adam Hadwin, were all players I liked the look of but the one I liked most of all was Henley.

I've always thought this was a track to suit Henley after his impressive sixth on debut in 2013 and I backed him at 48.047/1 before the off a year later. He was also a pre-event pick last year at 80.079/1 and after backing him to win the Shell Houston at 60.059/1 a fortnight ago, I perhaps should have backed him before the off at 28.027/1 but I've got no regrets.

I know he performed well at the US Masters, finishing 11th, but, given his poor recent course form figures of MC-MC-23, even though I fancied the track should suit him, I thought he was priced up fairly enough before the off at under 30.029/1. I was more than happy to back him after his good start at 12.5 though.

There's a danger his hot streak could soon come to an end and he's come in a point since I backed him but he's an industry best 11/1 with the Sportsbook and that looks very fair considering his SP was only twice that and that he's started so well.

Trophée Hassan II Pre-Event Selections:
Pablo Larrazabal @ 44.043/1
Mikko Korhonen @ 55.054/1
Joakim Lagergren @ 75.074/1

In-Play Picks
Gregory Havret @ 7.87/1
Lucas Bjerregaard @ 10.519/2
Trevor Fisher Jnr @ 14.5

RBC Heritage Pre-Event Selections:
Aaron Baddeley @ 160.0159/1
Zac Blair @ 250.0249/1
Fabian Gomez @ 400.0399/1
Blayne Barber @ 500.0499/1
Ben Crane @ 600.0599/1
Davis Love III @ 600.0599/1

In-Play Picks
Russell Henley @ 12.5
Adam Hadwin @ 38.037/1
Ian Poulter @ 19.5
Luke Donald @ 25.024/1
William McGirt @ 32.031/1
Wesley Bryan @ 40.039/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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