The Punter's In-Play Blog: Finau falters in Houston

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler in action on day one

There's just one round to go at the Houston Open so our man's back with his final thoughts on this week's PGA Tour action here...

  • Scheffler favourite to rack up the hat-trick

  • Five men tied at the top in Texas

  • Finau looking to bounce back

07:55 - March 31, 2024

Tony Finau putted brilliantly on the back-nine on Friday to hit the front at the Houston Open but his touch deserted him on Moving Day and he now sits tied for ninth with a round to go. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 7:50.

Scottie Scheffler -9 2.568/5
Stephan Jaeger -9 9.08/1
Thomas Detry -9 10.09/1
Alejandro Tosti -9 18.017/1
David Skinns -9 21.020/1
Taylor Moore -8 15.5
Aksay Bhatia -8 15.5
Nick Dunlop -8 24.023/1
Tony Finau -7 20.019/1
Aaron Rai -7 34.033/1
Max Greyserman -7 55.054/1
Chad Ramey -7 65.064/1
-5 & 170.0169/1 bar

With five men tied at the top and as many as eight separated by a single stroke, we could be all set for an intriguing finale, but one name sticks out like a sore thumb.

The world number one, Scottie Scheffler, recovered nicely yesterday after his brainfart on the 18th on Friday but having been matched at a low of 1.855/6, a double-bogey five at the par three 15th opened the door for the rest.

To his credit, he bounced back nicely with back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 following his unfortunate break on 15 and he's still very much the man to beat.

The four players alongside Scheffler are all in search of their first victories on the PGA Tour and the threat is arguably more likely to come from behind him.

The three men tied for sixth are all PGA Tour winner but the biggest danger to the leaders may well be Finau, who could easily bounce back after yesterday's disappointing two-over par 72. A round that was ten strokes worse than his course-record equalling knock on Friday morning!

Anyone wanting to take on the world number one may be better off laying him at long odds-on in the top-five market rather than in the outright market.

If Scheffler flops, and I don't think he will, he could very easily get squeezed out of the top-five but him failing looks unlikely. I'm on from the off and I'm sticking with him.

It's a congested leaderboard but it lacks experience and playing in the final three-ball, Scheffler will feel like it's his to lose.

13:45 - March 30, 2024

The defending champ, Tony Finau, trailed the first-round leader, Taylor Moore, by five strokes after round one of the Houston Open, but he played his last eight holes of round two in six-under-par to post a course-record equalling 62 yesterday morning and he now leads by two over Argentina's Alejandro Tosti.

Tony Finau Houston 2024.jpg

Playing in the afternoon, the world number one, Scottie Scheffler, got to within two of Finau after just eight holes of his second round and he was matched at a low of 1.9110/11 but he now trails by four at the halfway stage after this horrendous three-putt at the 18th!

Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:35.

Tony Finau -9 3.211/5
Alejandro Tosti -7 26.025/1
Thomas Detry -6 19.5
Scottie Scheffler -5 3.613/5
Stephan Jaeger -5 23.022/1
Taylor Moore -5 24.023/1
Aksay Bhatia -5 24.023/1
Joe Highsmith -5 70.069/1
Chad Ramey -5 75.074/1
-4 and 44.043/1 bar

Finau heads the market but I'm more than happy to stick with pre-event pick, Scheffler.

Finau holed everything he looked at on the back-nine yesterday and it's hard to envisage him putting that well over the weekend.

If he does, he'll definitely retain his title and deservedly so but given their form coming into the event, I'm confident that Scheffler can reel in the world number 30.

Over on the DP World Tour, the second round of the Indian Open has just finished and the halfway leader, Keita Nakajima, still holds sway.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:40.

Keita Nakajima -18 1.695/7
Gavin Green -14 8.88/1
Romain langasque -14 9.417/2
Matteo Manassero -13 14.5
Jeong weon Ko -13 22.021/1
Veer Ahlawat -12 55.054/1
-11 and 60.059/1 bar

Romain Langasque was matched at a low of 2.942/1 when a two-stroke swing at the eighth hole saw him draw alongside Nakajima but in contrast to the Japanese, who played his last 10 holes in two-under par, the Frenchman played them in two-over.

This is a strange event to assess now. On one hand, danger awaits all over this unique layout and, as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, in the four previous renewals here, we've seen numerous players trade at odds-on and get beat, but on the other hand Nakajima has handled the pressure of leading very nicely and he looks a very fair price at around 1.75/7.

Since 1996, four-stroke 54-hole leaders on the DP World Tour have had a strike rate of more than 70% so it's very hard to make a case for taking on the former world number one amateur.

He clearly has a huge future, and it would be no surprise at all to see him get off the mark on the DP World Tour tomorrow.

I'm going to leave the event alone for now and shout on my halfway pick, Matteo Manassero, but I'll be keeping an eye on the Top 5 Finish market, where there may well be a potential lay at odds-on.

Gavin Green, who currently sits tied for second, never impresses in-contention and he's dropped outside the top-five places on the last two occasions that he's began the final round inside them.

14:35 - March 29, 2024

A suspension of play late on today has prevented the entire field from reaching the halfway stage of the Indian Open and the market will alter early tomorrow if Joost Luiten finishes his second nicely.

Play was suspended just minutes after the Dutchman had eagled the par five 15th to get to within four of the lead so how he finishes up first thing in the morning will have a bearing on the market.

Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 14:30.

Keita Nakajima -14 2.9215/8
Romain Langasque -12 6.411/2
Matteo Manassero -11 11.010/1
Joost Luiten -10 (thru 15 holes R2) 9.28/1
Jeong weon Ko -10 30.029/1
Veer Ahlawat -9 65.064/1
Johanes Veerman -8 44.043/1
-7 and 60.059/1 bar

Having spent a record 87 weeks as the world's best amateur between 2020 and 2022, and having won three events on the Japan Tour last year, it was only a matter of time before Keita Nakajima made his mark on the DP World Tour.

The 23-year-old finished tied for fourth with four others at the Ras Al Khaimah Championship at the end of January, but he rallied from off the pace, and he was beaten by ten anyway, so this is the first time he's contended seriously.

He actually led by five after a run of seven birdies in eight holes today and he was matched at a low of 2.01/1 but this is a bizarre course where leads can disappear quickly.

Scoring opportunities are plentiful but a catastrophe is never far away (Sebastian Soderberg made nine birdies and two eights on Thursday!) and big leads have been relinquished before.

Emiliano Grillo failed to convert a four-stroke lead here in 2017 and last year's runner-up, Yannik Paul, was five ahead at halfway.

With six strokes separating the top-seven, it's hard to look past the leading pack, and it's highly likely that one of the top-four in the betting will do enough to take the title.

A lot will depend on how Luiten closes out round two but at a double-figure price, I like Matteo Manassero, who I really should have backed before the off.

Manassero in India.jpg

I put him up last week in Singapore at a triple-figure price in the Find Me a 100 Winner column, after his victory at the Jonsson Workwear Open in South Africa, but he missed the cut, so it's Sod's Law to see him in-the-mix this week.

He's clearly in rude health and that recent success could give him the edge over the weekend.

Nakajima will win plenty and the classy Frenchman, Romain Langasque, is a huge danger but at a double-figure price, Manassero is the value play.

10:30 - March 29, 2024

The second round of the Indian Open is well underway on the DP World Tour and I'll be back later today with a look at that one at the halfway stage but for now I'm going to concentrate on the Houston Open on the PGA Tour, where the world number one and pre-event favourite, Scottie Scheffler, has started nicely.

Scottie Scheffler Houston Open 24.jpg

Following his unsuccessful title defence at the Valspar Championship, Taylor Moore is tied for the lead with Korn Ferry Tour graduate, Wilson Furr, but both will be aware of the proximity of Scheffler, who's tied for third alongside Davis Riley and Joe Highsmith.

There was a marginally draw bias of 0.44 strokes in favour of the early starters yesterday and after a slow start, Scheffler made the most of the near perfect conditions, posting a bogey-free five-under-par 65 to trail the leading pair by two.

The pre-event second favourite, Wyndham Clark, who's been struggling with back issues, looked like being the biggest threat to Scheffler, and he still might be if he performs well today with an early start, but having been matched at a low of 8.88/1, he finished his first round poorly, dropping three strokes in his last five holes to post a level-par 70 and he's now trading at more than 40.039/1.

Having been a solid 3/14.00 favourite on the Exchange before the off, and a 5/23.50 chance on the High Street, Scheffler is now trading at around the 11/82.38 mark and that doesn't look too short.

Scheffler hasn't dropped a shot in 49 holes and his five-under-par 65 was his 28th consecutive under-par round on the PGA Tour. He's posted a below-par score in every round he's played in this year and so far he's a whopping 125-under-par!

That incredible run can't go on forever but I'm in no rush to lay any of my wager back and he's going to be hard to beat if he starts hitting a few more greens.

He took a bit of time off after his Players Championship win and that may have been the reason for his slight rustiness with his irons. He needed to get up-and-down for par on his first three holes yesterday morning and he hit just 11 of 18 in round one.

Indian Open Pre-event Bet:
Anirban Lahiri @ 28.027/1

In-Play Pick:
Matteo Manassero @ 11.521/2

Houston Open Pre-event Pick:
Scotties Scheffler @ 4.3100/30

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Simon Forsstrom @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Daniel van Tonder @ 220.0219/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Martin Trainer @ 400.0399/1 & Top-20 Finish
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

Read Dave Tindall's US Masters guide here

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