12.20 - October 25, 2015
Justin Rose has won the Hong Kong Open, beating Lucas Bjerregaard by a solitary stroke so we only have the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to concentrate on now. Here's the third round leaderboard with prices to back at 12:10.
Brett Stegmaier -13 7.87/1
Morgan Hoffman -12 7.613/2
Kevin Na -11 5.39/2
Jimmy Walker -11 6.05/1
Chad Campbell -11 13.012/1
Cameron Tringale -10 19.5
Jason Bohn -10 14.013/1
Alex Cejka -10 29.028/1
Nick Taylor -10 32.031/1
-9 and 60.059/1 Bar
It's very easy to dismiss the chances of 32-year-old PGA Tour rookie and pre-event 999/1 shot, Brett Stegmaier. He's never been close to winning on the PGA Tour before and the closest he's come to victory on the Web.com Tour was when he was beaten by Kris Blanks in a playoff at the Louisiana Open in March last year. He's never led an event through three rounds in his entire career and on the six occasions that he's been within five strokes of the lead with a round to go on the Web.com Tour, since that playoff defeat to Blanks, he's gone backwards five times, he's never advanced, and he's only once broken 70 in round four. I don't fancy his chances, even though the stats suggest pole position through 54 holes is the right place to be...
Since this event was reduced from five rounds to four in 2004, every winner has been inside the top-five and within three of the lead with a round to go and seven third round leaders have successfully converted. And that includes some big outsiders.
Those stats suggest I shouldn't be quite so quick to dismiss Brett but all things considered, I'll be very surprised if he can take his chance. I'm happy to have Morgan Hoffman onside at a decent price but he too is looking for his first win on the PGA Tour and it's no surprise to see two of the men tied for third, Kevin Na and Jimmy Walker, dominating the market. The only surprise as far as I'm concerned is who the favourite is at this stage because I'd most certainly have Walker ahead of Na and at anything over 6.05/1; he represents value on a very weak looking leaderboard.
Na is a former winner of this title but his Summerlin success in 2011 remains his only victory on the PGA Tour and anyone that witnessed his performance in the playoff last week won't be in a hurry to get him onside here. He's notoriously slow and deliberate and shaky in-contention and I much prefer Jimmy Walker who's bidding to win his third event of the year and his sixth since 2013. Why he's not the favourite at this stage, I've no idea.
Jason Bohn traded as low as 1.444/9 last Sunday before blowing a great chance to win the Frys.com Open and that's far from the first time he's shirked it. Chad Campbell hasn't been resolute in-the-mix for a very long time and Cameron Tringale is yet to win. It's not a strong leaderboard and Walker looks worth taking a punt on to me and I've also had a small bet on Nick Taylor at 34.033/1. He won the Sanderson Farms Championship in fine style last November and looks slightly over-priced.
11.45 - October 24, 2015
I thought the two leaders at halfway, Justin Rose and Lucas Bjerregaard, might be worth taking on at the Hong Kong Open but after three rounds they've opened up a gap of four strokes on the remainder. Here's the leaderboard with prices to back at 11:35.
Justin Rose -15 1.674/6
Lucas Bjerregaard -15 3.814/5
Anirban Lahiri -11 16.015/1
Mathew Fitzpatrick -10 27.026/1
Jeev Milkha Singh -10 120.0119/1
-9 and 150.0149/1 Bar
Rose's six-under-par 64 was impressive but he didn't play as well as Bjerregaard who shot 63. The Englishman made eagles at the two par fives and he holed a number of lengthy par saves whereas the Dane hit more accurate iron shots and holed more putts. If I was to pick the winner on today's performance only I'd plump for Bjerregaard but was his tee- shot on 18 a sign of what's to come tomorrow?
Having played superbly all day, Bjerregaard hit an awful tee-shot with an iron on the final hole, leading to his one and only bogey, and it did make me wonder how well he'll handle the immense pressure tomorrow. As stated yesterday, he shot 89 at Leopard Creek when he last held an obvious chance to break his European Tour duck and as smooth as he played today, I don't want to back him to win tomorrow.
Rose backers will be on good terms with themselves and I'd be surprised if he didn't win from here now but if the front two do slip up, either Anirban Lahiri or Matthew Fitzpatrick should benefit. Lahiri played really well on the back-nine today to move in to third but Fitzpatrick will be disappointed by his finish...
The Sheffielder shot 30 on the front nine to close to within a stroke of the lead but his charge was halted on the par four 10th when he went for the green and drove into the ditch. He'd been matched at just 4.03/1 after birdying the ninth but the drive on ten halted his momentum and a level par back nine was a big disappointment.
If I hadn't already got them onside I'd be backing Lahiri and Fitzpatrick now. I'm never convinced by Rose and I haven't a clue how Bjerregaard is going to fare tomorrow. The pair fed off each-other's momentum wonderfully today but what if they get the jitters tomorrow? One of them really should convert from four clear but it's not beyond the realms of possibility that they both have a bad day.
Over at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, darkness again stopped play and the second round is yet to finish. Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner pick, David Hearn, who I backed yesterday, looked poised to position himself nicely for a weekend challenge but he could only par the easy par five 16th and then he double-bogeyed the par three 17th so he trails the current leader, Brett Stegmaier, who still has three holes to play of round two, by three.
I'm disappointed by the way this one's panned out so far as I thought I'd be able to get confidently stuck into someone at this stage but that's just not the case. As highlighted in the preview, the last eight winners have all been within three of the lead at halfway and five of them were in front. With Stegmaier yet to finish round two, we don't yet know who's going to be in front after 36 holes and with nine players within two of the 32-year-old PGA Tour rookie, the event looks wide open and very hard to predict.
I could and perhaps should have just left the event alone but I have had a very small play on Morgan Hoffman, who is currently tied for second. Like Hearn, Hoffman came very close to winning his first PGA Tour event last season and I thought he was a reasonable price at 16.015/1.
12:45 - October 23, 2015
We've reached the halfway stage of the Hong Kong Open and although second favourite, Dustin Johnson, and course specialist, Miguel Angel Jimenez, have missed the cut the leaderboard contains a number of top-class players and we look set for a cracking weekend. Here's the leaderboard with prices to back at 12:30.
Justin Rose -9 2.486/4
Lucas Bjerregaard -8 11.010/1
Ian Poulter -7 9.617/2
Wei-Chih Lu -7 80.079/1
Mathew Fitzpatrick -6 10.519/2
Anirban Lahiri -6 14.013/1
Y.E Yang -6 32.031/1
Nathan Holman -6 85.084/1
Matt Ford -6 120.0119/1
Graeme McDowell -5 20.019/1
-5 and 50.049/1 Bar
Pre-event favourite, Justin Rose, has smoothly assumed command at Fanling and he has an outstanding chance of taking the title but I certainly wouldn't be rushing in to back him at around the 6/4 mark. He was far from convincing in-the-mix again in California on Sunday when in with a great chance to win the Frys.com Open and the stats tell us we shouldn't be charging in now at a short price.
Rose has led, or been tied for the lead, at halfway in a 72-hole stroke play event on 16 occasions this century but he's only gone on to win four times. He has failed to convert on the last four occasions and his last nine final rounds have all been in the 70s when he's held the lead at this stage.
I know he's a major champion but he's very often unconvincing in-contention and I toyed with laying him at 2.56/4. I'd certainly much rather be against him than with him at that price but after much deliberation, I've decided to add both Ian Poulter and Anirban Lahiri instead.
I think Rose's biggest dangers could be the two young men gunning for the rookie of the year title - the already backed, Matthew Fitzpatrick, and the rising Indian star, Lahiri, and his old mate, Poulter, and I'm happy to have those three against him rather than laying him.
Lucas Bjerregaard has to be viewed as a big threat sitting in second place but he's yet to win on the European Tour and he was truly awful when presented with his best chance to do so. He sat second with a round to go at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek last December but shot 89 in round four! He's a smart young player who probably will get off the mark soon enough but that effort really spooked me.
Graeme McDowell is lurking and if he goes low tomorrow I could regret not getting him onside too but other than him, I can't see anyone else taking the title so I'm happy enough to take on Rose with just the three.
Given he hasn't won for three years and that he's far from the ruthless closer of old, I was tempted to omit Poulter too but he'll be keen to chase down his mate and as a former winner of the Hong Kong Open, he clearly loves the venue.
Over at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, darkness prevented round one from completing yesterday so it's still very early days in Las Vegas. A number of fancied players, including my sole selection, Scott Piercy, already look out of it and with 15 players separated by just a single stroke it looks almost impossible to call.
The plan before the off was to get stuck in to this one at halfway, so I'll take a much more detailed look tomorrow but I have had a small bet on one of the four men tied at the top and one of Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner picks - David Hearn. The Canadian was unlucky not to get his maiden win at the Greenbrier Classic in July but he impressed me on that occasion and he's someone I thought should win soon on the PGA Tour. I just now wish I'd followed Paul in from the start!
Hong Kong Open Pre-Event Selections:
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 16/1 (Sportsbook)
Miguel Angel Jimenez @ 28/1 (Sportsbook)
Thongchai Jaidee @ 27.026/1
SSP Chawrasia @ 200/1 (Sportsbook)
Hong Kong Open In-Play Picks:
Ian Poulter @ 9.89/1
Anirban Lahiri @ 14.5
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Pre-Event Selection:
Scott Piercy @ 38.037/1
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open In-Play Picks:
David Hearn @ 22.021/1
Morgan Hoffman @ 16.015/1
Jimmy Walker @ 6.25/1
Nick Taylor @ 34.033/1
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