The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Rank outsiders lead in New Orleans

Golfers Zac Blair and Patrick Fairburn
Zac Blair and Patrick Fairburn in action in round three in New Orleans

There's just one round to go at the Zurich Classic and Zac Blair and Patrick Fishburn are the unlikely leaders. Steve Rawlings considers their chances with a round to go here...

  • Leaders winning would be a great story

  • Rory and Shane still head the market

  • List and Norlander the value with a round to go

09:50- April 28, 2024

Pre-event 180.0179/1 chance, Yuto Katsuragawa, has won the ISPS Handa Championship in his homeland and I'll look back at his victory in tomorrow's Debrief but for now I'm going to concentrate on the Zurich Classic on the PGA Tour where 1000.0999/1 shots, Zac Blair and Patrick Fishburn, lead with a round to go. Here's the 54-hole leaderboar with prices to back at 9:40.

Zac Blair and Patrick Fishburn -23 6.86/1
List/Norlander -22 6.411/2
McIlroy/Lowry -21 3.7511/4
Brehm/Hubbard -21 14.5
Taylor/Hadwin -20 11.521/2
Lee/Kim -20 16.5
Yu/Pan -20 19.5
Echavarria/Greyserman -20 26.025/1
Detry/MacIntyre -19 34.033/1
Tarren/Skinns -19 65.064/1
Johnson/Palmer -19 65.064/1
-18 and 80.079/1 bar

Anyone that hasn't been following the Zurich Classic closely will look at the 54-hole leaderboard and assume Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry are a great price at getting on for 3/14.00 but I'm not convinced.

Rory was the dominant partner in the four-ball format yesterday, making birdies at nine, ten, 11, 13, 16 and 18, prompting his partner to claim afterwards that "it was Rory McIlroy at his best, and it was a joy to watch."

The pair had drifted all the way out to 15.014/1 after a slow start to round three and the 54-hole leaders, longtime friends, Zac Blair and Patrick Fairburn, were matched at just 2.26/5 when they went three clear with three to play but pars at the last three kept their lead down to just one at the close of play.

That was a pedestrian finish to the round given Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin were the only other pairing inside the top-eight with a round to go that failed to pick up any shots over those last three holes in round three.

The stats suggest we can't scan too far down the leaderboard now. There have been six previous editions of the event in this format and three strokes is the most any winning pair have trailed by through 54-holes.

Should the leaders kick on and pick up the trophy it would be a fantastic story. Neither man has won on the PGA Tour and Fairburn is playing on the PGA Tour for the first time this season having qualified via the Korn Ferry Tour.

Nerves are almost certain to play a bit part in round four and the front two look vulnerable.

The veteran painting of Luke List (39) and Henrik Norlander (37) look like the value play with a round to go.

List has won twice on the PGA Tour in the last three years and although Norlander is yet to win on the main stage, he's twice been beaten in a playoff, and he's won twice on the PGA Tour.

Given they trail by just one, that they're the only pairing inside the top-four to break 70 on Friday in today's foursomes format, and that they trade at only fractionally shorter than the leaders, at more than 5/16.00, they could be the value with a round to go.

McIlroy and Lowry are by some distance the most experienced pairing in-the-mix and they're clearly the two to beat but there's no hiding place in this format and Lowry's play will need to improve today. And he'll have to start holing short putts. Something he failed at miserably on Friday.

The Canadian duo of Hadwin and Taylor look dangerous from three back but having backed the favourites before the off, I'm going to leave the event alone for now and hope that Lowry can roll a few putts in when it really matters.

11:20- April 27, 2024

The 2022 Zurich Classic winners, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, who went off at below 5/16.00, were matched at a high of 15.014/1 after a slow start on Thursday in the fourball format and a low of 3.02/1 before they bogeyed the final hole in round two yesterday.

Schuffle and Cantlay at the Zurich 2024.jpg

Despite the dropped shot at the par five 18th, Cantlay and Schauffele still shot the lowest round of the day in the trickier foursome formant - a five-under-par 67 - and they're one of ten pairs within a stroke at the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 11:00.

McIlroy/Lowry -13 4.1
Thompson/Novak -13 12.5
Rai/Lipsky -13 23.022/1
Brehm/Hubbard -13 26.025/1
Cantlay/Schauffele -12 4.84/1
Taylor/Hadwin -12 13.5
Conners/Pendrith -12 17.016/1
List/Norlander -12 36.035/1
Tarren/Skinns -12 50.049/1
Johnson/Palmer -12 50.049/1
-11 and 34.033/1 bar

We're back to the fourball format today so the soring will be low again and I'm happy to sit on my hands and see how my pre-event picks - Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry - get on in this easier format.

Lowry missed a number of short putts yesterday and they could have very easily been leading by two or three.

Over at the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan, it's still a very tricky event to call with as many as 16 players within three of the lead, held by South Africa's Casy Jarvis.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:10.

Casy Jarvis -13 6.25/1
Yannik Paul -12 5.49/2
Keita Nakajima -11 7.26/1
Sebastian Soderberg -11 9.617/2
Haotong Li -11 13.5
Ryosuke Kinoshita -11 28.027/1
Tom Vaillant -11 28.027/1
Matthieu Pavon -10 14.013/1
-10 and 50.049/1 bar

This is a very congested looking leaderboard, but the stats suggest we should be looking at the very top of the leaderboard.

The Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Tour has been staged at Gotemba since 1977 and since 1997, only one winner has been outside the top-three places with a round to go. And as many as 16 of the 28 winners since 1997 were leading with a round to go.

Jarvis, who had to return to the course early to finish off round two, rode his luck a bit in round three but the 20-year-old looks a very fair price to convert his lead.

After an ordinary run of form, Jarvis went off at 260.0259/1 but he's already a winner on the Challenge Tour and after today's bogey-free six-under-par 64, he might just take some beating.

The recent Indian Open winner, Keita Nakajima, who was a well-backed 16/117.00 shot before the off, is a big danger from two off the lead and the rejuvenated Frenchman, Mattieu Pavon, is just three off the lead after a he too shot 64 today.

18:35 - April 26, 2024

The second round of the Zurich Classic is well underway, and the tournament is starting to take shape, but I'll look at that one tomorrow when they've reached the halfway stage.

For now, I'm concentrating solely on this week's DP World Tour event in Japan - the ISPS Handa Championship - where darkness stopped play before they could reach the halfway stage today, although only two players inside the top-38 are yet to complete their second rounds.

Japan's Taiki Yoshida, who was in the last group off the 10th tee, sits tied for fifth with three to play and South African, Casey Jarvis, who was in the last group off the first, is three off the lead with two holes left to play.

They'll be back early in the morning to finish off but here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 18:20.

Yannik Paul -10 5.24/1
Sebastian Soderberg -10 5.49/2
am Bairstow -10 7.06/1
Taihei Sato -10 14.5
Matthew Southgate -9 50.049/1
Tom Vaillant -9 65.064/1
Taiki Yoshida -9 (thru 15) 60.059/1
-8 and 21.020/1 bar

Gotemba has been the host course for the Taiheiyo Masters on the Japan Tour since 1977 and it's been a good course for frontrunners of late.

Since 1997 (as far as I've gone back), only four of the 28 winners have been outside the top-four places after two rounds and only one of the last ten winners has been more than two strokes off the lead at halfway.

That would suggest that we really need to be concentrating on the players listed above and the one I like at the prices on offer is the in-form Englishman, Sam Bairstow.

Yannik Paul and Sebastian Soderberg are ahead of him in the market and that makes sense given they were well-fancied before the off but both have been very poor in-contention of late and they might be worth taking on.

Yannik Paul in Japan 2024.jpg

Paul has been leading or within two strokes at this stage six times previously and he's yet to win and on the last few occasions he's been in-the-mix at halfway he's been very disappointing.

After giving up a five-stroke halfway lead at the Indian Open in February last year, he's sat tied for first, third and second since and he's finished 38th and eighth twice.

Soderberg's record is better. He's been within two strokes of the lead or leading 14 times in total and he's won three times (twice on the Challenge Tour and once on the Nordic Golf League) but his in-contention record looks a little regressive.

On the three occasions the Swede has led or been tied for the lead on the DP World Tour he's finished 17th, 64th and third and the third place finish was from off the pace!

Soderberg led the Mauritius Open by a stroke at halfway in December, but he was sitting tied for 22nd and nine back after a 77 in round three. He shot 63 on Sunday to move back up the leaderboard but I'm far from convinced that either man can be trusted.

Bairstow is new to the DP World Tour so we don't have as much data to sift through but he fared reasonably well in-the-mix in Singapore last month.

Having sat fourth and one of the lead at halfway, he shot 68-68 over the weekend to finish one-stroke out of the playoff.

All things considered, I thought he was worth chancing modestly at 7.06/1.

Zurich Classic Pre-event Bet:
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry @ 9.28/1

ISPS Handa Championship Pre-event Bet:
Jordan Smith @ 34.033/1

In-Play Pick:
Sam Bairstow @ 7.06/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Pablo Larrazabal @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Guido Migliozzi @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Grant Forrest @ 16.015/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Dylan Fritteli @ 260.0259/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Hurly Long @ 440.0439/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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