SSP Chawrasia still leads the UBS Hong Kong Open but is he vulnerable in front? Read what our man thinks ahead of tomorrow's fourth and final round here...
“You certainly can’t go scanning too far down the leaderboard to find the answer – Fanling is a really hard place to play catch-up and looking all the way back to 1996, the furthest any winner has come from with a round to go is four strokes and even then the winner, Miguel Angel Jimenez, only had to make up one place.”
11:00 - November 25, 2017
A steady one-under-par 69 in round three has seen SSP Chawrasia leading the UBS Hong Kong Open for the third day in-a-row but it's Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello that now heads the market after a six-under-par 64 on moving day. Here are the current standings with prices to back at 10:55 with a round to go.
Rafa Cabrera Bello -9 [4.3]
Wade Ormsby -9 [10.0]
Tommy Fleetwood -8 [6.0]
Alexander Bjork -8 [12.5]
Thomas Detry -8 [16.0]
Paul Peterson -7 [42.0]
Justin Rose -6 [23.0]
Julian Suri -6 [29.0]
Dylan Frittelli -6 [40.0]
Marcus Kinhult -6 [85.0]
Micah Lauren Shin -6 [90.0]
-5 and [85.0] bar
Playing with Thomas Aiken (who had a poor third round) in the final group today the pace of play was slow and SSP Chawrasia looked a little nervous on the back nine. He played steady golf with few mistakes but he never looked like increasing his lead considerably and he does look a bit vulnerable in front. It's very hard to win wire-to-wire and the question we have to ask is - is he running out of steam or was today's poorer round (compared to the 65 and 66 shot on Thursday and Friday) a one-off? I fear it could be the former but the stats give him a chance...
The last two winners here were tied for the lead after 54 holes and since 1996, 15 players have held a clear lead at Fanling with five going on to win. On the negative side, seven of the 15 only led by one (as does SSP) and none of those seven managed to convert. Chawrasia's lead looks precarious but if he's going to fail, who is going to prevail?
You certainly can't go scanning too far down the leaderboard to find the answer - Fanling is a really hard place to play catch-up and looking all the way back to 1996, the furthest any winner has come from with a round to go is four strokes and even then the winner, Miguel Angel Jimenez, only had to make up one place. Robert Karlsson had led by four before a final round 72 saw him caught and passed by the Spanish course specialist.
Rory McIlroy won in 2011, having sat fifth and three adrift of Alvaro Quiros with a round to go but incredibly, every other win since 1996 has been within two strokes of the lead. The likes of Justin Rose et al on -6 and four back look like they have it all to do.
Cabrera Bello is the market's choice after today's third round but he's not for me. Time and time again he disappoints in-contention and it's interesting to see that when he did win this year, for the first time in five years, it was in an event, the Scottish Open, when the third round leaderboard was as bunched as it's been in Europe all year (three tied for the lead through 54 holes) and he needed poor Callum Shinkwin, who was matched at [1.01], to make a complete hash of the 72 hole. Rafa led here last year and hit lows of [1.56] on Saturday and [1.48] on Sunday before failing. It could all fall his way tomorrow but I'm not prepared to bet it will.
The 37-year-old Australian, Wade Ormsby, has been plying his trade worldwide since the year 2000, with more than 350 professional starts. He's won once - on the Asian Tour four years ago. Since that victory he's led three times and trailed by a single stroke twice and he's finished 8th, 11th, fourth, second and fifth. He led the low-key Fiji International by a stroke through 54 holes in August but shot 75 in round four to finish fifth - beaten by five strokes. Wade is not reliable in-contention.
Of the three players two shots back on -8, one man stands out like a sore thumb - Tommy Fleetwood - and he's the value play with a round to go. Thomas Detry and Alexander Bjork are also two adrift and they impressed today but they made sloppy errors that they won't be able to afford tomorrow and they're both looking for their first wins on the European Tour. Tommy, on the other hand, is the brand new Race to Dubai champion looking to secure his fourth win and his third this year. Fleetwood is used to winning now and if he gets off to a decent start tomorrow, he might just be the one.
Paul Krishnamurty's each-way pick, Paul Peterson, sits alone in seventh and my man, Thongchai Jaidee, sits tied for 13th and five off the lead but a place looks like the best we can hope for there.
Over at the Australian Open, Jason Day has hit the front with a round to go and he's trading at around the [1.6] mark. This looks like a penalty kick now and he really should convert but winning his national title is a fairly big deal and it's not inconceivable that he gets a bit jittery tomorrow. The price looks about right to me and I'm happy to let the event conclude without me.
11:30 - November 24, 2017
Having ended round one of the UBS Hong Kong Open in a tie for second yesterday, Matthew Fitzpatrick's price dipped to below [5.0] before he teed off for round two today. Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia had failed to make much impression on the leaders in the morning and with little wind to speak of, it looked like the afternoon wave were set fair to score well but Fitzpatrick opened up his round with a double-bogey and struggled thereafter and it's the first round leader, SSP Chawrasia that holds sway at halfway. Here's the current leaderboard with prices to back at 11:25.
Thomas Aiken -7 [13.0]
Julian Suri -5 [13.0]
Alexander Bjork -5 [19.0]
Joakim Lagergren -5 [29.0]
Poom Saksansin -5 [32.0]
Tommy Fleetwood -4 [13.0]
Dylan Frittelli -4 [16.5]
Justin Rose -3 [8.8]
-4 and [25.0] bar
Chawrasia was matched at [2.6] this morning when he led by five with five to play but a three-putt bogey on the 14th eventually put the brakes on his charge and he looked a little less assured over the final four holes. He still managed to par in though and he's the man to beat going in to the weekend.
Justin Rose, two years ago, and Ian Poulter, in 2010, both led at this stage before going on to win and both Gregory Bourdy, in 2009, and Rory McIlroy, two years later, were tied at the top through 36 holes . Looking a little further back, the Spanish pair, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Manuel Lara converted halfway leads in 2004 and 2006 so frontrunners have a decent track record at Fanling.
Padraig Harrington won from six adrift in 2003 but he was sitting fourth and since then, the only men to win from any more than three strokes adrift are Colin Montgomerie and Jimenez. Monty sat sixth and four adrift in 2006 and the Spaniard won the second and last of his four titles in 2007 and 2013 having trailed by four strokes at halfway. Recent history suggests making up ground here is hard and that makes it difficult to argue that Tommy Fleetwood or Justin Rose represent value at the prices on offer given they trail by five and six strokes respectively.
Thomas Aiken was someone I looked at closely before the off as this venue is ideal but he's notoriously weak in-contention and the group on five-under-par don't look too threatening either. Julian Suri was very impressive when he won in Denmark in August and has to be considered the most likely to win from that group but it all depends on what Chawrasia does.
This looks really tough to call and having Chawrasia onside (and Frittelli in tied seventh on -4), I'm going to wait and see what tomorrow brings.
Over at the Australian Open, Jason Day has moved in to second place behind outsider, Lucas Herbert, and it looks like backing Jordan Spieth yesterday was a big mistake. He struggled with his putter today and he trails the leader by fully eight strokes at halfway. Day is the understandably short favourite now and his biggest danger now might well be Cameron Smith, who on -4, trails Herbert by five and Day by four.
12:00 - November 23, 2017
Despite playing in what transpired to be the worst of the conditions, India's SSP Chawrasia, who played in the morning, holds sway after the opening round of the UBS Hong Kong Open following a five-under-par 65. The wind dropped a bit in the afternoon and the warmer conditions helped too but nobody could get to Chawrasia.
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, being up with the pace is usually very important here and ten of the last 12 winners have been within three of the lead after the opening round. That should narrow things down nicely but with Matthew Fitzpatrick within one of the lead and pre-event favourite, Justin Rose, and Race to Dubai winner, Tommy Fleetwood, within three; it's a wide-open event still.
Rose dropped a couple of shots at six and seven and he missed a tiny par putt on 18 but he looked to be playing well for the majority of the day and if he were to make a big move tomorrow morning I wouldn't be too surprised.
Like Rose, Sergio Garcia dropped a shot on the 18th to end the day four back and he can't be dismissed lightly either. With all the big names starting fairly well, it's a hard event to assess still but I like the chances of Fitzpatrick.
The forecast suggests we'll see a very similar pattern to today with the wind dropping as the day goes on (albeit only slightly) so I'd like to think the draw will even out and Fitzpatrick (and Chawrasia) will enjoy slightly better conditions than they endured this morning. I've backed Fitzpatrick, who was close to a pick before the off, and I've also added Chawrasia too.
It's very hard being in the van throughout to win but three first round leaders have won this century and SSP has proven to be rock solid in-contention on numerous occasions. He was beaten in a playoff at the 2015 Indian Open having lead after rounds one, two and three but he's claimed the last two editions of that title impressively and he's more likely to hang around than not.
My only pre-event pick mentioned in the preview, Ajeetesh Sandhu, didn't line-up after apparently having issues getting a visa but my each-way fancy, Thongchai Jaidee, did OK (shot two-under this morning) and I did back a few after the preview was published but none have fared especially well and they're detailed below.
Hong Kong Open Pre-Event Selections:
Ajeetesh Sandhu - Non-Runner
Dylan Frittelli @ [50.0]
Austin Connelly @ [250.0]
Rahman Siddikur @ [1000.0]
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ [5.9]
SSP Chawrasia @ [19.5]
Tommy Fleetwood @ [6.2]
Jordan Spieth @ [4.4] average
The Australian Open (previewed here by Paul Krishnamurty) is interestingly poised after the opening round. Jason Day is the new favourite after an opening five-under-par 66 but he played in the morning and Jordan Spieth, who shot 70, played in the much tougher afternoon.
The warm pre-event favourite, Spieth, didn't play his best today but he could fly tomorrow if the draw evens out and [4.4] looks a fair price given his event form figures read 1-2-1 and his course form figures read 1-2.
I'll be back tomorrow at the halfway stage.
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