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The Punter's In-Play Blog: Woods in pole position at Bay Hill

Tiger Woods, in prime position to win again at Bay Hill

"As a general rule of thumb, Tiger doesn’t lose once he’s in front through 54-holes. He’s converted 51 out of 55 third round leads on the PGA Tour so odds of 1.558/15 about him getting his eighth win at Bay Hill are not stingy."

Our man's endured a long and luckless night following the action in Malaysia but can Tiger Woods cheer him up in Florida? Read Steve's final in-play update for the week here...

09:50 - March 25, 2013
Thanks to some extremely severe weather, play eventually stopped at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday, moments after Tiger Woods had made birdie on the 2nd hole to extend his lead to three and we'll back today to finish off.

High winds had played havoc with the early starters - Billy Horschel hit three tee-shots in to the water on the 6th hole before recording an 11 and Sergio Garcia decided to call it a day and withdraw, after he himself had made a 9 at the 6th. But not before he pulled off this miracle shot!

And it's been a week for incredible recovery shots. Nicholas Thomson's second from the water on the 17th on day one was almost unbelievable but even that was eclipsed yesterday by Matt Every's second on the par 4 3rd.

Play resumes at 10.00am local time, 2.00pm UK time and it will be live on Sky from 2.00pm.

With play running through into today, I'm not sure when I'll get my De-brief posted but I'll aim for this evening.

10:30 - March 24, 2013
It's been a long and fruitless night. I decided to get up and watch the end of the Maybank Malaysian Open and I can't say I'm chuffed to bits that I did.

My selection, Charl Schwartzel, trailed Kiradech Aphibarnrat by two strokes with 16 holes to go and the market understandably made him the man to beat but he didn't read the script.

The South African played poorly all day and it was soon apparent that if the burly Thai was to get caught, it wouldn't be Charl doing the catching.

As stated yesterday, I'd backed Aphibarnrat in this event in both 2010 and 2011, so seeing him win this morning was a little galling and it was made even more so by the fact that in-play bet, Edoardo Molinari, finished second.

Anyway, that's enough griping about what happened this morning, there's much better news Stateside, where Tiger Woods has hit the front at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The only good news about events in Malaysia was that I had the good sense to lay back some of my Schwartzel bet at 2.56/4, when I knew the event had been reduced to 54-holes, and I've also layed some of my Tiger wager back too, but far too prematurely.

I took the decision to get my stakes back on Woods at 1.845/6 in-running last night and now that he trades at around 1.558/15, with a two-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and John Huh, I obviously wish I'd waited.

I'm not going to lay any more back, if he gets beat so be it. Having layed back almost two thirds of my stakes back on Schwartzel and all of my stakes on Woods, it's going to be a slight loss on the week if he does and a decent week if he doesn't.

Tiger was beaten by Y.E Yang at the 2009 PGA Championship after he'd led by two with a round to go but as a general rule of thumb, he doesn't lose once he's in front through 54-holes. He's converted 51 out of 55 third round leads on the PGA Tour so odds of 1.558/15 about him getting his eighth win at Bay Hill are not stingy.

The only possible negative I can see, besides his dreadful driving this week, is that a win today will see him return to the top of the world rankings and that in itself may just add a little pressure.

I'll be back tomorrow with my De-brief.

10:20 - March 23, 2013
It's been a case of lightning striking thrice in Malaysia with play being suspended due to thunder for the third day running at the Maybank Malaysian Open, and the event has now been reduced to 54-holes.

With my man, Charl Schwartzel, trailing Kiradech Aphibarnrat by one with 16 holes of round three to play, I was hoping they'd get 72 holes in. The word athlete doesn't spring to mind when you look at the burly Aphibarnrat and playing 34 holes in a day wouldn't have been ideal for him, whereas fit-as-a-fiddle Schwartzel looks like he could play for hours and hours if needs be.

The Malaysian Prime Minister is due to attend the trophy ceremony tomorrow afternoon, before going onto the Malaysian Grand Prix and that may just have swayed the decision. With yet more bad weather forecast tomorrow, and given the PM's presence, 54 holes was always the likely decision and now it's been made, the front two could be vulnerable.

The two (Aphibarnrat -11 and Schwartzel -10) are both on the edge of the par 5 3rd green with tricky looking up-and-downs for birdie and that hole could prove pivotal now. There is a very strong pack of European Tour players on -9 and -8 and anyone of them could get hot and get to the front now that it's just a three-rounder.

Given the event's been reduced, I've layed a bit of my Schwartzel wager back at 2.56/4 and I've backed Edoardo Molinari too. At anything around 25.024/1, on -9 through five holes, the Italian looks a fair price in what is now a sprint to the line.

Over at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Bill Haas and Justin Rose lead at halfway on -9, with John Huh one back and the remainder all at least three back. My man, Tiger Woods, had a very strange day and after bogeying his last three holes, he sits on -5.

He started the day with a birdie at the first hole, a missed birdie putt from two feet at the second and an unorthodox par at the third. Having driven into the water, most probably as a reaction to the short missed putt, he finished up making a par save from in excess of 20 feet.

After the start, Woods appeared to be getting into gear and when he closed to within one of the lead through 14 holes he was matched at a low of 1.784/5 but it all went pear-shaped after that...

Unfortunately, the snow knocked my Sky-box out so I didn't get to see his finish but shot-tracker shows that he found the water again on the par 5 16th, was still off the green after two shots on the par 3 17th and that a missed fairway on the ultra-hard finishing hole inevitably led to his third dropped shot in-a-row.

Justin Rose is now favourite, at 3.4012/5 but I'm keeping the faith with Tiger, despite the finish, and with so much sport abandoned, I'm looking forward to watching it live on Sky at 5.00pm - snow permitting!

12:30 - March 22, 2013
For the second day running, thunderstorms struck Kuala Lumpur and play has had to be suspended at the Maybank Malaysian Open. They failed to resume at all yesterday but today they were able to get back out and play eight or nine holes. They've now finally finished for the day and they'll be back first thing in the morning.

My only pre-event wager, Charl Schwartzel, has completed two rounds and he's tied for second with China's Ashun Wi, one behind Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat on -10, who still has eight holes to play of round two.

In theory, Schwartzel should be favoured by the two breaks. Although he had a very long day today, finishing up round one before playing round two in its entirety, I fancy all the players on his side of the draw, i.e. those that started in the afternoon on day one, have life a little easier. The fact that Schwartzel hasn't had to do any waiting around today and that he'll get a nice lie-in tomorrow should be in his favour.

Those drawn in the morning on day one will have to come back first thing tomorrow to finish-up round two and then they'll then have to wait around for their tee-time in round three. Not ideal at all.

Schwartzel has already traded as short as 1.784/5, when he held a three shot lead, but a scruffy finish to round two (two bogeys in his last four holes) has seen his price drift back out to 2.809/5, with Aphibarnrat looking his biggest danger.

I backed the burly Thai, who's apparently also known as Anujit Hirunratanakorn (one mammoth mouthful of a name not enough?), three years ago in this event at a huge price, as well as in the 2011 renewal, so if he were to win this week, it would certainly grate but I stopped backing him after last year's Avantha Masters when he put in yet another poor effort in-contention.

He's a talent for sure but his record in-the-mix isn't great and he still has only one Asian Tour title to his name. That said, I can't pretend his presence isn't an annoyance and if he is going to mess up again I wish he'd get on with it!

I could wake up tomorrow and find Schwartzel's a long way back and that the event has been reduced to just 54 holes but I don't think there's much I can do about it. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have input a lay back of my stakes at odds-on but it's always easy afterwards and I'm just going to leave things alone for now.

Over in the States, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, according to the betting, it looks like a straight fight between just two players already, my man, Tiger Woods, now trading at 3.7511/4 and England's Justin Rose 3.9n/a.

Playing in the same morning three-ball yesterday, the pair opened their accounts for the week handsomely. Woods made three bogeys but still ended the day on three under-par, having played the par fives in five under, and as highlighted in the preview, that appears to be the key to success here.

Rose was very impressive, especially with the putter, and he leads the way on -7, two clear of John Huh and three ahead of both John Rollins and Brad Fritsch.

As the afternoon starters began tardily yesterday, I assumed that the advantage was with the early starters but as it transpired the late starters averaged a score of 73.15, compared to 73.85 in the morning. With barely any wind forecast today, Woods and co, playing in the afternoon today, shouldn't be inconvenienced and given how hard it is to make up ground in this event, the market could be right.

I can't believe Rose can putt like he did yesterday for all four days and I'm more than happy with Tiger's start, so for now, I'm leaving things alone here too.

Maybank Malaysian Open Pre-Event Selection:
Charl Schwartzel @ 7.413/2

In-Play Bets:
Edoardo Molinari @ an average of 26.025/1
Charl Schwartzel - layed back @ 2.56/4

Arnold Palmer Invitational Pre-Event Selections:
Tiger Woods @ 4.216/5
Bubba Watson @ 38.037/1

In-Play Bet
Tiger Woods - stakes layed back at 1.824/5

* You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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25 March 2013

The Punter


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