The Punter's In-Play Blog: DJ assumes command in Hawaii

Dustin Johnson – the two-shot leader in Hawaii
Dustin Johnson – the two-shot leader in Hawaii
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Dustin Johnson has hit the front with a round to go at the Sentry Tournament of Champions but is he a good thing to convert at odds-on? Read what our man thinks ahead of the fourth and final round here...

“Combining DJ’s four wins from ten with a lead stat and the 16 from 19 winners within two strokes with a round to go at Kapalua stat and anything over 5/1 must surely be too big for Harman? ”

10:05 - January 07, 2018

World number one, Dustin Johnson, shot a seven-under-par 66 in round three of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii yesterday and he's most certainly the man to beat now. Here are the current standings with prices to back at 09:55.

Dustin Johnson -16 [1.62]
Brian Harman -14 [6.6]
Jon Rahm -12 [9.4]
Rickie Fowler -11 [14.0]
Jason Dufner -11 [42.0]
-10 and [60.0] bar

The Plantation Course is not a tough test (it was the easiest course played on the PGA Tour in 2017) and that favours the leaders greatly - provided the weather isn't too brutal.

As stated numerous times this week already, both Garcia and Appleby won here from off the pace in very windy conditions, in 2002 and 2005, but they were only four back with a round to go and other than Jim Furyk, who sat third and also four adrift through 54 holes in 2001, every other winner (16 in total) has been within two strokes of the lead with a round to go so the stats suggest it's between the front two.

Johnson has questions to answer given the last time he led through 54 holes (at the HSBC Champions in November) he blew a six-shot lead and given his overall record in 72 hole tournaments when he's led with a round to go isn't spectacular. He's led or co-led ten times in total but only converted on four occasions and he looks short enough to me now.

Harmon failed to make par from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker on 11 yesterday and he followed that mishap with another dropped shot on 12 but he bounced back nicely after that to stay within two of D.J and had I not already been onboard he'd be my play now.

Combining DJ's four wins from ten with a lead stat and the 16 from 19 winners within two strokes with a round to go at Kapalua stat and anything over 5/1 must surely be too big for Harman?

Jon Rahm has improved day by day on his Kapalua debut and if the front two falter he's the most likely to benefit and we can't discount Rickie Fowler either, as he's always better when chasing. A spectacular 11-under-par 61 in round four saw him take the Hero Challenge by four strokes last month, after he'd trailed by seven through 54 holes, but both have plenty to do if the front two perform.

I've fiddled about with my book and I'm leaving the event alone for now. I layed my pre-tournament pick, Harman, back at [3.5] in-running last night and I recycled stakes on DJ at [2.7] before backing Rahm, Fowler and Dufner at the close of play, just to take the stress out of the final round, but if I was starting afresh Harman would be my man. I've liked his price from the get-go and he still looks very fairly priced.

I'll be back on Monday with my de-brief.

10:45 - January 06, 2018

Pre-tournament favourite, Jordan Spieth, made ten less putts in round two to better his round score on Thursday by nine strokes but he still trails by five at the halfway stage. Here's the current standings with prices to back at 10:40.

Marc Leishman -10 [5.1]
Brian Harman -10 [8.4]
Dustin Johnson -9 [4.0]
Pat Perez -8 [16.0]
Jhonattan Vegas -8 [32.0]
Chris Stroud -8 [42.0]
Jason Dufner -7 [46.0]
-6 and [14.0] bar

I wrote yesterday about how hard it is to make up ground at Kapalua and if we look at where the previous course winners were at halfway the situation is even clearer. The two off the pace winners mentioned yesterday, Garcia and Appleby, trailed by seven at this stage but the other 17 course winners have all been up with the pace.

Surprise winner, Daniel Chopra, sat sixth and three off the pace before beating course specialist, Steve Stricker, in a playoff ten years ago and Patrick Reed sat fifth and one off the lead through 36 holes in 2015 but every other winner (bar Garcia in 2002 and Appleby in 2005) has been inside the front three places at this stage and five of the last six winners were in front at halfway.

The stats are only there to guide us and who's to say Spieth can't still win from five adrift, but I'm not prepared to back him at just [14.0] with five strokes to make up. It's hard to see one of the front three not shooting seven or eight under-par over the weekend and if one of the leaders did shoot eight-under-par, Spieth would need to shoot 13-under and that's a huge ask.

Leishman is nicely poised after being the only man in the field to go bogey-free yesterday and my man, Harman, doesn't look like he's about to throw the towel in either. After a lengthy birdie at his opening hole he took his time to get going yesterday and if he goes on to win, his stroke of luck at the par five 15th yesterday could be why.

After a decent drive, Harman hit a poor second shot and a dreadful third, when his chip up on to the green came right back to his feet. A bogey six looked the most likely outcome before all was forgotten with this perfect pitch.

At the close of play in the early hours, UK time, Dustin Johnson was still available to back at almost [5.0] after the two leaders had both birdied the par five 18th but the market has well and truly corrected itself and he's now a solid [4.0] chance. The world number one and 2013 winner is the man to beat and the rightful market leader but I'm going to hold on for now and look to get him onside in-running.

I can't see him trading much shorter before he tees off and if the likes of Spieth and Rickie Fowler start well before he tees off he may well drift a bit. DJ started very slowly yesterday with bogeys at three and four and only a par five at the fifth (the easiest hole on the course), so hanging fire for now looks like a risk worth taking. He hit a high of [26.0] after yesterday's tardy start and while I don't expect anything like that to happen today, I suspect a chance to get him onside at better than [4.0] will arise.

I'll be back again tomorrow before the final round.

11:45 - January 05, 2018

Round one of the Sentry Tournament of Champions has been completed and the big surprise was the poor performance of the well-backed pre-event favourite, Jordan Spieth. He looked ill at ease for much of the round and as Justin Ray points out below, his putting wasn't on point either.

Here's the early leaderboard with prices to back at 11:50.

Marc Leishman -6 [6.2]
Brian Harman -5 [16.5]
Jhonattan Vegas -5 [30.0]
Rickie Fowler -4 [6.0]
Dustin Johnson -4 [6.0]
Si Woo Kim -4 [40.0]

-3 and [12.5] bar

Spieth's scruffy performance resulted in a two-over-par 75 which leaves him trailing by eight strokes and the stats suggest he has way too much to do now...

In very blustery conditions, Sergio Garcia won the event here having trailed by ten strokes after an opening 73 in 2002 and Stuart Appleby trailed by eight after an opening 74 when he defended the title in 2005 (won again in 2006!) but the other 17 course winners have all been up with the pace from the get-go.

Geoff Ogilvy sat tied for tenth and three adrift when he defended the title in 2010 but the other 16 winners were all within two of the lead after round one. This is a ridiculously hard place to play catch-up if the wind doesn't blow too hard and if the stats are to guide us, we need to be concentrating on the first six on the leaderboard.

Rickie Fowler is the marginal favourite now and it's going to be interesting to see how he performs over the next three days. He doesn't win anywhere near enough as he should, he's always too short in the market and yesterday was a typical Fowler round. Having been a surprisingly short [8.6] chance before the off, he was matched at just [5.1] when he made the turn on three-under-par but he drifted out to [14.5] when he gave the three shots back at holes 11 and 13 before rallying brilliantly with birdies at 14 and 15 and an eagle at 18.

I don't see any reason why Fowler should transform himself in to a great frontrunner all of a sudden
and if forced to back a market leader I'd prefer to back the world number one and course winner, Dustin Johnson at a slightly bigger price on the same score.

The leader, Marc Leishman, was in the form of his life at the end of 2017 and he looks like he may have picked up from where he left off. He's a perfectly fair price and if he kicks on like he did at the BMW Championship in September he's the man to beat. He led by a couple of strokes after an opening 62 and powered home by five strokes that week but he's hardly prolific and I fancy the value lies elsewhere.

I've no idea why my sole selection, Brian Harman, drifted as far as he did before the off (hit [60.0]!) and he looks a decent price still at [16.5]. He was generally a 28/1 chance on the High Street before the off and he's no bigger than 14/1 this morning (most firms go 12/1). I only had a tiny bet originally, but I felt compelled to top-up when he drifted so I'm full up already but if I wasn't on already I'd be taking the odds this morning.

Jhonattan Vegas is a big price given he trails by just a stroke but the one I like at the prices this morning is the Players Champion, Si Woo Kim. The last three winners here all won on their second course appearance and the talented Korean was over-priced this morning to continue the streak at [46.0].

I'll be back tomorrow to look at the state of play at halfway.

Pre-Event Selection:
Brian Harman @ [38.0] (topped up at [55.0])

In-Play Trades:
Si Woo Kim @ [46.0]
Brian Harman layed @ an average of [3.5]
Dustin Johnson @ [2.7]
Jon Rahm @ [9.6]
Rickie Fowler @ [18.0]
Jason Dufner @ [44.0]

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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