The Punter's In-Play Blog: Still wide-open at Wentworth

Golfer Francesco Laporta
Francesco Laporta in action in round three

There's just one round to go at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and 20 players are within five of the lead but will we get another off the pace winner?

"With such a tight leaderboard, it’s hard to imagine anyone from outside the top-20 taking the title but we’ve seen some incredible off-the-pace winners at Wentworth over the years so it can’t be ruled out."

08:55 - September 12, 2021

Despite failing to birdie either of the two par five finishing holes in round three, Italy's Francesco Laporta, a pre-event 600.0599/1 chance in search of his first European Tour victory, will take a one-stroke lead into today's fourth and final round of the BMW PGA Championship. Here's the top-20 with prices to back at 8:45.

Francesco Laporta -14 7.26/1
Laurie Canter -13 8.27/1
Billy Horschel -12 7.87/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -12 7.87/1
Adam Scott -12 8.27/1
Jamie Donaldson -12 16.5
Shane Lowry -11 11.010/1
Bernd Wiesberger -11 16.5
Sean Crocker -11 24.023/1
Nicolai Hojgaard -10 55.054/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -10 55.054/1
Justin Walters -10 110.0109/1
Joakim Lagergren -10 150.0149/1
Tommy Fleetwood -9 55.054/1
Justin Rose -9 85.084/1
Thomas Pieters -9 110.0109/1
Aaron Rai -9 130.0129/1
Matthias Schwab -9 130.0129/1
Andrew Johnston -9 150.0149/1
Shubhankar Sharma -9 150.0149/1
-8 and 330.0329/1 bar

Given he's looking for his first European Tour win, it's hard to imagine Laporta holding it together today, but he shouldn't be readily dismissed given both of his Challenge Tour victories in 2019 were won from the front.

The 30 year-old led the Hainan Open by a couple of strokes before going on to win by a stroke in October and he was tied for the lead with Sebastian Heisele at the Challenge Tour Grand Final a month later before going on to win by two.

Like Laporta, England's Laurie Canter is also in search of his first European Tour title, and he too is hard to fancy given the circumstances. This is a huge event and with so many big names in-the-mix, it's difficult to envisage either of the two at the top holding on but it's not easy to pick a winner with 20 players within five of the lead.

Billy Horschel, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Adam Scott are the three the market considers most likely to overhaul Laporta's lead and of the three I prefer the American.

Horschel is showing Steve Stricker that he was perhaps harshly overlooked by the Ryder Cup captain but there's still a chance he could make the US team if Brooks Koepka's wrist injury doesn't recover in time. A win at Wentworth would surely put the WGC Match Play winner top of the reserve list if he wasn't there already.

Bezuidenhout recovered nicely yesterday after a poor second round and if he can find a few more greens today he could be the man to beat. After three rounds, the South African tops the Strokes Gained Putting stats and he ranks third for Putting Average but he only ranks 54th for Greens In Regulation.

Adam Scott is putting better than expected this week but anyone that watched him miss a tiddler to take the Wyndham Championship last month isn't in a rush to side with the Aussie and I'm one of them.

Shane Lowry is looking to secure his place on Padraig Harrington's European Ryder Cup team and that will continue to inspire him today. He was very well-supported before the off and if we consider his starting price of around 19.018/1 to be correct, the 11.010/1 he trades at this morning, given he only trails by three, is fair.

I'm happy to have gotten Bernd Wiesberger onside before round three and if he can hole a few more putts, he could be the man to beat today. With a top-50 finish seemingly in the bag, the Austrian is assured of a place on Padraig's team and given he ranks first for Driving Accuracy, second for GIR and first for both Strokes Gained off the Tee and Tee to Green, it's quite clear that he's absolutely striping it after a slow start on Thursday. A decent start will see him really relax and enjoy himself.

Given the magnificent record of the English, I've added both Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose, who both trail by five. They'll need help from the leading pair at least but both may be better suited to chasing from off the pace.

Fleetwood won the 2019 Nedbank Challenge form six off the lead and he lost a playoff at the 2017 Shenzhen International have trailed by eight with a round to.

Rose will be very disappointed by his level-par 72 yesterday but now out of the limelight, he's more than capable of bouncing back and I just thought 85.084/1 was too big for such a class act.

With such a tight leaderboard, it's hard to imagine anyone from outside the top-20 taking the title but we've seen some incredible off-the-pace winners at Wentworth over the years so it can't be ruled out.

Alex Noren was matched at 220.0219/1 on Sunday morning four years ago, as he sat outside the top-20 with a round to go. That's as far off the lead as any winner has been at Wentworth through 54 holes since 1990 but he was the third winner in eight years to trail by seven strokes with a round to go!

Simon Khan sat tied for 13th and seven back before his win in 2010 and Rory McIlroy trailed Thomas Bjorn by seven in 2014 (Bjorn was matched at just 1.21/5). Between 1990 and 2006, 12 of the 16 winners led or co-led with a round to go and Tony Johnstone, in 1992, was the only winner not to be inside the front three places through 54 holes. He sat tied for fifth and three off the lead but it's been a completely different kettle of fish since David Howell's victory in 2006.

In addition to the three aforementioned winners from seven adrift, we've seen victories from three, four and five strokes back and in addition to all those big off-the-pace winners, we nearly witnessed another huge comeback win in 2016 when the runner-up, Rikard Karlberg, began the final day fully eight strokes adrift. He was matched at 1000.0 in-running but he'll look back and rue his bogey at the 16th hole as he finished up losing by one having been matched at just 7.87/1.

Noren spoke yesterday morning about how he wanted the wind to get up over the weekend to give him a chance from off the pace and the fact that we've had a drop of rain this week, and that the wind is almost non existent, certainly favours the frontrunners, but given how many have won from off the pace, another can't be discounted so I'm happy to take a small chance on someone that's done it before - Rafa Cabrera-Bello.

The Spaniard shot 64 in round four to win the 2017 Scottish Open from four off the lead and he opened his European Tour account way back in 2009 at the Austrian Open when he shot 60 on Sunday to win from eight back.

22:00 - September 10, 2021

South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout slipped out of the lead today after a lacklustre level-par second round at the BMW PGA Championship but the man who ended the first round alongside him, Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, birdied three of his last five holes to back up Thursday's sensational 64 with a very respectable 68, and he leads by a stroke. He's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:50.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat -12 8.615/2
Laurie Canter -11 13.5
Francesco Laporta -11 22.021/1
Adam Scott -10 7.87/1
Billy Horschel -9 10.519/2
Justin Rose -9 10.519/2
Jamie Donaldson -9 32.031/1
Shane Lowry -8 10.519/2
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -8 18.5
Thomas Pieters -8 29.028/1
Masahiro Kawamura -8 32.031/1
Marcus Armitage -8 46.045/1
Fabrizio Zanotti -8 60.059/1
-7 and 34.033/1 bar

The last three winners of the BMW PGA Championship have been inside the top-five places after 36 holes but as highlighted after round one, and in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, plenty of players have won at Wentworth after a slow start.

In the last 16 years we've seen three winners come from five strokes adrift at halfway, two from six back, one from seven off the lead and two winners trailed by eight strokes after 36 holes so with 50 players within eight of Aphibarnrat's lead, it's still a wide-open event.

It's very hard to win wire-to-wire and Aphibarnrat is atop of the leaderboard courtesy of a red-hot putter so he looks extremely vulnerable. After two rounds he ranks first for Strokes Gained Putting and third for Putting Average and it's hard to see him remaining so hot with the flatstick.

In contrast, two of the three players tied for fifth, Justin Rose and Billy Horschel, have their irons dialled in but their putters need to warm up over the weekend. Towards the head of the market and the leaderboard, they were the two I came closest to getting onside but there's still a long way to go and I'm happy to play a couple of players a little further back.

With the Ryder Cup only two weeks away, who's in and who's out of the respective teams has had a huge bearing on the tournament. Horschel appears to be inspired by Steve Stricker leaving him out of the US team and Bernd Wiesberger, who needs to finish inside the top-50 to make the European line-up, clearly felt the pressure early on, but he finished his second round in style, playing his last eight holes in five-under-par to climb into the top-20.

There's obviously a chance the Austrian could start round three slowly and he put himself back behind the eight-ball but he's more likely to just get better and better as the top-50 place is more assured and trailing by six, he's close enough to take a tilt at the title. I'm happy to back him at 85.084/1.

World number 14, Viktor Hovland, doesn't have any Ryder Cup selection concerns and his slow start was almost certainly down to having just finished a three-week FedEx Cup Playoff Series stint but he's warming to his task nicely.

After an opening level-par 72 and a double-bogey at the eighth hole in round two, the Norwegian was by no means a certainty to be here for the last two rounds but a bogey free five-under-par back-nine has seen him go into the weekend tied for 25th and seven shots off the lead.

Like Wiesberger, Hovland needs two low rounds and a little help from the leaders but he's straight out of the top drawer and 34.033/1 is a fair price.

I'll be back on Sunday morning with a look at the state of play with a round to go.

22:20 - September 9, 2021

After a medical emergency to one of the spectators, the latter groups were delayed at the BMW PGA Championship today for almost half-an-hour so the first round didn't quite get completed but it doesn't effect the early leaderboard. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 22:10.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout -8 5.14/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -8 14.013/1
Adam Scott -7 7.06/1
Justin Rose -5 13.5
Masahiro Kawamura -5 24.023/1
Laurie Canter -5 40.039/1
-4 and 24.023/1 bar

South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat show the way after the opening round and both are aiming to emulate the defending champ, Tyrrell Hatton, who went on to take the title after being tied at the top after round one.

Hatton was one of three players leading after shooting an opening 66 last year and the trio experienced very different fates. Adri Arnaus couldn't break 70 after the first round and he finished 32nd and Justin Harding followed up his 66 with an 82 to miss the cut!

Bezuidenhout and Aphibarnrat both look short given the only other first round leader or co-leader to go on to win in the last 25 years was Luke Donald a decade ago and that it's perfectly possible to get away with a very slow start here.

In the last 15 years we've seen winners come from five, six, seven and even eight strokes back after round one, and they've made up plenty of places too.

Back in 2016, Chris Wood sat 54th after the opening round before winning, the 2010 winner, Simon Khan, sat 65th after the opening round and Anders Hansen, when winning the second of his two titles, was sitting in 90th place in 2007!

I'm going to take a patient approach this week given those stats but as highlighted in the preview, course form stands up nicely at Wentworth and I'm happy to chance the 2018 winner, Francesco Molinari, who sits tied for 12th and five off the lead. That's as far back as he was when he won here three years ago, although he sat tied for 29th on that occasion.

I'll be back tomorrow night after the cut's been made.

Pre-Event Selections:
Rasmus Højgaard @ 65.064/1
Guido Migliozzi @ 70.069/1

In-Play Picks:
Francesco Molinari @ 65.064/1
Viktor Hovland @ 34.033/1
Bernd Wiesberger @ 85.084/1
Tommy Fleetwood @ 60.059/1
Justin Rose @ 85.084/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello @ 450.0449/1

Find Me A 100 Winner Picks:
Back 2 u Calum Hill @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Renato Paratore @ 320.0319/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

1u each/way Renato Paratore Top Italian @ 7/1 (Sportsbook)

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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