The Punter's In-Play Blog: Is Burns poised to go back-to-back?

Golfer Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar - three back and a fair price according to The Punter

The final round of the Byron Nelson Championship has been brought forward due to a poor weather forecast so Steve's back with his look at the state of play with a round to go in Texas...

“Kuchar is a fine poor weather player and he’s made just two bogeys all week. He came into the event in fine form (apart from a missed cut at the US Masters) and I can see him carving out a score that might just be good enough.”

9:25 - May 16, 2021

Halfway leader, Sam Burns, birdied his final hole of the third round to edge back in front of Korea's K.H Lee at the Byron Nelson Championship and he remains the man to beat. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 09:20.

Sam Burns -20 2.727/4
K.H Lee -19 6.411/2
Jordan Spieth -17 6.25/1
Matt Kuchar -17 13.012/1
Charl Schwartzel -17 13.012/1
Alex Noren -17 17.016/1
Doc Redman -16 42.041/1
Seamus Power -16 60.059/1
-15 and 65.064/1 bar

The tee times have been brought forward today, with the final three-ball due to start at 15:01 UK time. The weather forecast suggests that anywhere between half an inch and two inches of rain is going to fall and that there'll be between two and four hours of stormy weather. Interruptions look highly likely and preferred lies will be in play.

After bogeying his opening hole of the third round, Burns did well to steady the ship and shoot a three-under-par 69 in yesterday's third round. Conditions were trickier than they'd been over the first two days and he adapted well.

Burns' price is almost the same as it was at halfway and it looks reasonable at first glance given the man in second, K.H Lee, is in search of his first PGA Tour victory but winning back-to-back tournaments is hard and even though he took a week off after his maiden win at the Wells Fargo Championship a fortnight ago, there's definitely a chance he'll run out of steam today. Any interruptions in play could irritate his flow and I'm in no rush to back him at less than 2/1.

Poor weather often offers up the chance of an off-the-pace winner. It doesn't seem to matter how hard the wind blows, there's always someone capable of posting a low score and lots of ground can be made up. It's not inconceivable that someone from four, five, six or even seven shots back can come through and take the title, especially if the front two struggle.

After eagling the 18th for the second time this week, Texas' Jordan Spieth is the man the market suspects most likely to catch Burns but at around the same price I prefer Lee in second. He's two clear of Spieth and he's looking to become the third Korean to win the event in eight years but I'm happy to swerve the front three in the market.

Alongside Spieth are Dave Tindall's pre-event fancy, Matt Kuchar, Charl Schwartzel and Alex Noren and I'm happy to take a small chance on two of them...

Kuchar is a fine poor weather player and he's made just two bogeys all week. He came into the event in fine form (apart from a missed cut at the US Masters) and I can see him carving out a score that might just be good enough. Being slightly off the pace won't hinder him and it may aid Noren too.

The experienced Swede was all over the shop off the tee at times yesterday but we witnessed a bounce back winner yesterday with Richard Bland in the British Masters yesterday and Noren looks ideally placed to do much the same thing.

Having led at halfway, a level par 72 in round three saw Bland slip outside the top-ten before he bounced back brilliantly to win in extra time and it's noticeable how often that happens on both tours.

Noren only slipped from a clear second and two off the lead to tied third and three back but he's drifted out from 6.86/1 to 17.016/1 and that looks a little too severe.

I've had small wagers on Kuchar and Noren and I've also thrown a few pennies at another one of Dave's picks - Brandt Snedeker. He's won from miles back in bad weather before, at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2016, and I couldn't resist backing him from six back.

That's the same margin he trailed by at Torrey Pines five years ago and he also won there from seven adrift with a round to go in 2012. On that occasion, he had the late collapse of Kyle Stanley to thank for the win but he also won the RBC Heritage from six back in 2011 when he sat tied for 17th with a round to go. He has a lot on his plate and he'll need help from Burns and Lee but he's done it before.

I'll be back later today with my USPGA Championship preview.

13:25 - May 15, 2021

We've reached the halfway stage of the Byron Nelson Championship and the recent Wells Fargo Championship winner, Sam Burns, has hit the front. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:20.

Sam Burns -17 2.6613/8
Alex Noren -15 6.86/1
K.H Lee -14 14.013/1
Doc Redman -13 21.020/1
J.J Spaun -12 95.094/1
Jordan Spieth -11 12.5
Matt Kuchar -11 36.035/1
Charl Schwartzel -11 36.035/1
Carlos Ortiz -11 36.035/1
Patton Kizzire -11 60.059/1
Seamus Power -11 110.0109/1
-10 and 85.084/1 bar

Having sensibly taken last week off after his impressive first PGA Tour success at the Valspar Championship two weeks ago, Sam Burns has picked up where he left off and with a two-stroke lead, he's a worthy favourite.

Yet to drop a shot, Burns is impossible to ignore but he's bidding to become the first player to win his first two PGA Tour events in consecutive starts since Camillo Villegas achieved the feat way back in 2008. That's a big ask and the change in the conditions could throw him off track too.

The wind is forecasted to pick up over the weekend and although the Texas resident, Burns, will have no problem playing in the breezier conditions, the change has the potential to unsettle him.

I wrote in the preview about keeping an eye on next week's USPGA Championship market and it's no surprise to see that Burns has been clipped for the year's second major but the one I've backed for next week is the man currently sitting in second, Alex Noren, who looks a great fit for the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (more on that in tomorrow's preview).

Noren is an industry-best 250/1 chance with the Sportsbook, with an industry-wide best of ten places. I couldn't resist a small bet at those odds and I've also backed him on the exchange at 360.0359/1.

Of course, the 38-year-old Swede could fall away over the weekend here and I'll be left with a bet that doesn't look so great but he's one of the finest wind players in the world and he won't mind how hard it blows in Texas over the weekend. The harder the better.

Noren is a multiple European Tour winner but he's yet to taste success on the PGA Tour so whether he's a great price here at 6.86/1 is debatable and it's a really tough event to call.

The top-five are strung out but it's very tight after that and there are lots of plausible candidates if the leaders do stutter.

Jordan Spieth was disappointing yesterday after a great first round which saw him matched at a low of 3.7511/4 but he contracted Covid after his third at the US Masters so a dip in energy is easily explained.

Alongside Spieth in a tie for sixth, the Houston Open winner, Carlos Ortiz, looks a fair price and I mentioned Patton Kizzire in the Find Me a 100 Winner column but unfortunately, didn't make him a pick.

Matt Kuchar won't mind how windy it gets and he's another that could easily muscle in on the act but I'm going to leave the event alone for now and I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the state of play with a round to go.

22:40 - May 14, 2021

The second round of the Byron Nelson Championship is still in progress so I'll be back tomorrow with a look at that event at the halfway stage but for now I'm concentrating on the British Masters where Eddie Pepperell leads by a stroke with a round to go. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 22:30.

Eddie Pepperell -10 6.05/1
Robert Macintyre -9 6.25/1
Dean Burmester -9 9.28/1
Calum Hill -7 10.09/1
Guido Migliozzi -9 12.011/1
Adrian Meronk -9 13.5
Edoardo Molinari -9 18.017/1
Matthias Schwab -9 18.5
Justin Harding -8 22.021/1
Andy Sullivan -8 22.021/1
Dave Coupland -8 70.069/1
-7 and 42.041/1 bar

With as many as 16 players within three strokes of Eddie Pepperell's lead, this event looks wide open with just 18 to play and it's one I'm going to leave alone now.

A win for Pepperell would sting a bit given he was my sole selection last week at 65.064/1 but he has as a good a chance as anyone else. This is the fourth time he's led or co-led after three rounds on the European Tour and he's converted twice previously - at the 2018 Qatar Masters and in this event eight months later.

I wouldn't want to put anyone off backing Pepperell but the problem is, I could say the same thing about the majority of the contenders.

My in-play pick, Robert MacIntyre, only trails by just one after an ordinary third round but the recent Tenerife Open winner, Dean Burmester, arguably represents better value. He'll be feeling less stress than anyone else up that and he's putting brilliantly.

Regular play, Guido Migliozzi, is a fearless competitor and the likes of Calum Hill and Adrian Meronk have threatened to win recently.

Matthias Schwab will definitely be suited to being a few strokes back and Justin Harding and Andy Sullivan have to be considered threats too. Harding has been ticking over nicely since winning in Kenya and Sullivan won here in England last summer.

Last year's UK Championship winner, Rasmus Hojgaard, won here form five back with a round to go and Johan Edfors was four adrift here when he won this event in 2006 but neither man passed a lot of traffic. Both men sat fourth and I'd be quite surprised to see anyone come from any further than three back tomorrow.

There are so many strong contenders within three of Pepperell that it's very hard to see all of them failing to go fairly low tomorrow so an off the pace winner looks unlikely and I'm happy to shout on MacIntyre and see what the day brings.

22:20 - May 13, 2021

The first round of the Byron Nelson Championship is still in progress on the PGA Tour but we've already reached the halfway stage of this week's European Tour event.

The British Masters began yesterday to give anyone playing in next week's USPGA Championship plenty of time to get to South Carolina. It's a sensible move and one I quite like. Having the week's two events out sync means we get to enjoy two final rounds over two days. Here's the halfway leaderboard at the Belfry with prices to back at 22:00.

Robert Macintyre -7 4.84/1
Calum Hill -7 9.417/2
Richard Bland -7 17.016/1
Justin Harding -6 10.519/2
Eddie Pepperell -6 12.011/1
Julien Guerrier -6 32.031/1
Matthieu Pavon -5 42.041/1
Bernd Wiesberger -4 16.5
Andy Sullivan -4 34.033/1
-4 and 34.033/1 bar

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, it's perfectly possible to win from off the pace at the Belfry.

Rasmus Hojgaard, who's missed the cut this week, won the UK Championship here last summer having trailed by seven strokes in a tie for 24th place at halfway and Paul Casey won the final edition of the now defunct Benson and Hedges International Open having trailed by five at this stage, although he'd sat tied for third, so he didn't have much traffic to pass.

Hojgaard may have come from off the pace but the man he beat in the playoff - Justin Walters - was in front after rounds one, two and three, Lee Westwood was beaten in extra time in the 2008 edition of this event, having been tied for the lead after rounds two and three, Henrik Stenson won the Benson and Hedges International Open wire-to-wire in 2001 and I fancy one of the three leaders here is well worth siding with - the pre-event favourite - Robert Macintyre.

The world number 45 was a bit slow to get going yesterday but after a brilliant top-12 at the US Masters and a tired effort in the RBC Heritage, he'd sensibly taken a bit of time off. The sluggish start was totally understandable, but he was a different player today, birdying the first five holes.

There was a sticky patch in the middle of his round today but he finished strongly, birdying three of his last five holes and his stats suggest he's playing well enough to win.

As highlighted in the preview, hitting greens and putting nicely has been the secret to success here previously and after two rounds Macintyre ranks 10th for Greens In Regulation and 15th for Putting Average. Eddie Pepperell, who ranks ninth, is the only other player in the top-15 to rank any better than 30th for PA and only four players in the top-15 rank inside the top-ten for GIR at halfway.

Alongside Macintyre, Richard Bland is playing some sublime golf. He ranks first for Driving Accuracy, GIR, Scrambling and several Strokes Gained metrics but he's in search of his first European Tour win in his 488th start so is probably best swerved whereas Macintyre is an improving top-class player seeking his second title and he's a fair price at 4.84/1.

British Masters Pre-Event Selections:
Rasmus Hojgaard @ 26.025/1
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 34.033/1
Jeff Winther @ 90/1 (Sportsbook each-way)

In-Play pick:
Robert Macintyre @ 4.84/1

Byron Nelson Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Brooks Koepka @ 28.027/1
Marc Leishman @ 40.039/1

In-Play Picks:
Matt Kuchar @ 13.012/1
Alex Noren @ 17.016/1
Brandt Snedeker @ 270.0269/1

Find Me a 100 Winner picks:
All in the Byron Nelson Championship
Back 1 ½ u Peter Uihlein @ 170.0169/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back 1u James Hahn @ 240.0239/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back Andrew Landry 1/2 u @ 700.0699/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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