There's just one round to go at the South African Open and pre-tournament favourite, Louis Oosthuizen, leads by three. Read our man's final thoughts on the event before tomorrow's fourth and final round here...
“We saw today with a number of players, including the leader, Charl Schwartzel, that things can unravel quickly and I’m happy to take Oosty and Schwartzel on.”
17:25 - December 08, 2018
A strong and persistent wind resulted in a tough third day at the South African Open and halfway leader, Charl Schwartzel, was one of a number of contenders to fail to break par in round three. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:15.
Louis Oosthuizen -14 [1.59]
Matt Wallace -11 [6.6]
Charl Schwartzel -11 [8.4]
Madalitso Muthiya -11 [36.0]
Branden Grace -8 [50.0]
Ernie Els -8 [150.0]
-8 and [250.0] bar
After a brilliant display of putting today, Louis Oosthuizen has given himself a cracking chance of winning his national title and his first event since the Perth International in February 2016. He was leading by three with a round to go at that event too but he only won by a solitary stroke and I can see why he's a much bigger price on the exchange than he is on the High St.
Louis has led or co-led 14 72-hole events worldwide but he's only successfully converted on seven occasions and prior to his victory in Australia last time he led, he'd failed to convert on five of the previous six occasion he'd led or co-led. In his defence, they were all big events (including the Open Championship and the WGC HSBC Champions) but even so, he lost a Houston Open, having led by two, a Deutsche Bank Championship, that he'd led by three, and he fell from tied first to 11th at the 2014 Byron Nelson Championship.
We saw today with a number of players, including the leader, Charl Schwartzel, that things can unravel quickly and I'm happy to take Oosty and Schwartzel on.
I backed Matt Wallace before the off and I've added Madalitso Muthiya, Branden Grace and Ernie Els rather than lay Oosthuizen and Schwartzel. If the leader does wobble, Grace and Ernie are more than capable of putting in a low round to pinch it but I'd love to see Muthiya win. The pre-tournament [1000.0] chance's biggest cheque to date is only £10k. Him winning would be some story.
The second round of the QBE Shootout has just begun but I'm happy to leave the event alone for now.
17:25 - December 07, 2018
We started out yesterday morning with a bumper field of 240 at the South African Open but heading in to the weekend it looks to be between just a handful of players. The cream has risen to the top and home hero, Charl Schwartzel, is showing the way after an eight-under-par second round around the Bushwillow Course this morning. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:20.
Charl Schwartzel -12 [3.35]
Madalitso Muthiya -11 [34.0]
Louis Oosthuizen -10 [4.0]
Kurt Kitayama -10 [9.6]
Zander Lombard -10 [18.0]
Jbe Kruger -9 [42.0]
Mark Williams -9 [80.0]
Branden Grace -8 [10.0]
Matt Wallace -8 [10.0]
-7 and [50.0] bar
After a four-under-par 67 around the tougher Firethorn Course yesterday, Schwartzel didn't really make rapid progress on the front-nine this morning. He made the turn on -6 after the obligatory birdie at the easy par five first and another at the par four fifth. He was on the fringes of contention but nothing more but he blasted home in just 30 strokes, thanks in part to this brilliant eagle at the 17th.
Good friends, Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, understandably dominate the market but I'm happy to swerve them. This title is one that they'd both love to claim but it's been illusive so far and might well be again. Schwartzel has twice before looked certain to win the event before messing up late on and if forced to pick one over the other, I'd go for Louis but he's looking for just his second title in almost five years so he's hardly prolific and he could have issues of his own as the winning line approaches.
Branden Grace could soon make up the four strokes he trails by if the putter works a bit better over the weekend but again, we need to factor in what a big deal winning his national title is going to be and it's hard to see him as a value price given who's ahead of him and how far he trails.
Having backed Matt Wallace before the off and both Kurt Kitayama and Zander Lombard in-running yesterday, I've already got three in-the-mix so I'm going to leave the event alone for now and see what tomorrow brings.
The weather forecast suggests we might get some storms in the afternoon so they'll be laying in three-balls tomorrow and Sky's coverage starts earlier than originally advertised, at 07:30 UK and Ireland time.
The QBE Shootout has only just started so I'll look at that one tomorrow after the opening round.
18:25 - December 06, 2018
The first round of the South African Open has finished and the cream has already risen to the top with pre-event favourite, Louis Oosthuizen, showing the way after shooting a nine-under-par 62 around the Bushwillow this morning.
Although Oosthuizen leads by one, last week's winner, Kurt Kitayama, is only one behind, after he shot an eight-under-par 63 around the more difficult Firethorn and he gets to play the Bushwillow Course in the morning. The Firethorn averaged 72.9 today and the Bushwillow only 70.35 so that's a sizable differential of more than two and half strokes.
I backed Kitayama in-running today at [16.0] and I'm glad I did. He was really impressive last week and looks like one for the future. He could easily bounce tomorrow (I've seen a few winners play well in round one the week after they've won but then struggle) but I he's arguably the one in front given the scoring differential. We haven't seen anyone win consecutive events on the European Tour since Justin Rose did it more than a year ago but it's interesting to note that the last person to win the Mauritius Open at the Four Seasons, Jeunghun Wang in May 2016, had won the week before in Morocco. Maybe Kitayama will win the week after?
I've also had a very small bet on Zander Lombard, who also played the tougher Firethorn today. He trails Oosthuizen by two.
Of my pre-event picks, Matt Wallace has started okay, shooting six-under around the Bushwillow Course to sit tied for fifth and three off the lead and Tapio Pulkkanen was also doing okay there but he finished bogey-double-bogey-par to fall from -5 to -2. And my other pick, Grant Forrest, looks out of it already after a disappointing one-over-par around Bushwillow.
The QBE Shootout doesn't start until tomorrow, and I've previewed the event here, but I have now got a couple of pairings onside - see below.
South Africa Open Pre-Event Selections:
Matt Wallace @ [14.0]
Tapio Pulkkanen @ [90.0]
Grant Forrest @ [160.0]
Kurt Katayama @ [16.0]
Zander Lombard @ [26.0]
Madalitso Muthiya -11 [50.0]
Branden Grace -8 [55.0]
Ernie Els -8 [150.0]
QBE Shootout Pre-Event Selections:
O'Hair/Stricker @ [18.0]
Donald/Landry @ [60.0]
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