The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Phoenix Open set for thrilling finale

Golfer Nick Taylor
Nick Taylor is hanging around at the top in Arizona alongside Sahith Theegala.

Matt Cooper stands in for Steve Rawlings this week and he takes a look ahead at the final round of the Phoenix Open...

  • Taylor and Theegala tussling at the top

  • Hat-trick chasing World No. 1 two shots back

  • Scheffler was one back, putted into bunker

19:10 - February 11, 2024

With all the delays, the players completed their third rounds and went more or less immediately back out onto the course for the final round so this week's final entry will necessarily be brief.

Here are the scores and prices when the final group in round three went to sign cards at 19:10:

Sahith Theegala -15 3.8514/5
Nick Taylor -15 6.25/1
Charley Hoffman -14 (thru 1) 15.5
Andrew Novak -13 15.5
Scottie Scheffler -13 3.953/1
Cameron Young -13 9.617/2
Sam Burns -12 (1) 12.011/1
Kurt Kitayama -12 (1) 25.024/1
-11 and 27.026/1 bar

Here are a few pre-final round stats (reader, we'' leave it to you to judge to what extent the messy nature of Sunday's action makes these stats more or less noteworthy!).

Of the last 28 winners at TPC Scottsdale, all of them were tied eighth or better on the 54-hole leaderboard. 24 were tied fourth or better.

In terms of shots off the lead, 26 of the 28 were within four blows and 24 within three.

Also? Take heart all, Scheffler made bogey at his 54th hole after doing this:

09:25 - February 11, 2024

The action on the golf course has been pretty chaotic at this week's Phoenix Open and the leaders have still played only 42 holes. The action off it was pretty wild as well yesterday with fan behaviour so unruly that alcohol sales were curtailed.

Sahith Theegala was superb in the second round and has defied the worst half of the draw. He opened the third round with two dropped shots and retrieved one before the end of play.

The first round pace-setter Nick Taylor has hung tough and contends for a second year in a row. Here's the state of play overnight and prices to back at 09:25.

Nick Taylor -13 (thru 6) 5.95/1
Sahith Theegala -12 (6) 5.24/1
Doug Ghim -11 (7) 17.016/1
Andrew Novak -11 (6) 28.027/1
Jordan Spieth -10 (9) 7.413/2
Harris English -9 (15) 75.074/1
Davis Thompson -9 (10) 80.079/1
Charley Hoffman -9 (9) 65.064/1
Cameron Young -9 (9) 19.018/1
-8 and 8.27/1 bar

Beware some of those prices - the big group on 8-under includes 2022 and 2023 champion Scottie Scheffler who is 8.27/1 and Justin Thomas who is 18.017/1. It all adds to the mess.

Spieth is lurking and looking for the a first win in nearly two years. He was fourth at TPC Scottsdale in 2021 when the 54-hole co-leader and sixth 12 months ago. He also opened his tournament account with a pair of top 10s back in 2015 and 2017.

I suspect there is little to this, but in those first two starts he carded 65 and 67 in the final round. In his last three visits his fourth round scores were 72, 73 and 70.

Harris English is on a tear. He was third on the course in 2016, ninth two years before that (when in contention most of the week) and T16th in 2020. But the market is confident that players with between nine and 12 holes left to play will stretch further clear of him (and other likes Scheffler and Thomas pass him).

I'll jump in between rounds later today with a last look at prices.

15:00 - February 10, 2024

We could be set for a Sunday morning treat in the Qatar Masters. Grab yourself a bacon butty / croissant / avocado on toast / whatever is your fancy and settle back to watch what has the potential to be a wonderful cavalry charge for the line.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard and prices to back at 15:00.

Ugo Coussaud -10 11.010/1
Rasmus Hojgaard -10 3.613/5
Rikuya Hoshino -10 6.05/1
Niklas Norgaard -9 13.012/1
Tom McKibbin -9 9.08/1
Ewen Ferguson -9 10.519/2
Sam Bairstow -8 30.029/1
Paul Waring -8 30.029/1
Ashun Wu -7 42.041/1
Jorge Campillo -7 36.035/1
Haydn Barron -7 15.014/1
-6 and 17.016/1 bar

Consider this: 16 of the last 100 winners of regular events (i.e. non American or WGC) events on the DP World Tour were at least four blows back at this stage - and this is a more cramped leaderboard than is typical.

It's most likely that the winner will emerge from the group above, not least because 23 of the 24 winners at Doha GC were within three shots of the lead after three rounds, but it could be any of them.

Hojgaard has the potential to be the highest class of them (if he isn't already) and he has played the best golf over the last 36 holes after a sluggish start.

Ferguson and Campillo are past champions on the course, McKibbin, Waring and Wu are tour winners, Coussaud, Norgaard and Bairstow are recent Challenge Tour graduates, Barron was the 36-hole leader, and Hoshino is a six-time winner on the Japan Tour (most recently in October 2022).

Speaking personally, but addressing a typical punter's dilemma, I was exceptionally close to picking Bairstow for Find Me a 100 Winner or even in the each-way column and the danger in such circumstances is that you can end up muddling frustration with a true sense of the updated odds.

I did put up Campillo in the each-way column and he's in shape to have another good week but he's made a lot of clumsy errors too.

Rain is forecast to soften the course up and the wind is not expected to gust. That suggests a low round will be required and possibly a longer carry from the tee.

Norgaard, Coussard and Hojgaard are the biggest hitters on the front page, Bairstow is a sneaky one a little further back and if it was blowing I'd be more tempted to bite (he has recent experience and fine results on the links as an amateur). Ultimately I'll hope that Campillo lights the fuse.

I'll be back tomorrow morning to take a look at the state of the Phoenix Open.

09:30 - February 10, 2024

They've hit the weekend at the Phoenix Open but the tournament is still in catch up mode. Sahith Theegala, who led for a big chunk of Thursday and is 6-under, is yet to tee off in his second round and he's one of 32 players in that situation (most are unlikely to play 54 holes at the weekend because they're well down the scoring - those playing lots of golf yesterday undoubtedly caught the best of conditions so far).

The third round will start as soon as possible after the second round ends. Here's the leaderboard and prices to back at 09:30.

Andrew Novak -12 19.018/1
Nick Taylor -12 8.615/2
Maverick McNealy -10 25.024/1
Doug Ghim -9 29.028/1
Scottie Scheffler -8 5.79/2
Justin Thomas -8 9.08/1
Cameron Young -8 23.022/1
Ryan Fox -8 (thru 15) 40.039/1
-7 and 9.28/1 bar

Novak has missed the cut in all three of his 2024 starts, hasn't made a top 30 since June last year and has a best of ninth (achieved twice) on the PGA Tour.

The most recent of those top finishes was in the Canadian Open when he was second after 54 holes and among those passed by an on-fire Nick Taylor in the final round. Doug Ghim was T12th that week so it's a bit of a reunion.

Pre-event favourite Scheffler continues to love the course and tournament as he chases the three-peat. He also currently averages a touch under 66 in the third round. Ominous for the field.

Thomas changed putter between his first two rounds. He'd ranked 99th (-1.06) for Strokes Gained Putting before the Friday lunchtime switch and after it gained 1.89 to leap to seventh in the category for the tournament.

He's yet to win this event but in his last five starts he has two thirds, a fourth (last year), an eighth and a T13th. Six of his last seven post-cut rounds have been sub 69 (including two 65s and a 64). He was, however, very tired after his round and grumbling about his inability to convert more birdie opportunities.

Theegala will play a lot of golf on Saturday and starts it priced 9.28/1.

Let's hope they can get through plenty of golf on Saturday and provide a more straightforward prospect ahead of the final day/round. I'll be back this afternoon with the pre-Sunday round-up from the Qatar Masters.

21:30 - February 9, 2024

The first round of the Phoenix Open is finally complete and the second round started immediately so it remains a messy situation. Rather than post immediately out-of-date info about the leaders and price I'll post a few notes.

The Canadian Nick Taylor thrashed a brilliant 60 to lead on 11-under after round one and it was all the more remarkable because prior to last year he'd played the event eight times with a best finish of T49th. In 24 rounds through that spell he'd gone sub-70 just three times.

Since then he's 5-for-5 at carding scores in the 60s. Rounds of 66-69-67-65 almost saw him break Scottie Scheffler 12 months ago but he came up just short and was second.

This was his third PGA Tour first round solo lead to go with one shared advantage. He won the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am from this position but fell outside the top 25 on the other two occasions.

It's debatable what rounds stats are worth when the tournament becomes fractured like this one is but, for what it's worth, this event is one that does not necessarily require a fast start.

Of the last 28 winners, eight were outside the top 20 after 18 holes and nine were at least five strokes back of the lead.

I'll be back in the morning with another update from Phoenix.

14:45 February 9, 2024

Two Australians made moves in the second round of the Qatar Masters. Haydn Barron leads on 9-under after carding a 67, and heading into the weekend he's two clear of compatriot Harrison Endycott and Japan's Rikuya Hoshino who both shot 68.

Here's the 36-hole leaderboard and prices to back at 14:45.

Haydn Barron -9 10.519/2
Harrison Endycott -8 11.521/2
Rikuya Hoshino -8 8.27/1
Zander Lombard -7 8.27/1
Niklas Norgaard -7 13.012/1
-6 and 8.615/2 bar

Barron, who turned 29 yesterday, has quite a back story. He turned pro in late 2019, Covid blocked his touring options, then he was let go go the club he was working at, turned to greenkeeping and it began to look like that would be his future.

But he dug deep, gave it another go, holed a bunker shot at the 2022 Australian Open to win a spot in last summer's Open and returned to Europe to earn a tour card later in the year.

Four starts in, T47th last week in Bahrain is his best finish but he's ridden the wave of carding a 67 on Sunday. His weekend task is a significant one.

Endycott, two years Barron's junior, won on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022, struggled last year but is utilising the five spots in DP World Tour fields that his PGA Tour category allows.

He reported last week in Bahrain that he had his coach out with him in the States last month, feels confident, is enjoying seeing the world and it hasn't escaped his attention that Dylan Frittelli revived his career last week while playing with the same status.

The large group on 6-under includes Rasmus Hojgaard, now 8.615/2 who was matched at between 38.037/1 and 48.047/1 before getting back into the hunt with a Friday 66 - and someone had £7 matched at 1000.0999/1.

Impressive youngsters Keita Nakakima (Japan), Tom McKibbin (Northern Ireand) and Daniel Hillier (New Zealand) are on the same number, as is the English rookie Sam Bairstow who is 6-for-7 at making the cut this season and relishing playing at this new level.

09:10 - February 9, 2024

A messy start at TPC Scottsdale with bad weather forcing a delay midway through Thursday's action and consequently the afternoon marquee groups have only completed five or six holes of their opening laps and the latest starters only managed a couple.

I'll back with a fuller look at the market when everyone has signed their first round cards but the mess will unfortunately kick on into Friday.

A brief look for now then. He's the leaderboard at the end of the day and prices to back at 09:10.

Sahith Theegala -6 9.08/1
Andrew Novak -5 (thru 9) 100.099/1
Shane Lowry -4 23.022/1
S H Kim -4 70.069/1
Jordan Spieth -3 16.015/1
Nick Taylor -3 (thru 6) 55.054/1
Cameron Young -3 (thru 5) 16.015/1

A bold seven birdie start for Sahith Theegala who came agonisingly close to winning thie title two years ago. He led through 36 and 54 holes, and looked set to lift the trophy until his drive at 17 caught a bad kick and ricochetted into the water.

A first-time PGA Tour winner in September, the Californian opened the season with second place in The Sentry and was T20th last week at Pebble Beach.

It's a second successive good start for Shane Lowry who was tied fourth after 18 holes at Torrey Pines before slipping back to T25th.

The Irishman also appears on track to reverse a course record that is far from bad but which was trending in the wrong direction: he was sixth in 2016, T16th a year later, T65th in 2018 and missed the cut in 2023.

Rather bizarrely he even maintained that odd direction by posting his lowest course score (65) to grab the first round lead on debut eight years ago and carded his worst effort (76) to confirm the early departure 12 months ago.

Scottie Scheffler, on a quest to complete a tournament three-peat, is 1-under through six holes and retains favouritism at 6.05/1.

I'll back later today with updates from both here and in Qatar.

15:30 - February 8, 2024

It's been a rough year-and-a-bit for China's Ashun Wu. The four-time DP World Tour winner has failed to register even one top 10 since late 2022 and had just one top 40 finish in 16 starts before carding a bogey-free 5-under-par 67 in the Qatar Masters.

As George Formby didn't quite sing: "Said Mr Wu, 'What shall I do?' And Mr. Wu's a first round leader now."

The 37-year-old was out early on Thursday morning and was joined in top spot by afternoon starter Zander Lombard. Here are the first round leaders and prices to back at 15:30.

Ashun Wu -5 36.035/1
Zander Lombard -5 5.49/2
Jaco Prsinloo -4 48.047/1
Niklas Norgaard -4 14.013/1
Clement Sordet -4 50.049/1
Hayden Barron -4 42.041/1
-3 and 14.013/1 bar

Wu held a one stroke 18-hole lead when he won the 2018 KLM Open but it is his only win (and one of only two top five finishes) from 15 occasions when he has been tied third or better at this stage.

Moreover, the last four times he's been top three after one round he's followed up with scores of 76-72-72-76 and dropped at least four blows behind the halfway lead. He's also looking for a first top 25 finish in Doha in his fifth visit.

The South African Lombard is in familiar territory. He arrived in Qatar off the back of eight consecutive top 25 finishes and it is the 13th time in 17 Desert Swing rounds that he been sitting inside the top 10.

It remains the case, however, that he's had nine top three finishes on the DP World Tour and is yet to lift a trophy. His course record is just like Wu's: four visits before this year and he is yet to end the week in the top 25.

Pre-tournament favourite Rasmus Hojgaard shot 73 and is now 38.037/1. Northern Ireland's Tom McKibbin is just two back after a 69 and is 14.013/1.

If the players you backed are not yet on the first page of the leaderboard don't panic. There have been 26 editions of this tournament at Doha GC and three of the winners were seven shots adrift of top spot at this stage.

They were Sergio Garcia (T60th in 2014), Ernie Els (T81st in 2005) and Joakim Haeggman (T113rd in 2004). The first two were still seven back at halfway. Another five of the eventual winners were five back after 18 holes.

I'll be back tomorrow morning with a look at the early action in the Phoenix Open.

Phoenix Open - Dave Tindall's Each-Way Picks:
Hideki Matsuyama @ 33/134.00
Adam Hadwin @ 50/151.00
Erik Van Rooyen @ 100/1101.00

Qatar Masters - My Each-Way Picks:
Jorge Campillo @ 45/146.00
Thriston Lawrence @ 22/123.00
Dylan Frittelli @ 70/171.00

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Adrian Otaegui @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Daan Huizing @ 180.0179/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Tom Hoge @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

Golf Tips: Experts' Phoenix Open and Qatar Masters best bets


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