The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Olesen clear in the desert

Golfer Thorbjorn Olesen
Thorbjorn Olesen in action in round three

There's just one round to go at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship so Steve's back with his latest in-running thoughts...

  • Danes dominate in the desert

  • Rasmus sits second as he attempts to emulate Nicolai

  • Olesen impossible to oppose

17:35 - January 27, 2024

There's just one round to go at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and it looks like a done deal. Here's the leaderboard with prices to back at 17:30.

Thorbjorn Olesen -22 1.321/3
Rasmus Hojgaard -18 5.39/2
Frederic Lacroix -16 42.041/1
-15 and 95.094/1 bar

This is going to be short and sweet.

Thorbjorn Olesen is six from seven when he's held a clear lead on the DP World Tour and since 1996, four-stroke leaders on the DP World Tour have a 70% strike rate.

The leader's price is perfectly fair and it's very hard to see him losing.

Rasmus Hojgaard, who's twin brother, Nicolai, won the event two years ago, is the big danger but he needs to start finding a few more fairways and it's a no bet heat for me now. It looks like a done deal.

10:20 - January 27, 2024

The third round of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship is underway and live on Sky and I'll be back later today with a look at that one with a round to go but there's just one round to go at the Farmers Insurance Open so that's the one I'll concentrate on for now.

Despite none of the four 36-hole leaders breaking par in round three around the South Course yesterday, they still occupy the first four spots on the leaderboard so here's the latest state of play with prices to back at 10:15.

Stephan Jaeger -11 4.77/2
Nicolai Hojgaard -10 5.14/1
Matthieu Pavon -10 8.615/2
Thomas Detry -9 15.5
Taylor Montgomery -8 22.021/1
Taylor Pendrith -8 28.027/1
Jake Knapp -8 48.047/1
Trace Crowe -8 55.054/1
Joe Highsmith -8 55.054/1
Xander Schauffele -7 16.015/1
Ludvig Aberg -7 19.5
Tony Finau -7 25.024/1
Will Zalatoris -7 38.037/1
Emiliano Grillo -7 55.054/1
-7 and 100.099/1 bar

As highlighted yesterday, debutants have a poor record in this event so that's still against the two men tied for second - Mattieu Pavon and Nicolai Hojgaard - and I'm in no rush to side with any of the leaders given how many off the pace winners we get here.

Patrick Reed and Justin Rose are the only two 54-hole leaders to go on to win since Tiger Woods converted a four-stroke advantage 11 years ago and the last two winners have both trailed by five after three rounds.

Stephan Jaeger at the farmers.jpg

With all that in mind, its impossible not to be drawn to the class acts sitting in a tie for tenth - Xander Schauffele, Ludvig Aberg, Tony Finau and Will Zalatoris.

Aberg has never played here before, and the stats suggest that's a big disadvantage. That puts me off a bit but if Jon Rahm can win here on debut, Aberg certainly can too.

Schauffele and Finau will be better suited to coming from off the pace but it's Zalatoris that interests me at a big price this morning.

It's fantastic to see him playing so well after back surgery and this is somewhere he really likes given he finished seventh here in 2021 and that he lost a playoff here two years ago.

I've had a small top up on Finau at 25.024/1, who I backed yesterday, I've added Zalatoris at 38.037/1 and I've backed one more at a whopping price...

Sweden's Vincent Norrman has already won on the PGA Tour, at the Barbasol Championship last July, and he won the Irish Open on the DP World Tour in September having sat tied for 21st and six off the pace with a round to go.

Vincent Norrman wins Barbasol.jpg

He's one of those tied for 19th and five adrift so he needs something special but I'm happy to chance him at 210.0209/1.

14:45 - January 25, 2024

The Hojgaard twins are playing on different Tours this week but at the halfway stage of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship on the DP World Tour and the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour, both men are bang in-contention. Here are the two leaderboards with prices to back at 14:35.

Ras Al Khaimah Championship
Rasmus Hojgaard -14 3.02/1
Manuel Elvira -14 11.521/2
Thorbjorn Olesen -13 5.79/2
Callum Shinkwin -13 12.011/1
Zander Lombard -12 9.417/2
Fabrizio Zanotti -11 70.069/1
-10 and 46.045/1 bar

Farmers Insurance Open
Stephan Jaeger -12 5.79/2
Nicolai Hojgaard -11 5.95/1
Thomas Detry -10 17.5
Matthieu Pavon -10 18.017/1
Tony Finau -9 8.88/1
Michael Kim -9 21.020/1
Emiliano Grillo -8 40.039/1
Aaron Rai -8 44.043/1
Joseph Bramlett -8 75.074/1
Xander Schauffele -7 12.5
-7 and 29.028/1 bar

The first-round leader, Callum Shinkwin, started his second round slowly at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, although he rallied late on to post a three-under-par 69, Manuel Elvira - the younger brother of Nacho - matched Shinkwin's ten-under-par 62 to hit the front, and he was joined shortly after by fellow afternoon starters, Rasmus Hojgaard.

Unsurprisingly, Rasmus is now a firm favourite and up with the pace should be the place to be if past results at Al Hamra are any sort of gauge.

Including the three Challenge Tour events, there have been six tournaments staged here and five of the six winners were within two strokes at halfway. And had Adrian Meronk won the playoff at the Ras Al Khaimah Challenge in 2017, instead of Jens Dantorp, who sat 24th and six adrift after 36 holes, it would have been six from six.

After two benign days, the forecast suggests we're going to get much of the same tomorrow before the wind picks up on Sunday so we can expect more low scoring tomorrow, which won't help the chasers.

The front six are separated by four strokes and I'd be very surprised if one of them didn't go on to win.

The pre-event favourite, Rasmus, who's aiming to emulate his brother, Nicolai, who won here two years ago, is clearly the man to beat but it's maybe worth remembering that he was also tied for the lead at halfway last year before weekend rounds of 68 and 73 saw him finish sixth.

Zander Lombard is very much a course specialist here, with form figures reading 57-3-2 but he has to overcome the memory of shooting level par on Sunday 12 months ago having led with a round to go and of the first three in the betting at the halfway stage, Thorbjorn Olesen, is my idea of the best bet but he'll have to improve his putting.

Olesen ranks 83rd for Strokes Gained: Putting and 104th for Putting Average after two rounds so I'm happy to continue to cheer on pre-event pick, Shinkwin, who may improve tomorrow.

It's never easy to back up a low round so it shouldn't have been surprising to see him start slowly today (+1 after seven) and tomorrow's another day.

Over on the PGA Tour, with just two rounds to go, the Farmers Insurance Open still looks a tough tournament to call.

The leaderboard is dominated by four Europeans but I'm in no rush to side with any of them.

The leader, Stephan Jaegar, has never led at this stage on the PGA Tour but on the five occasions he was in front on the Korn Ferry Tour, he's fared OK, finishing 11th, first, first second and second but in front isn't the place to be in this event if the stats are to be believed.

The last two winners have trailed by six and four strokes respectively and Justin Rose in 2019 is the only 36-hole leader or co-leader to lift the trophy since Tiger woods won from the front 11 years ago.

As well as they've both played to date, I'm going to overlook both Nicolai Hojgaard and Matthieu Pavon on account of this being their first appearances here.

Debutants have a deplorable record and Jon Rahm, who as it transpired, has developed into something of a South Course specialist, is the only winner in the 57 years that the Farmers Insurance Open has been played at Torrey Pines to win on debut. That's quite a stat to overcome.

Given Thomas Detry just doesn't win, virtually by default, the most likely winner at halfway is Tony Finau, and I was happy to have a tiny bet on him but I can see there being plenty of change on the leaderboard today and I'm happy to keep most of my powder dry for now.

Tony Finau in Mexico.jpg

Off the pace winners here are extremely common. As many as ten of the last 11 winners have been trailing at halfway and in that time, we've seen winners come from as far back as four strokes (x3), five strokes (x3), six strokes (x2) and even eight strokes adrift at this stage.

14:25 - January 25, 2024

The first round of the Ras Al Khaimah Championship is now complete, and it's been a strange start.

As highlighted in the preview, I was extremely bullish about the chances of Pablo Larrazabal this week, but his chance was gone before I got up this morning!

Starting nice and early at the tough tenth hole, he found water off the tee and made a double-bogey six. And he followed it with a bogey at 11.

The 40-year-old Spaniard didn't recover from the disastrous start and after a five-over-par 77 he sits tied for 127th, trailing the leader, Callum Shinkwin, who was my only other pick, by 15 strokes.

That's obviously a great start but I put far more cash on Pablo and I'm also mildly frustrated that Callum's price contracted as much as it did because it would have been nice to have been able to put him up as a Find Me a 100 Winner pick.

As mentioned in the Find Me a 100 Winner column, both this week's selections are in the Farmers Insurance Open - Justin Rose, who shot -3 around the North Course, and Taylor Moore, who recovered nicely after a slow start to post two-under around the South Course - but I did mention Jorge Campillo at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship.

Other than the fact that he'd played very well at Doha a couple of times (a course, like this week's venue, Al Hamra, that's designed by Peter Harradine), it was hard to make a strong case for the Spaniard.

He hasn't play brilliantly since finishing runner-up to Sami Valimaki in Doha (lost in a play-off) at the end of October and his course form figures before this week read an underwhelming MC-42-61 but it feels and looks like somewhere that would suit him and I'm happy to side with him modestly at 60.059/1 after today's five-under-par 67.

Campillo had a sticky patch in the middle of his round to today, but he finished nicely with three straight birdies, and I can see him moving forward with a nice early start tomorrow.

Although the front three on the leaderboard, Shinkwin (-10), Brandon Stone (-8) and Richard Mansell (-8), all started their first rounds in the afternoon, there wasn't a huge draw bias (0.18 in favour of the PM wave).

Callum Shinkwin at the Ras al K.jpg

There doesn't look like there'll be much wind tomorrow morning so those drawn PM-AM may transpire to be marginally on the right side. They certainly don't look like they'll get the worst of it with a slight breeze predicted to pick up tomorrow afternoon and those drawn AM-PM might have their work cut out by the time they get to the course.

10:10 - January 25, 2024

The afternoon wave is now on the course at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, where the pre-event favourite, Rasmus Hojgaard, has started the event nicely, with a six-under-par 66.

Hojgaard's 66 was matched by Daan Huizing but it's Portugal's Ricardo Gouveia that shows the way following a seven-under-par 65.

With perfect conditions embracing the latter starters, it's far from certain that Gouveia will remain in front as the day wares on and a pair of Englishmen, Richard Mansell and Callum Shinkwin, are off to hot starts on the back-nine.

Over on the PGA Tour, Rasmus' twin, Nicolai, has also started nicely, firing a five-under-par 67 around the South Course at the Farmers Insurance Open.

That's a great effort given the South Course is the toughest of the two courses played over the first two days, although for the first time since 2019, it actually averaged below it's par of 72, averaging 71.96.

The easier of the two, the North Course, averaged 69.7 (2.3 strokes below it's par of 72) and understandably, the leaderboard is dominated by players that started the event there.

Kevin Yu, who was matched at a low of 5.24/1 to win last week's American Express, before he bogeyed the 17th hole in round four, has followed Sunday's nine-under-par 63 with an eight-under-par 64 around the North Course and that was enough to see him lead by a stroke over the new favourite, Patrick Cantlay, and the hot-putting Japanese, Ryo Hisatsune.

Nick Hardy matched Hojgaard's 67 around the South Course but 16 of the top-18 on the leaderboard after round one started on the North Course.

The stagger will unwind today as those that played on the tougher South get to let rip around the North and history tells us it might be wise to wait until then to get involved in-running - unless you want to take a chance on someone way off the pace at a juicy price.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, this is one of the rare events where a fast start is far from essential and in the last ten years we've seen winners sit tied for 63rd, 77th, 90th, 95th and 113th after round one!

I quite fancied the defending champ, Max Homa, before the off but he started really poorly around the South Course yesterday.

He was matched at a high of 55.054/1 after he'd played the front-nine in two-over-par but a four-under 32 on the back-nine has put him back in-the-mix.

I'm happy to sit on my hands for now and I'll be back tomorrow at the halfway stage of the Farmers, or earlier if I get involved in-running at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship today.

Farmers Insurance Open Pre-Event Picks:
Max Homa @ 15.5
Jason Day @ 28.027/1

In-Play Pick:
Tony Finau @ 9.08/1 & 25.024/1
Will Zalatoris @ 38.037/1
Vincent Norrman @ 210.0209/1

Ras al Khaimah Championship Pre-Event Picks:
Pablo Larrazabal @ 60.059/1
Callum Shinkwin @ 100/1101.00 (each-way)

In-Play Pick:
Jorge Campillo @ 60.059/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Justin Rose @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Taylor Moore @ 170.0169/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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