The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Pendrith hits the front in Texas

Golfer Taylor Pendrith
Taylor Pendrith in action on day three in Texas

There's just one round to go at the CJ Cup Byron Nelson Championship so Steve Rawlings is back with his final in-running thoughts for the week here...

  • Adrian Otaegui wins in China

  • Leader looks vulnerable

  • Wallace and Kohles value with a round to go

09:05 - May 5, 2024

Adrian Otaegui has won the Volvo China Open on the DP World Tour and I'll look at that event in detail in tomorrow's Debrief but for now I'm concentrating on the CJ Cup Byron Nelson Championship, where back-to-back eagles in round three greatly aided Taylor Pendrith, who now leads in Texas by a stroke. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:00.

Taylor Pendrith -19 3.02/1
Jake Knapp -18 3.814/5
Matt Wallace -17 8.27/1
Ben Kohles -17 12.5
Alex Noren -15 17.016/1
Kelly Kraft -15 65.064/1
Byeong Hun An -14 32.031/1
-14 and 70.069/1 bar

Matt Bettencourt won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship at this venue back in 2008, having been tied for the lead through three rounds, but the last four course winners have all been trailing with a round to go.

Jason Day sat tied for fourth and two back last year and K.H Lee, who won the 2021 and '22 editions of this event at TPC Craig Ranch, was trailing after three rounds on both occasions. He sat solo second, trailing by a stroke, in 2021 and he sat tied for sixth and four off the pace two years ago. And Justin Boli trailed by two after 54 holes when he won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship here in 2012.

The limited stats suggest being in front isn't a big plus and the leader, Pendrith, looks vulnerable given he's already failed from the front twice on the PGA Tour.

The 32-year-old Canadian finished tied for second at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2022, having been tied for the lead with a round to go and while that doesn't sound too bad on paper, his level-par fourth round was a poor effort.

On a day of low scoring, he was beaten by five strokes, and he was the only player inside the top-20 and ties not to shoot at least two-under-par in round four.

Prior to that, he'd led the Bermuda Championship by three with a round to go in 2021 but he finished fifth, beaten by three following a sorry 76 on Sunday.

He's converted only one of five 54-hole leads or co-leads on the Candain Tour but he was five clear with a round to go. He looks opposable and too short at around 2/13.00.

Jake Knapp at the Byron Nelson 24.jpg

The halfway leader, Jake Knapp, followed his back-to-back 64s with a respectable bogey-free four under-par in round three and he's a perfectly fair price at around 11/43.75 but given they only trail the leader by two, Knapp by a solitary stroke, and that they're two clear of the remainder, I'm happy to take a chance on the two players tied for third - Matt Wallace and Ben Kohles.

Wallace sat tied for third with a round to go before winning the Corales Puntacana Championship last year and Kohles looks fractionally big at around 12/113.00.

The 34-year-old Texan created history when he won his first two Korn Ferry Tour events 12 years ago, but he flopped on the PGA Tour the following year and he had to wait 11 years for his next victories, both on the Korn Ferry Tour in April last year.

Playing in the final three-ball alongside Pendrith and Knapp, he's bound to feel the nerves today but that's factored in to the price.

07:40 - May 4, 2024

Very little has happened in China this morning but there's been plenty of change in the market.

A couple of groups began their third rounds at the Volvo China Open early this morning but due to dangerous weather, play has now been suspended for the day and the tournament has been reduced to 54-holes.

Understandably, the 36-hole leader, Sebastian Soderberg, has shortened up dramatically from around even money to 1.75/7.

He's been matched at as low as 1.434/9 and anyone that layed the Swede at evens (me included) could be in trouble.

With no DP World Tour event scheduled next week, a Monday finish is feasible but with more poor weather predicted tomorrow, it's not a surprise to see it's been reduced to 54 holes.

Over at this week's PGA Tour event - the CJ Cup Byron Nelson Championship - pre-event 110.0109/1 chance, Jake Knapp, has shot 64-64 over the first two days to lead by a stroke. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard in Texas with prices to back at 7:30.

Jake Knapp -14 5/16.00
Matt Wallace -13 9.417/2
Troy Merritt -13 19.018/1
Kelly Kraft -12 38.037/1
Keith Mitchell -11 13.5
Davis Riley -11 23.022/1
Taylor Pendrith -11 24.023/1
Ben Kohles -11 50.049/1
Alex Noren -10 18.5
-10 and 21.020/1 bar

Although this is a low scoring venue and course winners have tended to be up with the pace throughout (all five course winners have been inside the top-eight places and within five strokes at halfway), we're yet to see a halfway leader or co-leader kick on and win at either the twice staged here Korn Ferry Tour Championship or this event.

In the three previous renewals of this event at Craig Ranch, Sam Burns finished second to KH Lee in 2021, having led by two at halfway and the three co-leaders in 2022 finished third, fifth and 38th, but the biggest surprise occurred last year.

As highlighted above, Knapp is in illustrious company after his exploits on Thursday and Friday but the 1.68/13 favourite at halfway last year, Scottie Scheffler, who led by one, shot 71-65 over the weekend last year to finish fifth.

History, although brief, appears to be against the leader but he looks a fair price at 4/15.00.

He was tied for the lead at halfway in the low-scoring Mexico Open in February and he shot 63 on Moving Day to ease four clear (won by two) and he won the GolfBC Championship on the Canadian Tour on the only other occasion that he's held a halfway lead. He could well go on to be the first halfway leader to convert at Craig Ranch.

The 4/15.00 isn't quite big enough to tempt me given there are many as 24 players separated by just five strokes so I'm going to sit on my hands for now and have another look after round three.

15:00 - May 3, 2024

Having finished second at the Indian Open and second at the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan in each of his last two starts, pre-event 22.021/1 chance, Sebastian Soderberg, leads the Volvo China Open by three at the halfway stage. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 14:50.

Sebastian Soderberg -16 1.991/1
Paul Waring -13 9.617/2
Guido Migliozzi -12 14.013/1
Adrain Otaegui -11 17.016/1
Joel Girrbach -11 26.025/1
Gordan Brixi -11 110.0109/1
Zander Lombard -10 26.025/1
Lloyd Jefferson Go -10 170.0169/1
-9 and 60.059/1 bar

Soderberg's lead is substantial and clear 36-hole leaders have a decent record at Hidden Grace.

Sebastian Soderberg in China 2024.jpg

On the DP World Tour, the Asian Tour, and the China Tour in the last decade, we've seen seven men hold a clear advantage at halfway and three went on to win.

Ashun Wu and Yue Liu both let two stroke leads slip but the three to lead by three or more have gone on to win.

Alex Levy won this event ten years ago having led by four at halfway, Soomin Lee converted a three-stroke midway advantage at the Shenzhen International in 2016, and Bernd Wiesberger won that event 12 months later having led by four through 36 holes.

Those stats would suggest that Soderberg is a fair price but I'm far from convinced.

He sounded apprehensive about frontrunning when interviewed after his round today and I'm not surprised.

On the first three occasions the Swede led or co-led on the DP World Tour at halfway he 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.

He was tied for the lead at halfway in Japan last week and he plugged away quite nicely to finish second, but he was always trailing on Sunday, and he never really looked like winning.

In addition to Soderberg's dodgy record, scores can vary greatly here and we've seen a number of players make up huge amounts of ground around this track. We've also seen lots of ground lost and we may well be looking at a very different looking leaderboard tomorrow.

As demonstrated perfectly by Romain Langasque, Haotong Li and my Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Brandon Stone, things can change quickly here from one day to the next.

Langasque is injured so we can possibly forgive him following up yesterday's 63 with today's 75 but Li has shot rounds of 64 and 74 and Stone has shot 74-64 over the first two days.

Haotong Li lost a playoff to Kiradech Aphibarnrat here in 2015 having trailed by nine strokes at halfway and Tommy Fleetwood lost a playoff here in 2017 having trailed by eight strokes through 36 and 54 holes so it's clearly possible to come from off the pace.

Paul Waring is the closest challenger to Soderberg, but he's only won once previously, way back in 2018, and the biggest dangers look to be lurking a bit further back.

Last week's Find Me a 100 Winner selection, who missed the cut in Japan, Guido Migliozzi, looks fairly priced at more than 12/113.00 in solo third and the Spaniard, Adrian Otaegui, is dangerous from five back at around 16/117.00 but I'm just happy to lay the leader and see what tomorrow brings.

I'd also be happy to lay him modestly in the Top 5 Finish market at 1.21/5.

10:00 - May 3, 2024

The second round of the Volvo China Open is well underway and currently live on Sky and I'll be back later today with a brief look at that one once they've reached the halfway stage.

At the time of writing, the afternoon starters are attempting to reach the bang in-form Swede, Sebastian Soderberg, who has already reached 16-under-par after just two rounds.

Soderberg has already been matched at odds-on but with the likes of Jesper Svensson, Adrian Otaegui and Guido Migliozzi all making a move in the afternoon, he's drifted back out to odds-against.

Over on the PGA Tour, the first round of the CJ Cup Byron Nelson Championship had to be suspended due to darkness with three groups still on the course.

It's been frustrating to see this regularly happen on the PGA Tour this season, which has almost certainly been down to slow play, but yesterday's failure to complete the round was due to a one hour weather delay at the start of the day, so we can't complain this time.

David Skinns, who's already driven off the 18th tee and Tom Whitney, who's on the 17th green, are the only players within three of the lead that are yet to finish their opening rounds but both sit tied for 13th and three adrift of the early pacesetter, Matt Wallace, and that's probably as far back as we should go when attempting to find the winner in-play.

Matt Wallace in Texas 2024.jpg

Unless there's poor weather, it's very hard to play catch up when the scoring's low and four of the five winners at Craig Ranch have begun the week with a 64 or better.

Matt Bettencourt shot 68 when he won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship here in 2008 but he was still inside the top-10 after round one and the last four course winners have all been inside the top-seven.

The last two winners, Jason Day and KH Lee, both trailed by four after round one but Sebastian Munoz, in 2022, and Seong-Yul Noh last year, both shot 60 in round one to lead by four and three shots respectively.

We only have limited data given the course has only been used twice on the Korn Ferry Tour and three times for this event, but it certainly looks like we need to be concentrating on the leading pack already, although the two I've plumped for aren't in the top-ten.

Nick Dunlap, who won The American Express as an amateur back in January, is an interesting runner at 100.099/1 and I've also thrown a few pounds at the Argentine, Alejandro Tosti.

Dunlap clearly loves a birdie-fest and he looks very fairly priced given he shot a five-under-par 66 yesterday to sit tied for 13th.

The fearless 20-year-old shot a tournament record 29-under-par to claim that first title and he also shot 63 in round three of the Houston Open at the end of March to climb from 28th to sixth (finished 11th), so he's already shown us he can go low in Texas.

Tosti is further back, trailing by four in a tie for 40th, but his approach play was superb on day one.

He's an extremely speculative longshot but if he continues to play as well as he did yesterday from tee-to-green and the putter warms up markedly he could still be a factor on Sunday.

Volvo China Open Pre-event Bets:

Antoine Rozner @ 40.039/1
Alejandro Del Rey @ 60.059/1

In-Play Trade:

Sebastina Soderberg layed at 2.01/1

CJ Cup Byron Nelson Pre-event Bet:

KH Lee @ 65.064/1

In-Play Picks:

Nick Dunlap @ 100.099/1
Alejandro Tosti @ 140.0139/1
Matt Wallace @ 8.27/1
Ben Kohles @ 13.012/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:

Brandon Stone @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
CT Pan @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1
Garrick Higgo @ 190.0189/1
Place order to lay 8u @ 10.09/1 & 12u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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