The Punter's In-Play Blog: Lowry the man to beat in Florida

Golfer Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry in action in round three

There's just one round to go at the Cognizant Classic and a trio of players are tied for the lead so our man's back with his final in-running update for the week here...

  • Bear Trap snares Rory

  • Three tied at the top at PGA National

  • Skinns seeking fairytale success

09:40 - March 3, 2024

Rory McIlroy was matched at a low of 4.03/1 to win the Cognizant Classic on the back-nine yesterday but you're never safe at the PGA National until you're through the Bear Trap (holes 15, 16 and 17).

Rory looked like being a huge factor on Sunday, but he made a bogey four at the 15th before making a complete mess of the par four 16th - recording a triple-bogey seven after finding the water with his second shot.

Following Rory's mess at 16, we looked set for a congested looking leaderboard with a round to go but three players edged clear of the rest at the end of round three. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 9:30.

Shane Lowry -13 2.9215/8
Austin Eckroat -13 4.94/1
David Skinns -13 9.89/1
Min Woo Lee -10 14.013/1
Kevin Yu -10 30.029/1
Victor Perez -10 32.031/1
Jacob Bridgeman -10 42.041/1
Martin Laird -10 48.047/1
-9 and 50.049/1 bar

Given he shares the lead with pre-event 220.0219/1 chance, Austin Eckroat, who's yet to win on the PGA Tour, and huge outsider, David Skinns, the pre-event 50.049/1 chance, Shane Lowry, is the man to beat with a round to go.

He has a tremendous record around PGA National and came very close to taking the title two years ago when he was matched at 1.444/9 during round four before the weather turned against him at the very end.

Sepp Straka, who had began the day tied for second alongside Lowry, but five behind the runaway leader, Daniel Berger, edged out the Irishman two years ago but Lowry did nothing wrong and he should feel confident that he can gain redemption today.

Eckroat's highest finish on the PGA Tour is second at the Byron Nelson Championship in May last year but he can't be dismissed lightly.

He finished inside the top-ten at the US Open in June and at 25, he has time on his side and he wouldn't be winning out of turn.

In contrast, pre-event 1000.0999/1 shot, Skinns, finds himself in with a chance of what can only be described as an unlikely victory after years of endeavour.

Skinns winning would be quite a story but he's going to do very well to keep his nerves in check.

This has been a frustrating event so far betting-wise. On top of Rory's mess yesterday, fellow in-play pick, Victor Perez, is still in-the-mix on -10 but he's bogeyed the par five 18th in rounds two and three and pre-event pick, Russell Henley, rallied form off the pace yesterday but looks to have too much to do from five back.

Although Straka won from five back two years ago and Berger lost in a playoff in 2015 having trailed by nine after 54 holes, this is tough place to win from off the pace.

Straka aside, three strokes is the furthest any winner has trailed by after three rounds since the tournament moved to PGA National in 2007 and I'm more than happy to leave the event alone now.

Lowry looks far and away the most likely winner, and he has a decent enough record when leading, but he did fail from the front last time he led and I'm hoping that's an omen.

Having successfully converted a three-stroke lead at the Abu Dhabi Championship in 2019 and a four-stroke lead in the Open Championship later that year, Lowry finished 28th at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January last year having been tied for the lead with Grant Forrest and Min Woo Lee.

A 76 on Sunday saw the Irishman fall away and the event was eventually won by Victor Perez, who had sat tied for fourth, just one stroke behind the three co-leaders. Could lightning strike twice?

16:20 - March 2, 2024

Having led the SDC Championship by three at halfway, Matt Cooper's 60/161.00 each-way fancy in South Africa, Daniel Brown, was matched at 1.910/11 when he opened up round three with his third birdie of the week at the first hole.

Daniel brown at teh SDC.jpg

Brown won the ISPS Handa World Invitational last August having led by six at halfway so his followers would have been hoping that he'd power away from the field again here but having looked like assuming command, he bogeyed three of the first four holes after the turn.

He drifted out to 6.611/2 after that bumpy start to the back-nine but bounced back brilliantly with back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 and he drew alongside Connor Syme to regain a share of the lead with a birdie three at the 18th. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 16:15.

Connor Syme -11 3.02/1
Daniel Brown -11 3.412/5
Andy Sullivan -9 9.617/2
Robin Williams -9 15.5
James Nicholas -9 19.018/1
David Ravetto -8 21.020/1
Jordan Gumberg -8 50.049/1
Nick Bachem -7 50.049/1
Tom McKibbin -6 40.039/1
-6 and 80.079/1 bar

Syme sat third and just two off the lead with a round to go at last week's Kenya Open but he ended the week in a tie for seventh and that was the seventh time he'd entered the final round of a DP World Tour event inside the front three places and within a couple of strokes of the lead but he's still in search of his first victory.

He led after 54 holes in consecutive weeks at Celtic Manor back in 2020 but finished third and eighth and I'm not convinced he should be such a strong favourite.

Although he converted from six in front through 54 holes at the ISPS Handa World Invitational, and he has the advantage over Syme of having already won on the DP World Tour, Brown is far less experienced than the Scot so that goes some way to explain why Syme heads the market, but the Englishman is the value play with a round to go.

Andy Sullivan is the only other player trading at a single-figure price after his six-under-par 66 today that included two eagle threes, but he's been poor in-contention for some time and I'm happy to swerve him.

Brown should be buoyed by the way he battled back today, and all things considered, he looks a fair price at around the 5/23.50 mark.

11:00 - March 2, 2024

The third round of the SDC Championship is underway and Matt Cooper's 60/161.00 each-way fancy, Daniel Brown, is out in front, and he's already been matched at odds-on.

It's an event that I haven't really followed and I'm quite happy to leave it alone for now, but I wouldn't put anyone off taking on the leader at such a short price. There's a long way to go still and anywhere around even money is short enough with almost two rounds to go.

I may take a more detailed look this afternoon after the third round but for now I'm more than happy to concentrate on the PGA Tour action.

I don't tend to get involved in all the tit for tat and futile point scoring between the PGA and DP Tour and the LIV Golf Tour but its impossible not to compare two remarkable comebacks this week.

Much has been made of Anthony Kim's return to competitive action (yes, I know, some will claim it not to be competitive!) at the LIV Golf Jeddah event, where at the time of writing he's propping up the entire field, but there's no denying what the success story of the week is so far.

Bud Cauley has been through the mill after a car accident way back in 2018 and there were times when he wondered whether he'd ever play again but after a break from the game of more than three years, he returned to the fray on the Korn Ferry Tour at the end of January.

Bud Cauley at the Cognizant Classic.jpg

After finishing 21st and 35th on the Korn Ferry Tour he made the cut at the Phoenix Open in early February before eventually finishing 65th so he didn't really set the world alight on his return to action and it wasn't entirely surprising that he was matched at 1000.0999/1 before the off this week.

Making it through to the weekend for the fourth time-in-a-row would have been a sensible and ambitious enough target for but here we are at the halfway stage of the Cognizant Classic and Cauley is the man in front.

For the second day running, darkness prevented the entire field from completing their rounds but none of the players yet to finish their second rounds are bang in-contention so here's the latest standings with prices to back at 10:50.

Bud Cauley -11 14.013/1
Austin Eckroat -10 12.011/1
Garrick Higgo -10 18.017/1
Kevin Yu -9 22.021/1
Victor Perez -9 27.026/1
Rory McIlroy -8 5.59/2
Cameron Young -8 11.010/1
Shane Lowry -8 14.5
Jake Knapp -8 21.020/1
Andrew Novak -8 28.027/1
C.T Pan -8 32.031/1
Sam Ryder -8 38.037/1
David Skinns -8 130.0129/1
-7 and 30.029/1 bar

As highlighted yesterday, although a slow start has been overcome at PGA National, every winner of this event since the tournament moved here in 2007 has been inside the top-nine places at the halfway stage so it's highly likely that the winner is listed above.

It's a fascinating leaderboard with the five men leading or within two strokes of the lead all trading at a double-figure price.

After back-to-back four-under-par 67s, the pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy heads the market and he's most definitely the man to beat.

Rory McIlroy Cognizant day one.jpg

After two rounds, Rory ranks first for Driving Distance, 10th for Driving Accuracy, first for Greens In Regulation but only 28th for Putting Average and 59th for Strokes Gained: Putting.

That would suggest that he needs to putt better over the weekend if he's to win but it's worth remembering that this is one of the few events that can be won without the wand producing magic.

The last six winners have ranked ninth, fourth, 28th, 38th, 38th and 35th for SG: Putting and only five of the last 13 winners have ranked inside the 10 for Putting Average.

Despite a bogey at his final hole yesterday, my in-play pick, Victor Perez, is in-contention but I've also added a small bet on Rory.

He's no bigger than 4/15.00 on the High Street so 9/25.50 on the exchange is more than fair and I can see him being there or thereabouts at the business end of the tournament tomorrow.

09:00 - March 1, 2024

Play was suspended due to fading light at 18:22 ET yesterday at the Cognizant Classic but none of the players still to finish their opening rounds will threaten the lead.

Victor Perez is the closest, playing the 18th on -4, but Chad Ramey and SH Kim show the way after seven-under-par 64s.

PGA National is playing easier than usual having undergone several changes since last year's edition and that's somewhat disappointing.

This has always been a tough grind and an enjoyable event to watch but having converted the par four tenth into a par five and having reduced the rough from three to two-and-quarter inches, the scoring was good on day one.

Scoring was lower than usual but the 64s shot by Ramey and Lee are nowhere near the lowest shot here on day one.

Matt Jones shot a remarkable 61 here in 2021 to lead by three and he went on to win by five, despite losing the lead on day two.

The pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy, who still heads the market after a four-under-par 67 yesterday that sees him sitting tied for 16th and three back, shot 63 here ten years ago before losing a playoff but Jones is the only first round leader or co-leader to kick on and take the title.

We've seen winners here trailing by four, five, six and even seven strokes after round one so although every course winner since the event moved here in 2007 has been inside the top-nine at halfway, a sluggish first round hasn't always proved fatal.

Sungjae Im was six back and tied for 63rd after round one when he won here in 2020 and Sepp Straka trailed by seven in a tie for 65th after the opening round when he won here two years ago.

Waiting until halfway and concentrating on the leaders makes sense but I have had one small in-play bet this morning, on the aforementioned Perez.

The Frenchman has found the fairway on the par five 18th so if he can birdie that he'd be within two strokes of the lead so I thought 120.0119/1 was generous enough given I thought this track would suit him.

Over on the DP World Tour, the second round of the SDC Championship is well underway but I'm leaving that one alone for now.

SDC Championship Pre-Event Pick:
Adrian Otaegui @ 44.043/1

In-Play Pick:
Daniel Brown @ 3.412/5

Cognizant Classic Pre-Event Pick:
Russell Henley @ 32.031/1

In-Play Picks:
Victor Perez @ 120.0119/1
Rory McIlroy @ 5.69/2

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Lee Hodges @ 150.0149/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Camilo Villegas @ 400.0399/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Jorge Campillo @ 500.0499/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Dylan Frittelli @ 120.0119/1 (SDC Championship)
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

New customers can get £20 in free bets!

New customers can earn £20 in free bets when they place a £5 bet on the Sportsbook after signing up. T&Cs apply.

Prices quoted in copy are correct at time of publication but liable to change.

Discover the latest articles