The Punter's In-Play Blog: Zalatoris value to sneak past buddies

Golfer Will Zalatoris
Will Zalatoris in action in round three

Patrick Cantlay still leads at Riviera but only by two so read Steve's final in-running thoughts on this week's PGA Tour action here...

  • Good friends paired again

  • Odds-against Cantlay fairly priced

  • Zalatoris the danger to the final pairing

10:20 - February 18, 2024

After a birdie at his opening hole in round three, Patrick Cantlay was matched at a low of 1.511/2 to win the Genesis Invitational but after an unspectacular third round around Riviera, his five-stroke lead has been reduced to just two and he's back to trading at odds-against. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:10.

Patrick Cantlay -14 2.166/5
Xander Schauffele -12 4.3100/30
Will Zalatoris -12 6.25/1
Luke List -11 17.5
Harris English -10 25.024/1
Jason Day -10 28.027/1
-8 and 170.0169/1 bar

Cantlay's brilliance threatened to turn the Genesis into something of a damp squib but a bogey at the par five 17th yesterday, following a rare missed fairway, has opened up the event and we have an interesting leaderboard to ponder with a round to go now.

Cantlay is paired with his very good friend, Xander Schauffele, and both men are seeking their first victories in some time.

Cantlay hasn't tasted victory since he won the BMW Championship in August 2022 and Schauffele's last win came in the Scottish Open in July 2022, just two weeks after he'd got the better of Cantlay at the Travelers Championship, when the two were also paired together in the final group on Sunday.

Schauffele shot 68 to win by two and Cantlay, who had began round four trailing by just a stroke, shot 76 to slip form solo second to tied 13th.

The two have played together 20 times in total and Cantlay leads 10-8 (two ties) but the Travelers encounter was far and away the most significant pairing and Schauffele is on a bit of a hot streak. He's got the better of his buddy on six of the last seven occasions they've been paired together.

This is just the second time that Cantlay has held a clear advantage after three rounds on the PGA Tour. He successfully converted a one-stroke lead at the BMW in 2022 but he lost a three-stroke lead on the Korn Ferry Tour way back in September 2013.

He was tied for the lead when he won the Colombia Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour in March 2013 and he's two from four when tied at the top on the PGA Tour, so his record is very reasonable. Although that does include winning the Zurich pairs event alongside today's adversary in April 2022.

The last two winners of the Genesis were in front with a round to go and six of the last eight winners were leading or tied for the lead, suggesting Cantlay is a fair price at around the 11/0 mark.

I'm still against the leader but I've backed a bit of yesterday's odds-on lay bet back at odds-against and I've recycled the stakes on the man sitting tied for second - Will Zalatoris.

Given both are looking to win for the first time in a while, there's a chance that Cantlay and Schauffele both struggle a bit today and if they do, Zalatoris looks far and away the most likely to benefit. Odds of around 6.411/2 look fair.

11:00 - February 17, 2024

Tiger Woods withdrew from the Genesis Invitational during round two due to illness and Jordan Spieth was disqualified after it for signing for a wrong score but the big story on Friday was the immaculate bogey-free 65 shot by the first-round leader, Patrick Cantlay.

Patrick Cantlay on the seventh green at Riviera.jpg

Having led by a stroke after an opening 64 on Thursday, the pre-event 23.022/1 chance began round two with an eagle three at his opening hole and that set the scene for what was a brilliantly crafted five-under-par second round that sees the 31-year-old five clear of the field. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.

Patrick Cantlay -13 1.664/6
Jason Day -8 15.5
Luke list -8 26.025/1
Mackenzie Hughes -8 36.035/1
Corey Connors -7 30.029/1
Xander Schauffele -6 19.5
Will Zalatoris -6 50.049/1
Tom Hoge -6 70.069/1
Tony Finau -5 46.045/1
Hideki Matsuyama -5 100.099/1
Scottie Scheffler -4 32.031/1
Max Homa -4 70.069/1
-4 and 100.099/1 bar

Cantlay's lead is a big one and if we only look at the percentage of players that have gone on to convert a five stroke-lead on the PGA (see below tweet), odds of around 4/71.57 look very fair, but it's never that simple.

This is an incredibly difficult venue at which to convert any lead and since Phil Mickelson converted a four-stroke 36-hole lead in 2008 only two of 11 players to hold a clear advantage at halfway have gone on to lift the trophy.

The majority of those only held the slenderest of halfway leads but a couple of players have let a two-stroke lead slip, Sam Burns was also five strokes clear at halfway in 2021, and we've even seen two, three and four stroke leaders after 54-holes get beat recently so it's a tough place to get the job done from the front.

Cantlay has held a 36-hole lead or co-lead eight times previously and he's yet to convert, although he's only ever led by more than a stroke once. He was beaten by Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the RBC Heritage almost two years ago having led by two at halfway.

Cantlay hasn't won since August 2022 (BMW Championship) so that probably wants to be considered a slight negative too, so all things considered, he's short enough for my liking and I'm happy to lay him modestly at 1.654/6.

In addition to laying the leader, I've also backed Max Homa to finish inside the top-ten.

Homa absolutely loves it here and after a poor first round on Thursday, yesterday's 65 saw him climb 49 places up into a tie for 11th. Odds in excess of 6/42.50 on the exchange look more than fair about him finishing inside the top-ten for the fifth time in-a-row.

10:45 - February 16, 2024

Despite playing his last four holes in one-over-par, Dave Tindall's First Round Leader pick, Patrick Cantlay, still posted a seven-under-par 64 to lead after day one of the Genesis Invitational and he's now the 4.84/1 favourite.

The pre-event jolly, Scottie Scheffler, is next best at 7/18.00 after he posted a respectable three-under-par 68 to sit tied for tenth but the pre-tournament second favourite, Rory McIlroy, was one of several big names to struggle around Riviera on day one.

Matt Fitzpatrick shot a four-over-par 75, which was one worse than Rory, and three course specialists - Max Homa, Adam Scott, and Justin Thomas - all shot over-par, along with the tournament host, Tiger Woods, who like Scott and Thomas, fired a one-over-par 72. Homa, who finished second last year, two years after winning the title, posted an unexpectedly poor two-over-par 73.

All of them will have their work cut out today to make the weekend but they won't be giving up just yet. Scott won here (for the second time) in 2020 having sat tied for 65th and eight off the lead after round one and in the last 12 years, we've also seen winners trailing by four and six strokes after day one. And Tony Finau was beaten by Homa in a playoff in 2021 having sat tied for 47th and seven off the lead.

Although they lost the lead after round one, first round leaders JB Holmes (2019) and James Hahn (2015) both went on to win the title and the 2022 champ, Joaquin Niemann, became the first wire-to-to wire winner at Riviera since Hal Sutton had won the US PGA Championship here way back in 1983.

This is clearly a tough place to keep your nose in front and the leader makes little appeal at less than 4/15.00. This is only the second time Cantlay's held a clear lead after round one on the PGA Tour (finished third at the 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am) and he's finished fourth, 23rd and ninth on the three occasions that he's been tied for the lead after round one.

He was fourth here back in 2018 having been tied for the lead after rounds one and two.

This is a tricky event to weigh up from an in-running perspective with winners coming form off the pace and hard on it so I'm happy to take it easy, but I have had one small in-running play, on one of Dave Tindall's each-way fancies - Tom Hoge.

The 34-year-old's approach numbers were very good yesterday and he looks a little over-priced at 42.041/1 given he trails by only two and that he's no bigger than 33/134.00 on the High Street.

Genesis Invitational Pre-Event Picks:
Sam Burns @ 30.029/1
Wyndham Clark @ 55.054/1

In-Play Picks:
Tom Hoge @ 42.041/1
Patrick Cantlay layed @ 1.654/6
Max Homa to finish inside the top-10 @ 2.767/4

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Christiaan Bezuidenhout @ 170.0169/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Charley Hoffman @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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