12:50 - April 22, 2017
The weather has finally relented in China and the Shenzhen International is back on track. After the completion of round two this morning, Bernd Wiesberger began round three with a four stroke lead and after a slightly poor start he was soon caught by Frenchman, Gregory Bourdy, who was helped greatly by a hole-in-one at the third.
The big Austrian was over-par for his first six holes of round three but a birdie at the seventh kick started his day and but for a birdie at the final hole by Dylan Frittelli, he'd have maintained that four-stroke lead with his three-under-par 69. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with Sportsbook prices to back at 12:40.
Bernd Wiesberger -15 4/5
Dylan Frittelli -12 11/1
Ross Fisher -11 8/1
Dean Burmester -11 11/1
George Coetzee -11 14/1
David Lipsky -11 18/1
Bubba Watson -10 16/1
Alex Levy -10 25/1
Gregory Bourdy -10 35/1
Yan-Wei Liu -10 45/1
-9 and 25/1 bar
Wiesberger looks reasonably priced at 4/5 on the Sportsbook but I can see why he's drifting on the Exchange. He's led four times with a round to go so far and he has a 50% strike-rate. He successfully converted a one-stroke lead on the Challenge Tour back in 2010 and he maintained a five-stroke lead at the Ballantine's Championship when he broke his European Tour duck in 2012 but his last two efforts have been poor.
He shot 73 at the 2012 Portugal Masters to fall from first to fourth and he shot 74 at the Malaysian Open in 2015 to finish second having been two clear with a round to go. The strike-rate for three-stroke 54 hole leaders on the European Tour over the last 20 years is 70% so as he nudges out towards even money on the Exchange he becomes an attractive price but I'm happy to leave him alone.
My pre-tournament pick, Thorbjorn Olesen, moved into second place with a birdie at the opening hole this morning but his long game was awful and he twice pull-hooked a drive into the trees. He managed to get back to level par for the day but on -8 he looks to have far too much to do even if Wiesberger has an off day but my in-play pick did okay.
I wish I'd gotten more matched on Ross Fisher than I did yesterday but he's the clear second favourite now and I've also added David Lipsky. The American has played brilliantly after a lacklustre opening round and [24.0] on the Exchange is more than fair given he's an industry best price of 18/1 with the Sportsbook.
We've reached the halfway stage of the Valero Texas Open and it looks almost as hard to fathom now as it did before the off. Tony Finau and Bud Cauley share the lead on eight-under-par but 25 players are within four of the lead and it looks tough to call.
Finau, who won the Puerto Rico Open last year (his only PGA Tour title so far), heads the market after a remarkable seven-under-par 65 in tricky, breezy conditions yesterday afternoon and the stats are in his favour.
As highlighted in the preview, an argument can be made to dismiss the stats for the 2010 and 2013 renewals. The course was new and rain-softened in 2010 and it was set up very differently in 2013 when the tournament played in the week before the US Masters, with the venue set up to replicate conditions at Augusta. Adam Scot won in 2010 from a tie for 22nd and four back at this stage and Laird was five back through 36 and 54 holes in 2013 but four of the other five course winners were in front at this stage and last year's winner, Charley Hoffman, sat second at halfway.
If we are to dismiss the 2010 and 2013 editions then we can't go too far down the leaderboard and of the leading half dozen, Finau has to be the one to beat. Bud Cauley is yet to win on the PGA Tour after 107 starts and the only other man trading at a single-figure price, Kevin Chappell, is yet to get off the mark after 170 PGA Tour events.
I'm not hopeful, but pre-event pick, Ryan Moore, is only four back and yesterday's in-play pop, Branden Grace, is just three adrift, so I've got chances going into the weekend. Moore shot a second successive two-under-par 70 to move into a tie for 17th and Grace sits tied for 10th after a disappointing one-over-par 73 yesterday.
With the benefit of hindsight, I was perhaps a tad naïve to go with Grace after he'd missed so many short putts on Thursday. I thought if he could play like he did on the first day and get a few more putts to drop then he'd be the man to beat but instead his long game became more ragged and he still missed putts. Yesterday's tally was four inside seven feet!
Although my two are clearly not out of it, the stats suggest they'll struggle to make up the ground and that makes sense. The wind is going to blow again today and it won't get any easier as the course dries out further. One or two players will go against the head I'm sure, like Finau did yesterday afternoon, but if the stats are to be heeded we need to be concentrating on those at the top of the leaderboard. I greatly respect Finau, but he's just short enough for my liking and the only one I quite like is the man Paul Krishnamurty picked out before the off - promising Aussie, Cameron Smith.
Still only 23-years-old, Smith is yet to win on the PGA Tour but he was fourth at the US Open in 2015 and he's an immense talent. Now only one off the lead, he'll do well to back up the 65 he shot yesterday morning but two of the first seven winners here have been Aussies and I thought Smith looked a decent price now at [17.0] to be the third.
I'm out tonight and I'm up early to get to Wembley for the Arsenal v Manchester City semi-final so apologies but there'll be no further in-play updates this week. I'll be back on Monday with the De-Brief.
14:10 - April 21, 2017
The expected storms hit Shenzhen today and play was suspended for the day at the Shenzhen International with some players having played just a single hole of their second rounds. They'll come back in the morning to finish up and the likes of Bubba Watson, who has completed just five holes of round two, are set for a long day - weather permitting.
I felt yesterday that Thursday's late starters might get the better of it and that seems to be the case. Bernd Wiesberger leads by four strokes over my man, Thorbjorn Olesen, and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli, and they'll be well rested by the time they begin round three sometime tomorrow afternoon.
Wiesberger is the strong favourite now and, although he's not for me at the price, I can see why. Watson and Gregory Bourdy only trail him by five strokes so his lead could easily be cut by the end of round two. But I'd rather be in the house and resting than up early in the morning and chasing. And I certainly wonder how much stomach Bubba will have for it tomorrow.
The 38-year-old American hasn't been in the best of form this year and his opening 66 yesterday was his best of the year to date. Can he maintain that form over the weekend or will he get increasingly irritated by the delays and fall away? He has to be feared and he's quite rightly the current second favourite. I could wake up tomorrow morning and see that he's not only caught Wiesberger, he's passed him, but I'd be less surprised to wake and see he's still four or five adrift. I certainly don't want to back him. But I don't want to back the Austrian either...
Wiesberger's record when leading at halfway isn't brilliant. He powered away from the field at the Ballantine's back in 2012 to win his first European Tour title but, on the two subsequent occasions when he's held the lead after 36 holes, he's performed poorly, shooting rounds in the 70s to drop out of the front-three places in round three. On both occasions he rallied in round four to finish second and third but the damage had been done.
The front two in the market make little appeal and I'm more than happy to have Olesen onside. He's been pretty ruthless when he's had a sniff of late and the 12/1 available with the Sportsbook looks fair.
I was tempted to leave the event alone for now and see what tomorrow brings but I've managed to get a miniscule wager on Ross Fisher, matched at an average of [42.0], and that looks big. He's currently nine of the lead with 12 holes of round two to play, so he's got his work cut out, but he's no bigger than 33/1 on the High Street and even that's probably a bit generous.
Round two of the Valero Texas Open is underway and the early starters will look to catch and pass first round leader, Branden Grace, who fired a six-under-par 66 yesterday morning to lead by one.
My man, Ryan Moore, had set the very early pace, getting to four-under-par after just six holes and he was matched at just [7.4] at that stage. He was disappointing after that though, playing his last 11 holes in two-over-par. At tied 33rd and just four off the lead, he's certainly not out of it yet but I'm in no rush to press my initial wager and I've also got Grace on side now.
The South African shot 66 yesterday despite missing three putts from inside five feet so his long game is in incredible shape. In the seven previous editions here, every winner has been within five strokes after round one but no first round leader has gone on to win. Grace can be the first. He won the RBC Heritage last year after leading after round one and his record when starting fast is very good.
On the first three occasions he led on the Sunshine Tour Grace fell away tamely but since November 2010, he's led after the first round eight times and his final finishing positions read 2-1-3-1-1-1-5-1. That's an impressive enough set of figures to see me take a chance at [7.4] given the immediate chasers, with the obvious exception of Brooks Koepka, who trails by two, aren't any great shakes.
10:15 - April 20, 2017
Last year's Shenzhen International suffered so many weather delays that the event ran into Monday and we've had a suspension in play this year already.
Play has resumed after a short delay due to lightening, and the tournament's live on Sky Sports now. Bubba Watson leads after a six-under-par 66 but the afternoon starters are currently enjoying rain-softened greens and benign conditions.
My each-way fancy, Thorbjorn Olesen, has started nicely enough and is two-under-par through 11 holes but he's missed lots of chances and he needs to keep moving forward. As highlighted in the preview, the three course winners here have either led after round one or trailed by just a stroke.
Today's late starters might get the best of it if we get another suspension tomorrow. Even if they don't finish their opening rounds today, they should come back in the morning, finish up round one and then get round two in whereas Bubba and co, whose second rounds are scheduled to begin tomorrow afternoon, could end up coming back on Saturday to finish up their second rounds.
I've not done anything in-running in China yet and the main reason for kicking the blog of early is to highlight the addition to my Valero Texas Open portfolio of D.A Points. The Puerto Rico Open champ is a winner in Texas and I thought he had drifted to a nice price at [280.0]. As detailed in the preview, my only other pick is Ryan Moore.
Play is due to start in Texas at 13:10 (UK and Ireland time) and if you fancy a wager on who will lead after the first round, Dan Geraghty's has taken a look at the market here.
Shenzhen International Pre-Event Selections:
Thorbjorn Olesen @ [60.0]
Marcel Siem @ [270.0]
Kristoffer Broberg @ [400.0]
Ross Fisher @ [42.0]
David Lipsky @ [24.0]
Valero Texas Open Pre-Event Selections:
Ryan Moore @ 28/1 (Sportsbook)
D.A Points @ [280.0] (added after the preview was published)
Branden Grace @ [7.4]
Cameron Smith @[17.0]
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