The Punter's In-Play Blog: Leaders look hard to oppose

Golfer Jordan Spieth
54-hole leader - Jordan Spieth

There's a round to go at the Made in Himmerland and the Charles Schwab Challenge and both tournaments are led by former winners but can they convert their narrow leads?

"This is the sixth time Spieth's led by a stroke with a round to go and he’s looking to convert for a fourth time."

10:50 - May 30, 2021

With a round to go, both this week's events have a similar appearance, with short-priced experienced players leading tournaments they've won before.

Bernd Wiesberger is attempting to defend the Made in Himmerland title and Jordan Spieth is looking to win the Charles Schwab Challenge for a second time, having won the event for the first time back in 2016. Here are the two leaderboards with prices to back at 10:40.

Bernd Wiesberger -14 2.0811/10
Alexander Bjork -13 5.04/1
Laurie Canter -11 11.010/1
Matthias Schwab -10 20.019/1
Kurt Kitayama -10 28.027/1
Jason Scrivener -10 29.028/1
Masahiro Kawamura -10 34.033/1
Richard Bland -10 38.037/1
Josh Geary -10 55.054/1
-9 and 80.079/1 bar

Jordan Spieth -15 1.558/15
Jason Kokrak -14 3.3512/5
Sergio Garcia -10 30.029/1
Ian Poulter -8 160.0159/1
Sebastian Munoz -8 180.0179/1
-7 and 480.0479/1 bar

I didn't watch any of the third round in the States but I'm happy enough to stick with what I have having backed the leader yesterday at odds-against. It very much looks like a two-man tussle now and Spieth is most definitely the man to beat. This is the sixth time he's led by a stroke with a round to go and he's looking to convert for a fourth time. And he's led or co-led 20 times in total after 54 holes and he has a 55% strike-rate.

As highlighted yesterday, Kokrak has only won once previously and I expect Spieth to get the job done but I'm not as confident about Wiesberger winning in Denmark.

It looked like Wiesberger might kick on and put daylight between himself and the rest yesterday after he started nicely with a birdie at the second but after missing short birdie putts at four and five he dunked his tee-shot at the par three sixth in the water.

He did well to make a bogey four at six and he kicked on - on the back-nine, birdying 10, 12, 14 and 17 before three-putting the ultra-tough par four 18th.

Wiesberger was critical of the final hole set up yesterday after his bogey five there and given it averaged 4.64 he may have a had a point. The hole was set up long and with a tough pin position and it's highly likely to be pivotal today. Anyone in the house will have an advantage over those still on the course and that's something to bear in mind if trading in-running today.

Like Kokrak in Texas, Alexander Bjork is trailing by a stroke and he too is looking to win his second title. Bjork impressed yesterday and he's a big danger to Wiesberger.

Wiesberger may have wobbled a bit yesterday but his record when leading is solid enough. He's held a clear lead through 54 holes seven times previously and he's gone on to win on five occasions. He's converted each of his last three clear leads and the second of the three came here in this event two years ago when he also led by a stroke.

Laurie Canter is within touching distance and there's a big group of players within four of Wiesberger but we're yet to witness an off-the-pace winner at Himmerland and it's hard to look past the front two.

In the six previous tournaments staged here, four winners were in front with a round to go and two sat second, trailing by one and two strokes. Having backed Wiesberger at almost 2/1 on Friday evening, I'm sticking with what I have here too but Bjork at around 4/1 looks very fairly priced.

12:05 - May 28, 2021

The 2016 Charles Schwab winner, Jordan Spieth, is yet to make a bogey this week at Colonial and he heads into the weekend with a one-stroke lead over Jason Kokrak and a three stroke lead over the rest. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:00.

Jordan Spieth -11 2.166/5
Jason Kokrak -10 6.611/2
Sergio Garcia -8 15.5
Patton Kizzire -8 25.024/1
Sebastian Munoz -8 26.025/1
Charley Hoffman -7 18.5
-7 and 23.022/1 bar

Spieth is no bigger than even money on the High Street but it's hard to make a case for taking him on.

He's led or co-led at halfway a dozen times previously and he went on to win six times. He failed to get across the line on the first three occasions he led at halfway but he's been very impressive since and we can probably expect him to still be in front tomorrow given he hasn't lost the lead in round three on each of the last nine occasions he's led at halfway.

He fell from first to third at the AT&T Pebble Beach back in February but he was just finding his feet again after a long period in the wilderness and that's one we can forgive.

Prior to that, and before Spieth lost his form altogether, Dustin Johnson beat him in extra time at the Northern Trust in 2017, after he'd led by three with a round to go, but he'd successfully converted six of seven 36-hole leads prior to that. His only defeat had been his infamous collapse when defending at the US Masters in 2016 so his record is very good.

Jason Kokrak, who sits second, finally got off the mark on the PGA Tour in October when he won the CJ Cup around Shadow Creek, a course he knows intimately, and he's one I want to be against.

Kokrak was six back at halfway in the CJ Cup and he came from three off the pace on day four. He's yet to win when right up with the pace and he's not one to trust in-contention.

He's been within three of the lead at halfway 16 times previously on the PGA Tour and he failed every time with his worst effort coming in this state at the Byron Nelson in 2017 when he led by five after 36 holes but finished fourth.

Sergio Garcia is the one most likely to cause Jordan issues amongst the group that currently sits tied for third but he was slightly disappointing yesterday after a great opening round and I'm hopeful more than confident that Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Patton Kizzire, can get to the leader.

Patton Kizzire at the Byron Nelson.jpg

Although trading at just 23.022/1, pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, has plenty to do from five back and I'm not in any sort of hurry to side with Charley Hoffman from four back.

We have witnessed three off the pace winners at Colonial fairly recently. Rory Sabbatini trailed by eight in 2008 and in 2015 and '16, Adam Scott and Chris Kirk took the title having trailed by six and seven shots respectively but it's hard to look past the leader and he's a fair price at odds-against given the opposition.

I'm going to be completely preoccupied by the Champions League final later and I won't be monitoring the play so I've decided to get Spieth onside now at 2.186/5.

21:20 - May 28, 2021

Austria's Bernd Wiesberger, the 2019 winner of the Made in Himmerland and the defending champ after last year's edition was lost to the pandemic, leads by two at the halfway point. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:10.

Bernd Wiesberger -11 2.962/1
Matthias Schwab -9 5.39/2
Alexander Bjork -8 13.012/1
Masahiro Kawamura -7 26.025/1
Richard Bland -7 27.026/1
Pablo Larrazabal -7 32.031/1
Stephen Gallacher -7 60.059/1
Josh Geary -7 70.069/1
-6 and 60.059/1 bar

Wiesberger was matched at a low of just 2.021/1 as he put daylight between himself and the field this morning but he didn't finish his round off as well as he'd have liked - bogeying the par four seventh and paring the par five eighth.

Bernd Wiesberger in Denmark.jpg

Wiesberger's lead was then reduced by a couple of strokes when Alexander Bjork aced the 16th to get within three before the pre-event third favourite, Matthias Schwab, finished his second round with birdies at 16 and 17 and a lengthy par save at the last to get within two.

The record of two-stroke halfway leaders on the European Tour isn't spectacular. Since 1996, they have a 31% strike-rate but their recent record is woeful with only one of the last 15 going on to win. John Catlin edged out Martin Kaymer at Valderrama in September 2020 having led by two but he's the only two-stroke 36-hole leader to convert since Kurt Kitayama at the Mauritius Open in 2018.

This is the first time Wiesberger has led by a couple of strokes at halfway but the Austrian has a decent enough record when leading or tied for the lead after 36 holes.

The Austrian has gone into the weekend leading or tied in front on seven previous occasions and he's never finished worse than third. He's gone on to win three times and he's looking to do so for the third time in-a-row following victories at the 2017 Shenzhen International and the Scottish Open two years ago.

Wiesberger's generally a 6/4 shot on the High Street and no bigger than 13/8 so at just a fraction under 2/1 he makes plenty of appeal.

Schwab has been playing exceptionally of late but he's yet to win on the European Tour and all the evidence we have to date, suggests he can't be trusted in-contention.

Alone in third, Alexander Bjork has been creeping into form for a few weeks now so his eight-under-par 63 today wasn't a complete surprise but he may have his work cut out to build on that.

He hasn't been in-the-mix in over a year and there's symmetry between this week's effort to date and the last time he was in-the-mix. Today's 63 saw him move from 55th to third. He shot 63 in round two of the Qatar Masters in 2020 to go from 41st to third but weekend rounds of 69-71 saw him finish sixth - beaten by two.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, up with the pace is definitely the place to be here so considering Wiesberger leads all bar two players by four strokes, and that the group tied for fourth isn't the strongest, he looks well worth chancing at almost 2/1 to make a successful title defence and to win his eighth European Tour event.

The rule of sod dictated that of the three outsiders I liked before the off, the one I put up in the Find Me a 100 Winner column missed the cut. Nicolai Von Dellingshausen was very disappointing but the other two are lurking. Pablo Larrazabal is in the group tied for fourth and Ashun Wu is five off the lead in a tie for ninth.

I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the Charles Schwab Challenge but they may not have reached the halfway stage as they're currently on stop because of the weather.

10:20 - May 28, 2021

The second round of the Made in Himmerland is well underway and the defending champion, Bernd Wiesberger, has already been matched at a low of 2.186/5. At the time of writing, he leads by four, having played 13 holes of his second round and with the wind forecasted to pick up this afternoon, he's in a commanding position.

I'll be back later today with a look at the tournament at the halfway stage.

Over on the PGA Tour, the Charles Schwab Challenge is also being dominated by former champions with the 2001 winner, Sergio Garcia, tied at the top after the opening round with the 2016 champ, Jordan Spieth. And it's the latter that dominates the market.

This is the 13th time Spieth has led or co-led after the opening round and the second time in three starts. He was tied for the lead after the first round of the Byron Nelson Championship two weeks ago before going on to finish ninth but he has a fair record when he's led after round one, going on to win five times.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Charles Schwab Challenge was won by the first round leader or co-leader on three occasions. Steve Stricker opened up with back-to-back 63s in 2009, David Toms shot back-to-back 62s to open the 2011 edition and Zach Johnson hung on to win by a stroke a year later, despite shooting 72 in round four. None of the three won wire-to-wire and they're the only first round leaders to go on to win since 1996.

Toms made a bit of a meal of his win. He was seven clear at halfway but after a 74 in round three, he went into the final round trailing Charlie Wi by a stroke. He won by a stroke.

Both the leaders putted really well yesterday so there's a chance the flatsticks go cold today and I was quite tempted to lay Spieth at less than 2/1. He looks short enough given the tournament stats but I distinctly remember the 2016 edition, and that's enough to put me off.

I was on Harris English, who finished second, and Spieth won despite not having his A game tee-to-green. In typical peak-Spieth style, he chipped in from off the green and holed numerous long putts - as he did yesterday (see below).

It looks fluky when he plays like that, but he's done it so many times it can't just be luck. He's a very special talent and he could easily go on to win but he's too short for my liking.

I'm going to leave this one alone for now and I'll be back tomorrow morning with a look a the state of play at halfway.

Made in Himmerland Pre-Event Selections:
Guido Migliozzi @ 48.047/1

In-Play Pick:
Bernd Wiesberger @ 2.982/1

Charles Schwab Challenge Pre-Event Selections:
Collin Morikawa @ 16.015/1
Justin Rose @ 40.039/1

In-Play Pick:
Jordan Spieth @ 2.186/5

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back 1 u Nicolai Von Dellingshausen @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back 1u Nicolai Von Dellingshausen @ 7/1 Top 20 (Sportsbook)
Back 1u Nicolai Von Dellingshausen @ 5/1 Top 30 (Sportsbook)

Back 1 ½ u Keith Mitchell @ 210.0209/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back 1 ½ u Patton Kizzire @ 220.0219/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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