The Punter's In-Play Blog: Rahm and Willett tied at the top

Golfer Danny Willett
Co-leader at Wentworth - Danny Willett

With a round to go at the BMW PGA Championship, Jon Rahm and Danny Willett are tied at the top but will either man go on to take the title? Read what Steve thinks ahead of round four here...

"There are six players tied for ninth and seven shots off the lead and they range in price between 200.0199/1 and 500.0499/1 and they must be worth chancing at those odds given we’ve seen three winners come from seven back in the last eight years alone."

21:10 - September 21, 2019

Jon Rahm has already been matched at a low of 1.422/5 to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth but after looking highly likely to open up a decent lead with a round to go, he finished his third round with a bogey at 17 and a par on 18 and he's now tied at the top with Danny Willett. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:00.

Jon Rahm -15 2.8815/8
Danny Willett -15 7.06/1
Justin Rose -12 9.617/2
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -12 21.020/1
Shubhankar Sharma -12 30.029/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -10 55.054/1
Richie Ramsay -10 220.0219/1
Patrick Reed -9 100.099/1
-8 and 200.0199/1 bar

Despite his finish today, Jon Rahm is clearly the man to beat still but he looks too short to me at around even money. He won the Irish Open back in 2017 having been tied for the lead after three rounds but on the only other occasion he led or co-led, at the Players Championship in May this year, he finished 12th.

Co-leader, Danny Willett, has more experience than Rahm and the 2016 US Masters winner has led or co-led as many as seven times and he's fared quite well. He won the DP World Tour Championship in November last year by two strokes after being tied for the lead after three rounds and that was the fourth time that he's successfully converted a 54-hole lead or co-lead.

Willett at 3.412/5 makes more appeal than Rahm at around even money but since Paul Casey won here ten years ago, having led by three with a round to go, 14 men have led or co-led through 54-holes and only four went on to win - Luke Donald (twice in 2011 and '12), Byeong-Hun An (2015), and Francesco Molinari last year.

In the last 12 years we've seen winners here come from two, three, four, and five strokes and we've seen three different winners come from seven back with a round to go! I've looked at Wentworth's propensity to produce an off-the-pace winner in more detail in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview here.

The evidence is all there before us and I'm quite happy to take a chance on the chasers again. I've left the two leaders and Justin Rose alone but I've backed everyone else that's within seven strokes of the lead.

There are six players tied for ninth and seven shots off the lead and they range in price between 200.0199/1 and 500.0499/1 and they must be worth chancing at those odds given we've seen three winners come from seven back in the last eight years alone.

09:50 - September 21, 2019

After a benign, breeze-free opening day, the wind picked up a bit in the afternoon yesterday and as a result, yesterday's early starters at the BMW PGA Championship were advantaged by an average of 1.51 strokes over the first two days and only two players in the top-11 at halfway (Henrik Stenson and Viktor Hovland) were drawn AM-PM. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 9:40.

Jon Rahm -11 2.8815/8
Danny Willett -11 7.06/1
Justin Rose -9 8.07/1
Henrik Stenson -9 8.27/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -9 27.026/1
Paul Casey -7 14.013/1
Billy Horschel -7 40.039/1
Viktor Hovland -6 34.033/1
Tony Finau -6 36.035/1
Andrew Putnam -6 75.074/1
Shubhankar Sharma -6 150.0149/1
-5 and 55.054/1

Whatever happens over the weekend at Wentworth, moving the BMW PGA Championship from May to September has already proven to be a success. A number of PGA Tour stars made the decision to play and several of them are in-contention at halfway, with Spain's Jon Rahm, who's playing here for the first time, tied for the lead with Danny Willett.

Rahm is definitely the man to beat but halfway leaders and co-leaders don't have a terrific record here of late. Rory McIlroy failed to convert a three-stroke 36-hole lead last year and Luke Donald, who won wire-to-wire in 2011, is the only halfway leader or-co-leader to win since Paul Casey held on to win by a stroke ten years ago, having led by three at this stage.

Last year's winner, Francesco Molinari, was tied for fifth and five behind McIlroy at halfway and the two winners before him were even further back. Alex Noren sat tied for 23rd and six back two years ago and Chris Wood was 24th and eight shots adrift in 2016 so backing someone from off the pace at a juicy price might be smart move.

I backed the defending champ, Molinari, in-running yesterday but he finished his second round poorly, playing the last six holes in two-over par, but I haven't given up on him yet. He's putting well so far this week and he clearly loves the venue. He currently trails by six but given two of the last five winners, Alex Noren (2017) and Rory McIlroy (2014) trailed by seven with only one round to go, it's too early to write him off.

I'm going to leave the event alone for now but I'll be back again this evening with a look at the leaderboard with a round to go. I'll probably look to back a few players from of the pace after the third round but if Rahm, or anyone else, starts fast today and goes odds-on, I may take them on too. As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen a number of players go odds-on here before round four and get beat.

Over at the Sanderson Farms Championship, the 2015 BMW PGA Championship winner, Byeong-Hun An, leads by two strokes on -12 but after Thursday's lengthy weather delay, the second round hasn't been concluded yet. Both Cameron Percy and Seamus Power have the potential to catch An, given they trail by three and that they still have seven holes of round two to play, but it's a long odds-on shot that he'll still be leading at the halfway way point and that's been the place to be lately.

Cameron Champ was tied for the lead at halfway last year before going on to win by four and the 2017 winner, Ryan Armour, led by one at halfway before winning by five but it would be wrong to just assume this is a frontrunners course. The first four course winners were all trailing at halfway. The 2014 winner, Nick Taylor, only trailed by two strokes after 36 holes but Woody Austin (2013) and Cody Gribble (2016) trailed by four and the 2015 winner, Peter Malnati, was six adrift with two rounds to go.

10:40 - September 20, 2019

Pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy, has a strange bank of form at Wentworth - home of this week's European Tour event - the BMW PGA Championship. He won the tournament from off the pace in 2014 and he traded at odds-on when leading by three at halfway last year, before going on to finish second, but he's also missed the cut here four times. Yesterday morning's round encapsulated his Wentworth resume nicely. Rory was matched at just 3.8514/5 after he'd eagled the fifth and birdied the sixth to get to three-under-par but he played the last 12 holes in seven-over-par!

Matt Wallace set the bar early on with a bogey-free seven-under-par but with conditions almost as good in the afternoon (PM starters only averaged 0.47 strokes more than the AM wave) a number of big names closed in on Wallace and one of my men, Paul Casey, looked like he might finish the day alongside him.

Casey got to within one and when he hit his approach to the par five 18th into the greenside bunker, a birdie looked on the cards. He was matched at low of 5.24/1 but disaster struck just moments later. The Englishman chunked his bunker shot into the water and made a seven!

Major winners, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett and Justin Rose were all circling Wallace after day one but it was Spain's Jon Rahm, who ended round one alongside Stenson and just one adrift of Wallace, to head the market overnight. He was matched at a low of 4.77/2 but you can never rest on your laurels around Wentworth and he started his second round this morning with back-to-back bogeys.

You can never rush to discount a class act like Rahm either and he's responded to the poor start brilliantly with four birdies in-a-row but Danny Willet is the man setting the pace. Incredibly, at the time of writing, he's five-under-par for his first five holes this morning!

There are a number of big names in-the-mix already and we look set for a brilliant tournament but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen all sorts of drama here on a Sunday so I'm reluctant to get too involved too early. I backed South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout at 80.079/1 before he started his second round, see tweet below, but other than that, I'm happy to sit on my hands for now.

Over in the States, at almost the precise moment Casey was finding water at Wentworth, my sole selection in the Sanderson Farms Championship, Brandt Snedeker, found water on the eighth hole - his 17th hole of his first round. Having started slowly, Snedeker had finally found a few birdies on his second nine and I thought he'd be bang there if he could get to five-under so the drop at the eighth was a bit of a hammer blow. He went on to shoot a three-under-par 69 but that's pedestrian around this course.

Tom Hoge leads after an eight-under-par 64 but round one was suspended due to inclement weather at 14:46 and they didn't get back out again. I'm happy to leave the event alone for now.

BMW PGA Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Paul Casey @ 18.5
Bernd Wiesberger @ 46.045/1
Alex Noren @ 65.064/1

In-Play Picks:
Christiaan Bezuidenhout @ 80.079/1
Francesco Molinari @ 27.026/1

Sanderson Farms Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Brandt Snedeker @ 23.022/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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