The Punter's In-Play Blog: Grace the man to beat at Glendower

Branden Grace – odds-on and only one off the lead with a round to go
Branden Grace – odds-on and only one off the lead with a round to go
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There's just one round to go at Glendower and we've reached the halfway stage at the Sony Open so read Steve's latest thoughts on the two events here...

“The only negatives I can see regarding Grace are that his long game hasn’t been brilliant and that winning his national title is a big deal but he looks fairly priced at just a shade of odds-on and I’m not laying off any of my halfway way wager just yet.”

15:40 - January 13, 2018

The second round of the BMW SA Open has just finished and pre-event favourite, Branden Grace, has made his move. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 15:30.

Chris Paisley -15 [4.5]
Branden Grace -14 [1.96]
Chase Koepka -12 [18.0]
Adrien Saddier -12 [18.0]
Jacques Blaauw -12 [21.0]
Darren Fichardt -11 [23.0]
-10 and [50.0] bar

It's hard to make a case for laying the odds-on about Grace now. Chris Paisley still leads but only by a stroke and as I highlighted yesterday, he's never won on the European Tour. He did very little wrong today but it's difficult to see him holding off Grace if the South African gets on a roll.

The only negatives I can see regarding Grace are that his long game hasn't been brilliant and that winning his national title is a big deal but he looks fairly priced at just a shade of odds-on and I'm not laying off any of my halfway way wager just yet.

We've reached the halfway stage of the Sony Open and Brian Harman leads by three. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 15:35.

Brian Harman -13 [2.88]
Zach Johnson -10 [9.2]
Chris Kirk -10 [14.0]
Tom Hoge -10 [34.0]
Talor Gooch -10 [44.0]
John Peterson -10 [50.0]
Kyle Stanley -9 [24.0]
Ollie Schniederjans -9 [25.0]
Patton Kizzire -9 [25.0]
Kevin Kisner -8 [17.0]
Xander Schauffele -8 [28.0]
-7 and [25.0] bar

Three strokes is a handy lead for a two-time PGA Tour winner with a solid in-contention record but it's a packed leaderboard behind Brian Harman and it's going to be a fascinating weekend. The majority of winners have been within a couple of strokes of the lead at halfway here but we've seen four winners come from slightly off the pace in the last 20 years or so.

Paul Stankowski beat Jim Furyk in a playoff in 1997, after both men had trailed by six at halfway, and since then three players have trailed by five at this stage and won. Jeff Slumen (1999), Vijay Singh (2005) and Fabian Gomez (2016).

With Harman out on his own, and with 26 players within four strokes of second place, if he has a poor weekend the tournament would be blown wide-open and there are some very dangerous players lurking.

With Harman onside after round one, and with pre-event pick, Patton Kizzire, in the mix, I was tempted to leave things alone entirely and reassess the situation tomorrow but I've added Xander Schauffele to the portfolio at [28.0]. The Tour Championship winner still has plenty of scope, his stats for the week are tidy enough and I can't really see why he would be more than ten points bigger than Kevin Kisner on the same score.

20:55 - January 12, 2018

We've reached the halfway stage of the BMW SA Open so here's the latest standings with prices to back at 20:50.

Chris Paisley -13 [5.0]
Adrien Saddier -13 [5.3]
Jacques Kruyswijk -9 [23.0]
Branden Grace -8 [4.7]
Retief Goosen -8 [18.0]
Chase Koepka -8 [32.0]
Scott Vincent -8 [36.0]
Nacho Elvira -7 [38.0]
Charl Schwartzel -5 [19.0]
-6 and [50.0] bar

Adrien Saddier is yet to record a bogey this week and he equalled the course record today with his nine-under-par 63 but he hasn't broken free of the entire field. England's Chris Paisley, who like Saddier, was matched before the off at [500.0], is alongside the Frenchman and they hold a nice four-stroke advantage over the rest of the field.

Both have just one Challenge Tour win apiece, both are looking to win on the European Tour for the first time and the pair have only ever led once before on the European Tour. Saddier led the 2015 Trophée Hassan II after round one and Paisley led the Nordea Masters after the opening round in the same year. Saddier finished the week in 34th, Paisley 13th. Both men were beaten by eight strokes. They're in uncharted waters and they look vulnerable.

South African, Jacques Kruyswijk, who sits alone in third, hasn't yet won on the European Tour but he was right in-the-mix at the Joburg Open last year (traded at even money before finishing tied fourth) and the highly promising Zimbabwean, Scott Vincent, who only qualified for the tournament on Tuesday, are both attractively priced but I've invested a few pounds on the most obvious candidate -Branden Grace.

The pre-tournament favourite was matched at just [2.24] yesterday, as he skipped round Glendower in just 65 strokes (aided greatly by three eagles!), but he understandably backed that up with a more pedestrian effort today.

He spoke after the round about his frustration at not getting close enough with his approach shots to score well today and that he struggled with the change of pace on the greens but I suspect much of today's slowdown was merely a reaction to yesterday's round.

The leading pair have a handy advantage and if they settle well early on and both play nicely, they might take some catching but I suspect that won't happen and I fancy Grace to be right back in the argument by this time tomorrow. There's no real juice in his price but I was happy to have a small wager at [4.7].

12:00 - January 12, 2018

With three tournaments on the go this week, the EurAsia Cup is one I'm largely ignoring now, given it's on throughout the night. I fancied the Europeans to win the event with ease but after the opening day's fourballs Asia lead narrowly by 3 ½ to 2 ½.

The second round of the BMW SA Open is well underway and I haven't got involved in-play there yet either. My pre-event picks have been disappointing but I'll be back later with a look at the event once they reach the halfway stage.

Over in Hawaii, all four of my pre-tournament picks in the Sony Open shot opening three-under-par 67s to sit tied 20th and four adrift of the joint-leaders, Zach Johnson and Chris Kirk. Winners here have come from four, five and even six (Gomez two years ago) back after round one so they're certainly not out of it and I've added another to the portfolio too.

Brian Harman was my sole selection last week and he did me proud - contending all week before eventually finishing third. I thought he was short enough before the off this week at less than [30.0] but he looked a fair price this morning at [9.2] after an opening 64 yesterday in the slightly tougher afternoon conditions. He's just a stroke behind Johnson and Kirk and if he putts as well as he did yesterday for the rest of the week it's hard to imagine him not contending. It's a very open-looking tournament (40 players within four strokes of the lead) so I've only a had a very small bet and I'll have another look after round two.

BMW SA Open Pre-Event Selections:
Mikko Korhonen @ [100.0]
Tapio Pulkkanen @ [150.0]
Austin Connelly @ [250.0]

In-Play Pick:
Branden Grace @ [4.7]

Sony Open Pre-Event Selections:
Daniel Berger @ [44.0]
Si Woo Kim @ [60.0]
Patton Kizzire @ [85.0]
Chris Stroud @ [160.0]

In-Play Picka:
Brian Harman @ [9.2]
Xander Schauffele @ [28.0]

EurAsia Cup Pre-Event Selections:
Alternative Handicap C - Team Europe -5.5 @ 15/8 (Sportsbook)
Top European Points Scorer - Paul Casey @ 15/2 (Sportsbook)

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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