The Punter's In-Play Blog: Hideki chanced at Bay Hill

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler - tied for th elead at Bay Hill

There's just one round to go at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Puerto Rico Open so our man's here with his final in-running thoughts for the week here...

  • Lowry leads again with a round to go

  • Stats suggest Scheffler can be taken on

  • Kohles hits the front in Puerto Rico

08:10 - March 10, 2024

Pre-event 46.045/1 chance, Will Zalatoris, was matched at a low of 2.1211/10 when he led the Arnold Palmer Invitational by five strokes during yesterday's third round but after two double-bogeys in his last four holes, he starts the final round trailing by two and trading at a double-figure price.

In contrast, the pre-event favourite, Scottie Scheffler, fought back brilliantly after a slow start to his third round and he's now tied for the lead with Shane Lowry with a round to go.

Having begun the day tied for the lead with five others and trading at less than 3/14.00, the world number one hit a high of 17.016/1 before one-putting his last seven holes! Not bad for someone struggling badly with the flatstick.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 07:50.

Scottie Scheffler -9 2.767/4
Shane Lowry -9 5.69/2
Wyndham Clark -8 9.08/1
Will Zalatoris -7 12.5
Russell Henley -7 19.018/1
Hideki Matsuyama -7 15.014/1
Harris English -6 34.033/1
Rory McIlroy -5 20.019/1
Sam Burns -5 44.043/1
Max Homa -5 50.049/1
-4 and 100.099/1 bar

Scheffler is clearly the man to beat but the stats suggest he's too short at around 7/42.75.

He's been leading or tied for the lead eight times previously on the PGA Tour and once on the Korn Ferry Tour and he's only gone on to win three times.

As many as 14 third round leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win at Bay Hill this century but five of the last seven editions have been won by someone trailing with a round to go and Francesco Molinari came from miles back.

The 2018 Open Champ won here in 2019 having sat tied for 17th with a round to go. The Italian was trailing by five and trading at 130.0129/1 and the conditions will help the chasers today but Molinari is a bit of a one-off.

It's notoriously difficult to win from off the pace here and 28 of the last 29 winners have been inside the top-five after 54 holes.

For the second week in-a-row, Shane Lowry, heads into round four of a PGA Tour event tied for the lead but he makes little appeal.

He was very disappointing in round four in the Cognizant Classic last week, and I'm not convinced he's a great price given the calibre of the chasers.

The recent AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner, Wyndham Clark, looks a fair price but I've had a very small bet on the Genesis winner, Hideki Matsuyama at 15.014/1.

He finished really nicely after a poor day yesterday, birdying 16 and 17 before making a brilliant par four on the 18th following a poor drive.

Rory McIlroy will have his supporters, and rightly so. His four-under-par in the tough conditions yesterday was only matched by Harris English, who sits alone in seventh, and nobody bettered it.

The 2018 winner is more than capable of defying the statistics but laying the short ones in-running may well be the best way to play the event later. As Zalatoris demonstrated yesterday, it's very easy to flitter shots away and we've seen plenty of carnage in-running of late here.

McIlroy was matched at a low of 1.9420/21 last year and when he hit a low of 1.855/6 in 2019, before finishing sixth, he was the sixth player in seven years to trade at odds-on and get beat. And two players went odds-on in 2022 before getting beat.

The halfway leader, Viktor Hovland, hit a low of 1.695/7 and Gary Woodland was matched at just 1.75/7 when he hit the front with an eagle at the par five 16th on Sunday before he double bogeyed the tough par three 17th.

Over at the Puerto Rico Open, pre-event 140.0139/1 chance, Ben Kohles, shot a sensational nine-under-par 63 in round three to ease two clear of the rest. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 8:00.

Ben Kohles -18 2.68/5
Jimmy Stranger -16 6.611/2
Matti Schmid -16 7.26/1
Brice Garnett -16 10.09/1
Joe Highsmith -15 15.014/1
Erik Barnes -15 16.015/1
Hayden Springer -14 25.024/1
Nico Echavarria -13 50.049/1
-12 and 100.099/1 bar

The stats tell us we shouldn't be looking too far down this leaderboard.

In 15 previous editions, four strokes is the furthest any winner has trailed by after 54 holes and all 15 winners have been inside the top-five places after three rounds.

We have to go all the way back to 2011 to find the last winner trailing by more than two after 54 holes and three of the last four winners were in front.

The leader is fairly priced given the stats but I'm going to leave the event alone now and shout on my halfway play, Matti Schmid, who sits tied for second.

I'll be back tomorrow with the Debrief but one last bit of housekeeping...

The fourth round of the Johnsson Workwear Open is underway and I'm now taking on the favourite with a round to go, Jordan Smith, having layed him in the Top 5 Finish market at 1.331/3.

17:30 - March 9, 2024

A short weather delay proved an irritation for the latter starters at the Johnsson Workwear Open today, but it didn't derail the 36-hole leader, Matteo Manassero, who returned to the course to tap in his birdie putt at the par five 17th and par the last.

The Italian started round three nervously (one-over-par through three) but he soon settled down and his five-under-par 67 was great knock after yesterday's spectacular 61.

He leads by one over South Africa's Shaun Norris and England's Jordan Smith, who called a penalty on himself on the 13th, and we look all set for an exciting finale. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:25.

Matteo Manassero -20 4.3100/30
Jordan Smith -19 3.711/4
Shaun Norris -19 5.85/1
Oliver Bekker -18 10.09/1
Angel Hidalgo -18 12.5
Ivan Cantero -17 29.028/1
Tom McKibben -16 23.022/1
Jacques Kruyswijk -16 36.035/1
Connor Syme -15 60.059/1
Guxin Chen -15 230.0229/1
Thriston Lawrence -14 110.0109/1
-14 and 200.0199/1 bar

Smith finished nicely today with three straight birdies, and I'm not surprised to see him heading the market.

He's usually popular with punters but he's not great in-contention and the value sits with the leader, who was quite impressive today.

Jordan Smith at Glendower.jpg

He'll be nervous tomorrow but odds-in excess of 3/14.00 are very fair given the last five course winners all led with a round to go. Although we have witnessed plenty of drama here and it's not an easy place to make the running...

Graeme Storm eventually beat Rory McIlroy at the third extra hole in 2017, having led by three through 54 holes, and the 2016 course winner, Brandon Stone, won the event having been two strokes clear after three rounds, but this is most certainly somewhere to oppose anyone that hits odds-on.

Charl Schwartzel has led the South African Open twice here without winning and on the second occasion, in 2015, he led by five with a round to go and was matched at 1.011/100 in-running!

In addition to Schwartzel, Hennie Otto, Jbe Kruger, George Coetzee, Branden Grace and Rory all came close to winning the South African Open here, but they've all messed up at the business end of the event.

Rory led by a stroke with two to play and he was matched at just 1.192/11 before he bogeyed the penultimate hole and in 2016, Grace traded at odds-on as early as Friday.

Daniel Brooks also went on odds-on that year, hitting a low of 1.814/5 when it looked like Stone had blown it during round four, so laying anyone that goes odds-on tomorrow could prove a profitable strategy, as it so often is on the DP World Tour.

I've backed the leader at 4.3100/30 for small stakes and I'm also looking to lay Smith modestly at 1.330/100 in the Top 5 Finish market.

12:40 - March 9, 2024

The third round of the Jonsson Workwear Open is well underway and live on Sky. I'll be back later with a look at that one with 18 to play but for now I'm concentrating on the week's two PGA Tour events - the Puerto Rico Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

For the second day in-a-row, play was suspended due to darkness yesterday in Puerto Rico, with plenty of players yet to finish their rounds, but they started early today, and they've just reached the halfway stage.

Pre-event 130.0129/1 chance, Joe Highsmith, who led overnight, still leads by a stroke after playing his last three holes of round two this morning but with as many as seven players tied for second, it's a tough event to untangle.

In 15 previous editions, we've only seen two winners from off the pace and the winner is highly likely to be sitting first or tied second.

Tony Finau, who sat 15th and four adrift in 2016, and Derek Lamely, who was 35th and six off the lead after 36 holes in 2010, are the only winners not to be inside the top-seven at halfway.

With that in mind, I'm happy to back the young German, Matti Schmid, at a double figure price.

Matti Schmid at the Wyndham.jpg

The 26-year-old has missed his last six cuts, but I thought he might like it here given he finished third at the Bermuda Championship back in November, where he performed quite nicely in-contention.

Odds of around 10/111.00 are fair given he sits tied for second and just one off the lead.

Over at the week's main event - the Arnold Palmer Invitational - the first-round leader, Shane Lowry, still leads but he's now tied at the top with five others and Russell Henley is the only one of the six not to have won a major championship. Here's the state of play with prices to back at 12:35.

Scottie Scheffler -7 3.9
Hideki Matsuyama -7 10.519/2
Wyndham Clark -7 12.5
Russell Henley -7 14.5
Shane Lowry -7 15.014/1
Brian Harman -7 18.5
Will Zalatoris -6 14.013/1
Emiliano Grillo -5 38.037/1
Stephan Jaeger -5 50.049/1
Viktor Hovland -4 21.020/1
Sam Burns -4 34.033/1
Justin Thomas -4 34.033/1
Max Homa -4 38.037/1
Byeong Hun An -4 50.049/1
-4 and 55.054/1 bar

This is a really competitive looking renewal at the halfway stage and the stats don't really help us out much.

Tiger Woods' record here is incredible, and he was in front at halfway for four of his eight Bay Hill wins but if you disregard the GOAT, we're left with a mixed bag of results here.

In the last 14 years, Kurt Kitayama, Tyrrell Hatton, Woods, Ernie Els and Martin Laird have all gone on to win having led through 36 holes and Jason Day won wire-to-wire in 2016, but we've seen a couple of off the pace winners of late too.

Scottie Scheffler was matched at a high of 420.0419/1 when he trailed by eight at halfway two years ago, Francesco Molinari was matched at 180.0179/1 before round four - five years ago, having tumbled from third to 17th with a three-over-par 73 on Saturday, and Rory McIlroy sat 13th and 11th, trailing by five and six strokes after rounds one and two in 2018.

With the wind forecasted to pick up today and to continue to blow tomorrow, we can't rule out an off the pace winner but with such quality at the top of the leaderboard, it's hard to see all the leaders failing over the weekend.

Given his putting woes, despite a new flatstick going in the bag this week, the world number one makes little appeal at less than 3/14.00 and he creates a bit of value.

Last year's US Open winner, Wyndham Clark, and last year's Open Champ, Brian Harman, both look nicely priced but after much deliberation, I've decided to sit on my hands for now and see what today brings.

There are occasions when the best bet is no bet and this definitely feels like such an occasion.

20:25 - March 8, 2024

We've reached the halfway stage of the Johnsson Workwear Open and as suspected earlier, nobody managed to reel in the early starter, Matteo Manassero. Here's the state of play through 36 holes with prices to back at 20:20.

Matteo Manassero -15 7.413/2
Oliver Bekker -14 8.88/1
Tom McKibben -13 5.85/1
Angel Hidalgo -13 17.016/1
Ivan Cantero -13 19.018/1
Jordan Smith -12 8.415/2
Shaun Norris -12 25.024/1
Casey Jarvis -11 23.022/1
Niklas Norgaard -11 30.029/1
Ugo Coussand -11 30.029/1
-10 and 40.039/1 bar

History tells us that we should be concentrating on the names listed above and that Glendower is a tough place to make up ground.

Vijay Singh was tied for the lead at halfway here back in 1997 when winning the South African Open and the last three men to win a 72-hole stroke play event here were leading or tied for the lead at halfway.

There have only been six events over 72 holes here since Singh's success and five of the six winners were inside the top-three places and no more than a stroke off the lead. The odd man out is Brandon Stone at the 2016 South African Open but he was only three off the lead and tied for fifth.

The leader failed to convert one 36-hole lead on the Challenge Tour way back in 2010 and two leads on the DP World Tour. And he also let two 36-hole leads go on the Alps Tour in 2011 (54 hole events) but he did win the Italian Challenge Open on the Challenge Tour last July, having led by two at halfway.


It's now nearly 11 years since he won the last of his four DP World Tour titles and it's never easy to back up a super-low round so I'm more than happy to look elsewhere.

There's been money for Tom McGibbon, who trails by just two, and that's perfectly understandable. The 21-year-old doesn't have the scar tissue that Mannasero has and he's already in search of his second DP World Tour title, having won the Porche European Open in June last year.

Jordan Smith and Oliver Bekker are the only other contenders trading at a single-figure price and I'd favour the experienced Bekker over the often-flaky Smith.

The 39-year-old South African has won eight times on the Sunshine Tour but the value may sit with the promising young Spaniard, Angel Hidalgo, who's clearly enjoying the tree-lined test after a slow start.

The 25-year-old was one-over-par through six holes on Thursday, but he's had the pedal down after that, playing his last 30 holes in 14-under-par, without dropping a shot.

It's a tricky tournament to untangle but I was happy to have a tiny bet on Hidalgo at 18.017/1.

11:30 - March 8, 2024

With three events on the go it's going to be a busy week.

Play was suspended due to fading light at the Puerto Rico Open, with Scott Piercy and Joe Highsmith tied for the lead on -7.

The second round of the Jonsson Workwear Open is well underway on the DP World Tour in South Africa.

I'll be back later today with a look at that one at the halfway stage but there's every chance that Italy's Matteo Manassero will be showing the way.

The four-time DP World Tour winner threatened to break 60 around Glendower when he played his first eight holes in eight-under-par but after finishing his round with three straight pars, the 30-year-old had to settle with an 11-under-par 61!

The event is currently live on Sky and I'll be back at the halfway stage but for now I'm going to concentrate on the week's main event - the Arnold Palmer Invitational - where the pre-event favourites have floundered...

Scottie Scheffler, who hasn't won in almost a year (defends his Players Championship title next week) still heads the market but he's drifted from his SP of 8.88/1 to 10.09/1 after opening with a two-under-par 70 that sees him sitting tied for 20th.

Ranking second for Greens In Regulation and fifth for Strokes Gained: Tee-to Green in round one, the world number one continues to play some exceptional tee-to-green golf. But yet again the putting numbers are disappointing.

After round one, Scottie ranks 42nd for Putting Average and 55th for SG: Putting but that was quite a bit better than the figures put up by poor Rory McIlroy.

The world number two sits way down in a tie for 49th on +1 having putted so badly that he spent an hour on the practice green with coach Brad Faxon afterwards. Rory ranks 61st for PA and 66th for SG: Putting after day one.

The third favourite, Viktor Hovland, began the event with three straight bogeys and he signed off with another drop at the last but he's certainly not out of the argument after a one-under-par 71 given a slow start at Bay Hill can be overcome.

Matt Every trailed by seven after round one when he defended the title 10 years ago and in the last seven years, we've seen two winners trail by four after round one and two trailing by five.

After his disappointing final round at the Cognizant Classic on Monday, the leader, Shane Lowry, is the 12/113.00 second favourite thanks to his six-under-par 66 in the trickier afternoon conditions (the morning starters averaged 1.03 strokes better than the PM starters) and Dave Tindall's each-way fancy, Sam Burns, is the current third favourite. He sits tied for fourth after opening with a four-under-par 68.

Shane Lowry at the API.jpg

But the one I like this morning is Justin Thomas at 23.022/1. He came into the event slightly under the radar after his surprising missed cut in the Genesis Invitational but he was in fine form before that.

In his first two appearances at Bay Hill, he finished only 49th and 21st but he's twice won in Florida and looks fractionally over-priced given he has a nice early start today and that he's no bigger than 18/1 on the High Street.

Johnsson Workwear Open Pre-Event Pick:
Robin Williams @ 65.064/1

In-Play Picks:
Angel Hidalgo @ 17.016/1
Matteo Manassero @ 4.3100/30

Jordan Smith layed at 1.331/3 (Top 5 Finish)

Puerto Rico Open Pre-event Pick:
Nate Lashley @ 46.045/1

In-Play Pick:
Matti Schmid @ 11.521/2

Arnold Palmer Invitaional Pre-Event Pick:
Matt Fitzpatrick @ 40.039/1

In-Play Picks:
Justin Thomas @ 23.022/1
Hideki Matsuyama @ 15.014/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Daniel Van Tonder @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Patton Kizzire @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Kurt Kitayama @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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