The Punter's In-Play Blog: Leaders look vulnerable in Scotland

Rafa Cabrera-Bello – could the Spaniard win from off the pace in Scotland today?
Rafa Cabrera-Bello – could the Spaniard win from off the pace in Scotland today?

There's a round to go at both the Scottish Open and the John Deere Classic so read our man's final in-play thoughts for the week ahead of all the inevitable drama here...

“On a blustery day five years ago, Jeev Milkha Singh took this title having been five adrift and tied for 16th with a round to go and I get the sense something similar could happen today. I’ve thrown a few pounds at Rafa Cabrera-Bello at 36.035/1, who should be suited to being just off the pace, but I’ll be monitoring the event in-running and looking for any early moves.”

11:30 - July 16, 2017

I've got an outside chance with pre-tournament pick, Ryan Fox, in the Scottish Open. The Kiwi, who I backed at 100.099/1 before the off, sits just three off the lead with a round to go today and over in the States, pre-event pick Zach Johnson, who I only backed for very small stakes, is just about in touch at the John Deere Classic but my halfway plays were appalling yesterday.

Padraig Harrington shot a seven-over-par 79 to fall away in Scotland, Keven Kisner matched Zach Johnson's disappointing third round 70 at the John Deere Classic and Chesson Hadley fared only marginally better with a two-under-par 69. The only good news about yesterday was that I didn't get to see a single shot at either tournament on account of it being my twin daughter's birthdays so I'm loathed to comment too much this morning.

Ian Poulter, Callum Shinkwin and Andrew Dodt are tied at the top in Scotland and they're two clear of Andy Sullivan but it's a jam-packed leaderboard after that with 16 players within four of the lead. Brighter skies are forecasted today but it's still going to blow quite hard and it looks a minefield.

Poults is the favourite to win but he hasn't bagged a title in almost five years and the two alongside him look readily opposable. Dodt led the BMW PGA Championship through 54 holes in May but he soon lost his way in round four and he's never won a tournament of this size. Shinkwin clearly enjoys links golf and he can't be dismissed lightly but he's looking to get off the mark on the European Tour for the first time. Playing alongside Sullivan in the penultimate group is going to be easier than playing in the final pairing but I'm happy to leave him alone.

On a blustery day five years ago, Jeev Milkha Singh took this title having been five adrift and tied for 16th with a round to go and I get the sense something similar could happen today. I've thrown a few pounds at Rafa Cabrera-Bello at 36.035/1, who should be suited to being just off the pace, but I'll be monitoring the event in-running and looking for any early moves.

If you're planning to trade in-running today, the par five 14th and the par five 18th have yielded lots of birdies and eagles but holes 15, 16 and 17 are tricky and currently rank as the third, first and fourth hardest holes so far the week, so someone posting a score could be value over someone out on the course. Especially if any nearest challengers and market rivals have already played the par five 14th.

Over at the John Deere Classic, Patrick Rodgers leads by two over Daniel Berger and Scott Stallings with Nicholas Lindheim three off the lead and alone in fourth and it's very tight after that with as many as 17 players within five of the lead.

Rodgers is in pole position but pre-tournament favourite, Berger, looks ominously poised to pounce and he looks a perfectly fair price at 4.03/1. Berger's impressed me on almost every occasion he's been in-contention and I'm happy to take a chance on him. He was poor when he lost a three-stroke lead at the Travelers last year but he's been very solid besides that and he's most certainly the man they all have to beat now.

I'm a bit spooked after Kisner's dire effort yesterday so I've not backed Berger with as much relish as I might have. This is a funny event that nearly always provides an exciting and tense finale but being fairly close to the lead is a plus at this stage. Jordan Spieth won from tied ninth and six adrift in 2013 but the last three winners have led after 54 holes and we have to go all the way back to 1981 to find the last winner to come from outside the top-ten.

There's a group of ten players tied for eighth and five off the lead and it's almost certain that at least one of them will make a charge. If the leader wobbles, which I suspect he could, then they're effectively only three adrift of Berger and Stallings so an off the pace winner isn't out of the question but I fancy Berger's the one.

I'll be back this evening with my Open Championship preview and I'll be back tomorrow with the De-Brief.

10:25 - July 15, 2017

Despite a three-putt bogey at his 18th hole of round two, 25-year-old Patrick Rodgers leads the John Deere Classic by two strokes at halfway. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:20.

Patrick Rodgers -13 6.25/1

Bryson Dechambeau -11 9.417/2

Zach Johnson -10 7.06/1
Charles Howell III -10 9.417/2

Chad Campbell -9 18.017/1
Kevin Tway -9 27.026/1
Chesson Hadley -9 36.035/1
J.J Henry -9 65.064/1

Kevin Kisner -8 13.5
Nicholas Lindheim -8 130.0129/1

-7 and 25.024/1 bar

Patrick Rodgers looks easy to oppose. He's looking to get off the mark on the PGA Tour for the first time and his record when in-the-mix isn't sensational. He won from off the pace on the Tour in 2015 (his sole win to date) but he's been within three of the lead on the PGA Tour seven times so far and the best he's done was a distant second to Rory McIlroy in the 2015 Wells Fargo. Rodgers was beaten by seven.

Looking at the tournament stats, 36-hole leaders don't have a great record either. Ryan Moore was tied for the lead at halfway last year, Deere Run specialist, Steve Stricker, was one clear before winning in 2010, and J.P Hayes was tied at the top before he went on to win in 2002.

Bryson Dechambeau is an interesting contender. He's been touted for greatness for a while now and if he went on to win I don't think anyone would be surprised. Like Rodgers, he's looking to win his first PGA Tour event and that will create pressure and the fact that he hasn't contended anywhere in a long while is also a negative. After eight straight missed cuts, Bryson's form was trending nicely, reading 26-17-14 but he wasn't in-contention at any stage during those three tournaments so this is different. I'm not for a second suggesting he can't win but he will be rusty and he is still a PGA Tour maiden.

Charles Howell III is always someone to oppose so if he trades shorter over the weekend I'll be ready to lay him and I'm happy to have Zach Johnson covered from the start. He has an awful habit of contending here without converting, although he did win the 2012 edition in extra time. I wouldn't put anyone off siding with Zach as his course record is so phenomenal but the one I like at this stage is Kevin Kisner.

Kisner has never really thrived here before which is odd given his form at similar venues. He's the recent winner of the Dean & Deluca Invitational staged at Colonial Country Club and that's the event that correlates best with this one so I'm not surprised to see him in-the-mix now.

Kisner trails by four strokes but many a winner has won from that far back and more at Deere Run and given he's no bigger than 10/1 on the High Street, I thought 14.013/1 was more than fair. And I've also thrown a few pounds at Chesson Hadley at 36.035/1. He won on the Tour only last week and he looks a big price to carry on riding the wave of momentum.

21:30 - July 14, 2017

We've reached the halfway stage of the Scottish Open and the big story from the Dundonald links is that Rory McIlroy has missed another cut - his third in four starts. Three men are tied at the top but with bad weather forecast and with ten players within three of the lead, it's a wide open affair still. Here's the current leaderboard with prices to back at 21:20.

Padraig Harrington -9 7.06/1
Callum Shinkwin -9 19.018/1
Alexander Knappe -9 38.037/1

Ian Poulter -8 9.617/2
Andrew Dodt -7 25.024/1

Rickie Fowler -7 4.47/2
Nicolas Colsaerts -7 28.027/1

Matt Kuchar -6 13.012/1
Alexander Levy -6 32.031/1
Gregory Havret -6 60.059/1

-5 and 23.022/1 bar

The forecast suggests tomorrow is going to be a grind. The likelihood of heavy rain and an ever-present and increasing wind has resulted in the tee times being brought forward and the live coverage on Sky Sports begins at 11:00 UK and Ireland time, 58 minutes before the final pairing tees off.

The pre-event favourite, Rickie Fowler, looks nicely poised heading in to the weekend and he's one of the best foul weather players in the world so no matter how bad it gets tomorrow, I'd expect him to hang around. He's a fair price at around 4.3100/30 on what is a fairly weak leaderboard and I wouldn't put anyone off him but Padraig Harrington looks the logical value play right now.

I watched quite a bit of the play today and I couldn't have been more impressed with Pod. It was a bit frustrating given I backed him last week but I'm past getting too annoyed by such eventualities. I used to pull my hair out if someone I'd backed at a big price turned up a week later at an even bigger price but I've become philosophical as the years have ticked by and these things are bound to happen from time to time. And besides, I've very little hair left to pull out anyway.

What made the frustration even more intense was having to watch pre-event pick, Ross Fisher, blow up after he'd hit the front with a birdie at the par five 18th. He played the front-nine, his second-nine, in five-over-par!

Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar are the other big names in-the-mix and of the two, I much prefer Poults. The Englishman turned his career around with a second place at the Players Championship and he'll be on very good terms with himself now that he's found some form ahead of a return to Royal Birkdale, where he finished second to Harrington in 2008. He loves links golf and won't mind bad weather either but it's five years since he last won and that has to be a concern.

I'll be monitoring the early play to see how bad it is and to see if anyone makes an early move and I've had a very small wager on Harrington but other than that, I'm happy to let this one roll. It looks tricky.

The second round of the John Deere Classic is well underway and with two of my pre-event picks, Zach Johnson and Wesley Bryan, in-the-mix, I'm hopeful they can keep my interest. They both still have the back-nine to play so I'll be back in the morning with a look at the event at the halfway stage.

Scottish Open Pre-Event Selections:
Ross Fisher @ 46.045/1
Peter Uihlein @ 55.054/1
Chris Wood @ 80.079/1
Ryan Fox @ 100.099/1

In-Play Pick
Padraig Harrington @ 6.86/1

John Deere Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Zach Johnson @ 29.028/1
Steve Stricker @ 30.029/1
Ryan Moore @ 42.041/1
Wesley Bryan @ 75.074/1

In-Play Picks
Kevin Kisner @ 14.013/1
Chesson Hadley @ 36.035/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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