The Punter's In-Play Blog: Is it third time lucky for odds-on Scheffler?

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler in action in the Bahamas

There's just one round to go at the Hero World Challenge so our man's back with his final in-running thoughts for the week here...

  • Scheffler shoots clear at Albany

  • New putter working wonders

  • Finau the play in the Without Scheffler market

12:15 - December 3, 2023

After a seven under-par 65 in round three, world number one, Scottie Scheffler, has eased three clear of the field at the Hero World Challenge. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:10

Scottie Scheffler -16 1.364/11
Matt Fitzpatrick -13 7.613/2
Justin Thomas -11 19.5
Collin Morikawa -10 34.033/1
Jordan Spieth -10 50.049/1
Jason Day -10 65.064/1
Tony Finau -10 70.069/1
-9 and 140.0139/1 bar

Having finished runner-up to Viktor Hovland in each of the last two editions, Scheffler is most definitely the man to beat this year now and his work with putting guru, Phil Kenyon, appears to have paid dividends.

In addition to working with Kenyon, the world number one has changed his putter, and his new wand is considerably shorter than the old one. He's gone form a 36" Scotty Cameron putter to one made by Olson, a relatively unknown bespoke manufacturer, that measures just 34.5, and he looks so much more comfortable on the greens than he did throughout the summer.

Having plummeted to just 161st in the rankings for Strokes Gained: Putting, Scheffler ranks third for that metric this week after three rounds and it's very hard to see him getting caught, although it wouldn't be one-off at this venue...

This is the eighth edition of the Hero World Challenge at Albany and four of the previous seven winners at this venue were in front with a round to go.

Jon Rahm was tied at the top through 54 holes before he claimed the title by four strokes in 2018, the first man to win here, Bubba Watson, was two clear in 2015, last year's champion, Viktor Hovland, was three clear after three rounds and Hideki Matsuyama clung on to win by two here in 2016, having led by seven after the third round but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen all sorts of drama here on a Sunday...

Charley Hoffman (2017) and Collin Morikawa (2021) both failed to convert five-stroke 54 hole leads so it's not been a great venue for clear leaders.

There is a very slight chance that the new putting technique breaks down under the pressure of leading and with so much trouble wide of the fairways, this isn't a place to go diving in at long odds-on, so I'm not remotely interested in playing Scheffler.

Although we've seen some very dramatic finishes here, there's every chance that Scheffler just runs away from the field, so the Betting W/O Scheffler market is one to look at and the one I like is Tony Finau each-way at 9/110.00 with three places.

That looks fractionally big given he's tied for fourth and just three behind Fitzpatrick in second.

He's also a big price in the outright market at 70.069/1 if Scheffler should slip up so I've had a tiny bet in the win market on the exchange too.

18:00 - December 2, 2023

Last week's Joburg Open winner, Dean Burmester, who was the 9.417/2 favourite before the off, was matched at as high as 370.0369/1 when he trailed by nine in a tie for 59th at the halfway stage of the South African Open but a sensational seven-under-par 65 in the softer morning conditions today have seen him move right back into contention.

Dean Burmester Joburg win.jpg

Burmester's 65 was the best round of the day by two strokes numerically but pre-event 36.035/1 chance, Jayden Schaper, shot 67 in the far tougher, faster, and firmer afternoon conditions and he's put himself in pole position to win his first title with a round to go.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:50.

Jayden Schaper -9 5.04/1
Ryan Van Velzen -9 8.415/2
Louis De Jager -8 7.413/2
Dean Burmester -7 5.69/2
Matti Schmid -7 12.5
Francesco Laporta -7 18.017/1
Jesper Svensson -7 18.017/1
David Ravetto -7 20.019/1
Matteo Mabassero -7 23.022/1
Renato Paratore -6 40.039/1
Oliver Bekker -5 70.069/1
Jacques De Villiers -5 320.0319/1
-4 and 100.099/1 bar

Alongside Schaper is the pre-event 1000.0999/1 chance, Ryan Van Velzen, and the market may still be dismissing the 22-year-old too readily.

Co-leader and fellow 22-year-old, Schaper, is still in search of his first victory whereas Van Velzen has already tasted success four times in his homeland - twice on the Big Easy Tour, in 2020 and 2021, and twice this year on the Sunshine Tour.

The golfing world has been well aware of Schaper since he contended in this event way back in 2020 and he's a huge talent but he's yet to win in 94 career starts.

Watching him play today, one could only conclude that he'll be getting off the mark soon and that his future is bright but it's hard to make a case for backing Schaper at a price that's so much shorter than Van Velzen, when Van Velzen is in search of his fifth win in his 67th start.

Both the youngsters are likely to feel the pressure tomorrow and Burmester is a huge danger form just two back.

His price has been contracting all day and not just while he was on the course. With such an inexperienced bunch of leaders, playing for a big title in ever-toughening conditions, Shaper's score stood out this afternoon and as most of the leading pack trod water or went backwards, Burmester kept climbing the leaderboard.

It's never easy to back up a low score but following his victory at the Joburg Open last week, he'll be full of confidence tomorrow and odds in excess of 9/25.50 look more than fair.

Matti Schmid is another to consider. The young German is overdue a win and he did little wrong in Bermuda three weeks ago when finishing third to Camilo Villegas on the PGA Tour but this is a really tricky one to call with a round to go and an off the pace winner can't be ruled out.

Trailing by just four, Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Renato Paratore, is still in the argument, and I haven't completely given up on pre-event pick, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who trails by five in a tie for 13th.

If the course plays tough again tomorrow, and I see no reason why it shouldn't, the better players are going to be advantaged and if the front three wobble, Bez could soon find himself in-the-mix.

The third round of the Hero World Challenge is underway and live on Sky and I'll be back late tonight or first thing tomorrow with one last look at that event before the fourth and final round.

12:20 - December 2, 2023

The third round of the South African Open is underway and live on Sky and I'll be back later today with another look there at the close of play but for now I'm going to concentrate on the Hero World Challenge, which has reached the halfway stage, and the Australian Open, which has just one round remaining.

Here's the current state of play in the Bahamas with prices to back at 12:05.

Scottie Scheffler -9 2.6213/8
Jordan Spieth -9 4.84/1
Brian Harman -8 11.010/1
Justin Thomas -7 9.89/1
Collin Morikawa -6 11.010/1
Matt Fitzpatrick -6 19.018/1
Tony Finau -6 28.027/1
Sepp Straka -5 55.054/1
-4 and 65.064/1 bar

The world number one, Scottie Scheffler, who has finished runner-up here in his two previous tournament starts, is the understandably short favourite but I'm in no rush to side with him.

Viktor Hovland led by a stroke at halfway when he successfully defended the title last year and two other winners were tied for the lead at this stage, but the other four course winners were all trailing.

Bubba Watson, who won the first edition of the event staged at Albany in 2015, sat tied for fourth and one adrift after 36 holes but like the 2019 winner, Henrik Stenson, Hovland trailed by four at halfway when winning for the first time in 2021 and Rickie Fowler was five adrift at this stage in 2017.

With that in mind, I'm just going to stick with pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, who trails by three, and see what today brings. Scheffler is far and away the most likely winner but I'm not interested in backing him at less than 7/42.75.

There's just one round to go at the Australian Open and last week's first and second at the Australian PGA Championship - Min Woo Lee and Rikuya Hoshino - are tied at the top after the odds-on jolly, Lee, failed to kick on, having led by three at halfway. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:10.

Min Woo Lee -13 2.6813/8
Rikuya Hoshino -13 5.79/2
Patrick Rodgers -12 8.615/2
Alex Fitzpatrick -12 10.519/2
Lucas Herbert -11 11.010/1
-9 and 34.033/1 bar

There's every chance that Lee will regroup overnight and kick on tomorrow and double up after last week's victory and last week's runner-up, Hoshino, can't be underestimated either.

Min Woo Lee wins Aussie PGA.jpg

The 27-year-old already has six Japan Tour wins to his name and he's clearly in-form but I can't help but think the value sits with Alex Fitzpatrick and Lucas Herbert with a round to go.

Patrick Rodgers, who sits alongside Fitzpatrick, is generally a poor performer in contention and with a gap of two to the remainder, it's highly likely that one of the front five take the title.

If Lee doubles up sobeit but I was happy to dutch Fitzpatrick and Herbert for tiny stakes.

19:05 - December 1, 2023

The second round of the Hero World Challenge is well underway and live on Sky and I'll take a look at that event at the halfway stage but here are the 36-hole leaderboards with prices to back at 19:00 for the two DP World Tour events.

Australian Open
Min Woo Lee -12 1.784/5
Patrick Rodgers -9 16.015/1
Connor Syme -9 22.021/1
Joaquin Niemann -8 11.010/1
Jhonattan Vegas -8 44.043/1
Sam Brazel -8 120.0119/1
-7 and 34.033/1 bar

South African Open
Jesper Svensson -9 8.07/1
Casey Jarvis -8 12.011/1
Matteo Manassero -8 20.019/1
Joakim Lagergren -8 22.021/1
Frederic Lacroix -7 14.013/1
David Ravetto -7 22.021/1
Ryan Van Velzen -7 34.033/1
Matti Schmid -6 11.010/1
Romain Langasque -6 13.012/1
Hennie Du Plessis -6 14.013/1
Louis De Jager -6 16.5
Oliver Bekker -6 22.021/1
-5 and 40.039/1 bar

Having been matched at a low of just 2.35/4, the first-round leader at the Australian Open, Cam Davis, has tumbled down the leaderboard after a three-over par 75 around the Australian Golf Course in round two and he now sits tied for 16th - trailing by six!

In stark contrast, last week's Australian PGA Championship winner, Min Woo Lee, followed up his opening five-under-par 67 around The Lakes with a fantastic seven-under-par 64 at the Australian which was signed off in style with this ridiculous eagle at the par five 18th and leading by three, he's clearly the man to beat now.

I haven't been following the event so I'm reluctant to get too involved but I did think Jhonattan Vegas was fractionally over-priced at 46.045/1.

I've had a tiny bet on the 39-year-old Venezuelan, who's won three times on the PGA Tour but other than that, I'm more than happy to leave the event alone.

Over at the South African Open, the market leaders after round one - Dean Burmester and Christiaan Bezuidenhout - both shot two-over-par 74s and the tournament looks wide-open.

Pre-event 170.0169/1 chance, Jesper Svenson, leads on -9 but there are as many as 24 players within five of the Challenge Tour graduate's lead and it looks a devilishly hard event to work out.

Somewhat annoyingly, last week's 290.0289/1 Find me a 100 Winner picks - Matteo Manassero - is one of three players tied for second but two of this week's three column picks are just about in-contention too.

Neil Schietekat was a big disappointment, backing up yesterday's one-under-par 71 with an 81 today to miss the cut but both Renato Paratore and Deon Germishuys sit tied for 15th and five off the lead after shooting 69-71 over the first two days.

The first three home at both this event last year and the Blair Atholl Championship in 2021 were never more than four strokes off the lead after any round and Thriston Lawrence won this event wire-to-wire 12 months ago, suggesting Paratore and Germishuys are too far back, but given they're the only two previous events staged here, I'm not sure we can give the stats too much credence.

This is a long venue with quite a disparity in scores but we have seen a couple of seven-under-par 65s already this week so low scores are out there and someone making a huge move from off the pace on Moving Day tomorrow can't be ruled out.

With that in mind, I've thrown a few pounds at another of last week's Find Me a 100 Winner picks - Dale Whitnell - who sits ted for 26th and six back.

The Englishman has plenty to do but he looks reasonably priced at 225/1226.00 each-way on the Sportsbook.

16:55 - November 30, 2023

With two events being played on the DP World Tour and Tiger Woods hosting the Hero World Challenge, there's plenty going on this week but I'm ignoring the Australian Open so far.

Cam Davis heads the market at just 2/13.00 after his opening nine-under-par 63 around The Lakes Course but on -5, last week's winner, Min Woo Lee, is certainly within range, and I'm more than happy to leave the event alone.

I haven't seen any of the action live and there's more than enough going on in South Africa and the Bahamas.

The first round of the Hero World Challenge, which I've previewed here, has only just started but having backed Collin Morikawa on Monday, I've already added one more.

The US Open winner, Wyndham Clark, who was generally a 22/123.00 shot on the High Street, drifted out to 30.029/1 before the off and I couldn't ignore that price.

As highlighted in the preview, debutants have a very fair record and I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see Clark take to Albany but at the time of writing, he's played his first three holes in one-over-par.

Over at the South African Open, one of my two pre-event picks - Ewen Ferguson - was a huge disappointment - but my other pick - Christiaan Bezuidenhout - who drifted all the way out to 25.024/1 (and plenty was matched at that price too), played some lovely golf today.

He finished up shooting a four-under-par 68 to sit three off Joakim Lagergren's lead but if the putter had behaved, he'd be leading himself.

Joakin Lagergren.jpg

As highlighted in the Market Leaders section of the preview, I had a notion that last week's Joburg Open winner, Dean Burmester, might have a slow day today and he shot two-under par.

This course is so long it really should play into the hands of the likes of Burmester, who hits it a country mile of the tee, and he finished fifth last year after a slow start (sat tied for 45th at halfway).

I'm tempted to get him onside before round two but I'm going to wait and see if he drifts a bit this evening first.

At 10.09/1, he's only fractionally bigger than he was before the off and that doesn't look overly generous, although the likes of Bez, Burmester and the defending champ, Thriston Lawrence, should make up plenty of ground in the morning.

The opening round has only just finished, so we haven't got the definitive AM-PM split for the day yet, but it very much looks like the early starters had the better of the conditions today.

Hero World Challenge Pre-Event Picks:
Collin Morikawa @ 9.417/2
Wyndham Clark @ 30.029/1 (added on Thursday before the start)

South African Open Pre-Event Picks:
Christiaan Bezuidenhout @ 22.021/1
Ewen Ferguson @ 28.027/1

In-Play Pick:
Dale Whitnell (each-way) @ 225/1226.00

Australian Open In-Play Picks:
Jhonattan Vegas @ 46.045/1
Alex Fitzpatrick @ 11.010/1
Lucas Herbert @ 11.010/1

South African Open Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
2u Renato Paratore @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
2u Deon Germishuys @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
1.5u Neil Schietekat @ 200.0199/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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