The Punter's In-Play Blog: Can Hovland swoop from off the pace again?

Golfer Harris English
Harris English - the favourite with a round to go at Colonial

Harry Hall and Adam Schenk are tied for the lead with a round to go at the Charles Schwab Challenge but the more-experienced, Harris English, is the favourite with 18 holes to play...

  • Co-leaders in search of their first victories

  • English the man to beat according to the market

  • 18 of the last 21 Colonial winners have been within two

10:10 - May 28, 2023

The first and second round leader of the Charles Schwab Challenge, Harry Hall, looked like he was going to drop away when he made back-to-back double-bogeys at six and seven in round three yesterday, but he fought back valiantly on the back nine and he's still in front with a round to go - although he's now tied with Adam Schenk. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:00.

Adam Schenk -10 3.7511/4
Harry Hall -10 4.77/2
Harris English -9 3.45
Emiliano Grillo -6 24.023/1
Justin Suh -6 30.029/1
Victor Hovland -5 22.021/1
Byeong Hun An -5 55.054/1
Kevin Streelman -5 110.0109/1
David Lipsky -5 130.0129/1
Scottie Scheffler -4 28.027/1
-4 and 130.0129/1 bar

Renowned architect, Gill Hanse, and his team will be at Colonial tomorrow to begin an extensive renovation of the classical layout, so the consensus is that the grounds staff aren't going to worry whether the greens are lost today.

Colonial has been playing faster and tougher as the event has progressed this week and it will be even tougher today as the leading pair, Harry Hall, and Adam Schenk, attempt to win their first PGA Tour titles.

To a certain extent, that may help their cause. With conditions so tough, if any of the front three can shoot around level par today, it may well be enough.

There'll be no room for nerves as they concentrate on navigating the ever-quickening layout and history suggests up with the pace is the place to be here too.

Sam Burns caused an almighty shock 12 months ago when he won from seven strokes adrift through 54 holes but that was highly unusual.

Trading at 250.0249/1 on Sunday morning, Burns teed off an hour and 25 minutes before the leaders and even after he'd signed for a nine-under-par total, it didn't look like it would be enough.

Scottie Scheffler had started the day on -11 with a two-stroke lead but he wasn't at the races on Sunday, and he ultimately needed a strong finish to his round just to make the playoff.

If the world number one can struggle at Colonial in the heat of battle on a Sunday, there's every chance Hall and Schenk might struggle today but last year's result was a rare one indeed and 18 of the last 21 winners have been no more than two strokes off the lead with a round to go.

The market understandably makes Harris English favourite, although he trails by a stroke. The four-time winner is vastly more experienced than the leading pair but I'm still hopeful that Schenk can get the job done.

This is the third time he's led with a round to go on the PGA Tour through 54 holes and he did very little wrong last time at the Valspar Championship in March.

On that occasion he shot a one-under-par 71 on Sunday to lose by a stroke to Tayler Moore, who finished the event in style, but he'd led through rounds one, two and three and he caught a bad break off the tee on the 72nd hole.

Schenk can draw on that experience today and that may well give him an advantage over Hall.

If there is going to be an off the pace winner then by far the most obvious candidate is Victor Hovland, who's improved his score every day.

Hovland at the US PGA.jpg

Hovland has a habit of ruthlessly picking off the leaders from off the pace on a Sunday and two of his last three victories have come form off the pace. He won the Hero Challenge in December 2021 having trailed by eight through 54 holes and he was tied 13th and six adrift before winning the Dubai Desert Classic in extra time in January 2022.

I've got everything crossed for Schenk, who I backed after round one, but I've also had a small bet on Hovland who has the class to close it out should the leading trio struggle.

17:15 - May 27, 2023

Having led the KLM Open by three after round one and by two at the halfway stage, pre-event 44.043/1 chance, Jorge Campillo, was matched at a low of just 1.625/8 today when he stood on the eighth tee with a five-stroke lead but after a double-bogey at the eighth, and a disastrous finish, that saw him drop five strokes in three holes from the 15th, the Spaniard now trails my 80.079/1 pre-event pick, Pablo Larrazabal, by four with a round to go.

Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:10.

Pablo Larrazabal -10 5.04/1
Rasmus Hojgaard -9 5.59/2
Adrian Otaegui -9 6.86/1
Adrian Meronk -8 6.86/1
Gavin Green -8 17.016/1
Daniel Hillier -8 26.025/1
Todd Clements -8 30.029/1
Marcus Kinhult -7 34.033/1
Jazz Janewattananond -7 34.033/1
Deon Germishuys -7 65.064/1
Antoine Rozner -6 40.039/1
Jorge Campillo -6 50.049/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -6 80.079/1
Renato Paratore -6 90.089/1
-5 and 140.0139/1 bar

Kristoffer Broberg eventually converted an eight-stroke 54-hole lead here two years and last year's winner, Victor Perez, was tied for the lead through 54 holes 12 months ago so that's a good omen for Larrazabal but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we witnessed all sorts of drama at both editions and Campillo has demonstrated perfectly today how quickly shots can be flittered away here.

With as many as 14 players within four of Pablo, it's a wide-open heat still and a very tricky tournament to call.

Larrazabal is in search of his ninth DP World Tour title, his second in the space of a month and his fourth in 15 months so the Spaniard, who turned 40 after his latest victory in Korea at the end of April, is extremely prolific and he has a 50% strike rate when leading or co-leading through 54 holes - although it hasn't happened often.

He fell over the line at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2019, having led by three with a round to go and he converted a three-stroke lead impressively to take his first title (the Open de France) way back in 2008, but he's been beaten in this event having been tied with a round to go (in 2012) and he was well beaten at the BMW International in 2014, where he finished eighth after leading by three.

Given how competitive the event is now, I'm not convinced I'd be in a massive rush to back him at around the 4/1 mark now, but his record speaks for itself and he's as gutsy as they come.

Rasmus Hojgaard and Adrian Meronk are the obvious dangers to the leader and fellow Spaniard, Adrian Otaegui, who trails by just a stroke, commands plenty of respect but I'm adding two players trailing by four...

I've already backed Meronk (after round two) and I've also got Sweden's Marcus Kinhult onside after the opening round but the two I like at juicy prices now are the Frenchman, Antoine Rozner, and the halfway leader, Campillo.

Rozner came from four back to win the first of his three DP World Tour titles (the Golf in Dubai Championshipin 2020) by two strokes so 40.039/1 looks decent and I managed to get a small bet matched on Campillo at 50.049/1.

His finish was awful today and he'll need to get over that quickly, but he's been in form for a while now and he's more than capable of going low. He'll feel he has nothing to lose now, and he may play well tomorrow and bounce back in style.

08:40 - May 27, 2023

Having ended the first round with a three-stroke lead on Thursday, Cornwall's Harry Hall had to wait around all day to begin his second round at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial yesterday.

Harry Hall at Colonial.jpg

Beginning on the 10th hole, Hall played in the final group of the day and after he'd played his first five holes in one-over-par, it looked highly likely that his challenge might just fade but he bounced back with a birdie at the 15th before making four in-a-row from the 17th.

There was a late wobble, but he made a par three from the greenside bunker on eight after a plugged tee-shot and he caught a break on nine when his tee shot found the fairway via the trees, but he deserves a lot of credit for following up Thursday's super-low round so well and he still leads by three.

Here's the latest state of play with prices to back at 8:30.

Harry Hall -12 5.14/1
Harris English -9 5.79/2
Emiliano Grillo -8 9.89/1
Byeong Hun An -7 19.5
Adam Schenk -7 32.031/1
Robby Shelton -7 36.035/1
Scottie Scheffler -6 4.84/1
Andrew Novak -6 90.089/1
Justin Rose -5 20.019/1
Austin Eckroat -5 75.074/1
Carson Young -5 95.094/1
Max Homa -4 38.037/1
-4 and 75.074/1 bar

Kevin Kisner in 2017, and Justin Rose 12 months later, were both in front at halfway when they won the Charles Schwab Challenge and the vast majority of victors have been within three strokes of the lead at halfway but we have seen three winners in the last nine years come from miles back and this feels as though it has the potential to deliver another off the pace winner.

Adam Scott, in 2014, and Chris Kirk, 12 months later, trailed by six and seven strokes respectively and last year's champ, Sam Burns, trailed by eight in a tie for 40th!

Someone winning from that far back is hard to envisage but the leader does look vulnerable. Hall was a 950.0949/1 shot before the off and although he's won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, this is the first time he's featured in the final group over the weekend on the PGA Tour and leading wire-to wire is tough.

With his cause helped considerably by a hole-in-one at the eighth hole yesterday, Harris English is the nearest challenger to Hall at halfway and he'll be looking to gain redemption for his second here in 2016 when Jordan Spieth did Jordan Spieth things to win by three.

Spieth made four putts from outside 20 feet (two from outside 30!) in round four and he chipped in for birdie at the 17th. It was impossible not to feel a bit sorry for the shell-shocked English that day, who did very little wrong, but I'm not convinced he's a great bet here.

English has won four times previously on the PGA Tour, twice in 2013 and twice in 2021, but both his last two victories came via a playoff, and he doesn't always convince in contention.

Trailing by six, the world number one, Scottie Scheffler, heads the market but he looks short enough given he ranks 82nd for Putting Average and 100th for Strokes Gained Putting at halfway. As brilliantly as he's played form tee-to-green, he does need to hole a few more.

This is a tricky looking puzzle and I'm happy to sit on my hands for now and cheer on my two Find Me a 100 Winner picks, Austin Eckroat and Carson Young, who both trail by seven, and I certainly haven't given up on yesterday's in-play pick, Adam Schenk, who was matched at just 7.26/1 yesterday before he bogeyed two of his last four holes. He's not out of it by any means and being slightly off the pace may help.

20:15 - May 26, 2023

Pre-event 44.043/1 chance, Jorge Campillo, has followed up his sensational nine-under-par 63 on Thursday morning with a more pedestrian one-under 71 around the magnificent Bernardus Golf course but he still shows the way at the KLM Open. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 20:10.

Jorge Campillo -10 2.942/1
Renato Paratore -8 14.013/1
Daniel Hillier -7 28.027/1
Marcus Armitage -6 26.025/1
Adrian Otaegui -6 17.016/1
Marcus Kinhult -6 24.023/1
Alejandro Del Rey -6 34.033/1
Adrian Meronk -5 12.011/1
Joost Luiten - 5 26.025/1
Pablo Larrazabal -5 34.033/1
Richie Ramsay -5 36.035/1
Rasmus Hojgaard -4 24.023/1
-5 and 40.039/1 bar

Campillo did little wrong today, but the putts just didn't drop and having been matched at a low of 2.47/5, he's now edging out to 2/1 and that still looks a bit short.

Jorge Campillo at the KLM open.jpg

Campillo won the Qatar Masters in a playoff back in 2020, having been tied for the lead at halfway, but he finished only seventh in the Irish Open last year, having led by one at halfway.

He was an impressive winner of the Kenya Open in March, when he converted a one-stroke 54-hole lead, but he'll need to keep the pedal down over the weekend with some high-class players within five and six strokes.

Although he trails by five, Adrian Meronk is Campillo's biggest threat according to the market and I'm in agreement.

Adrian Meronk in Ras Al Khaimah.jpg

The Pole opened up his second round this afternoon with a pair of double-bogeys but he recovered brilliantly and was unlucky not to pick up another stroke at the 18th when his putt finished behind the hole, having already made six birdies after the disastrous start.

I certainly haven't given up on my 80.079/1 pre-event pick, Pablo Larrazabal, and yesterday's in-play pick, Marcus Kinult, is in a nice position after his two-under-par 70 today but I was happy to add Meronk to the portfolio at 12.011/1.

Almost guaranteed a place on Luke Donald's Ryder Cup team, and in search of his fourth victory in 26 starts, Meronk is the danger man if Campillo faulters.

09:30 - May 26, 2023

The second round of the KLM Open is underway and I'll take another look at that one at halfway but for now I'm concentrating on the Charles Schwab Challenge where Harry Hall leads Harris English by three strokes after round one.

Although Hull's lead is a commanding one, the pre-event 950.0949/1 chance doesn't look an especially generous price at 16.015/1 this morning for several reasons.

The Cornishman is in search of his first victory on the PGA Tour, he putted ridiculously well yesterday (something that's in all likelihood unsustainable), he doesn't tee off today until this afternoon (when the wind is predicted to pick up fractionally) and it's an extremely bunched leaderboard below English, who shot a five-under-par 65 yesterday afternoon.

With four men tied for third on -4 and as many as 15 on -3, including the world number one, Scottie Scheffler, the sensible thing to do is probably wait and see what today brings but I was happy to take a chance on Adam Schenk at 70.069/1.

Schenk is one of the four men tied for third on -4 and he has an early tee time today which should be an advantage.

This is the first time he's contended since the birth of his first child (a son) and it's the first time he's been in-the-mix since he finished runner-up at the Valspar Championship in March, without doing too much wrong.

Adam Schenk at the Valspar Championship.jpg

Sam Burns, who won this event 12 months ago, won the Valspar back-to-back in 2021 and 2022 and both this venue, Colonial Country Club, and the Valspar's venue, Copperhead, appear to correlate nicely given form at Deere Run (home of the John Deere Classic) holds up really well at both venues.

This is an extremely tight affair if we take Hall out of the equation and patience is required but Schenk looks very fairly priced at 70.069/1.

Scheffler is the warm 4.77/2 favourite this morning but his putting woes are continuing if the stats are anything to go by. After the opening 18 holes, Scheffler ranks 63rd for Putting Average and 58th for Strokes Gained Putting and that's offputtingly poor.

21:15 - May 25, 2023

The first round of the Charles Schwab Challenge is a long way from finishing but there's already a similarity between this week's two events.

After a nine-under-par 63 around Bernardus Golf this morning, the in-form Spaniard, Jorge Campillo, leads the KLM Open by three strokes and over in Texas, England's Harry Hall has posted an eight-under-par 62 around Colonial to lead by four.

The afternoon wave are still on the course but Hall is going to take some catching.

I'll take a more detailed look at that event tomorrow, but I've already had a small in-running play at the KLM Open, where my pre-event pick, Pablo Larrazabal, is one of three players tied for second on -6.

It's a bunched leaderboard below the front four with seven players tied for fifth on -5 but the one I like is Sweden's Marcus Kinhult, who's on four-under-par after an opening 68 this morning.

Kinhult loves a links layout and I thought he was fractionally big at 65.064/1.

KLM Open Pre-Event Selection:
Pablo Larrazabal @ 80.079/1

In-Play Picks:
Marcus Kinhult @ 65.064/1
Adrian Meronk @ 12.011/1
Antoine Rozner @ 40.039/1
Jorge Campillo @ 50.049/1

Charles Schwab Challenge Pre-Event Selection:
Kurt Kitayama @ 75.074/1

In-Play Picks:
Adam Schenk @ 70.069/1
Victor Hovland @ 23.022/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
2 Us Brendon Todd @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
2 Us Sepp Straka @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
1U Austin Eckroat @ 250.0249/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
0.5 U Carson Young @ 410.0409/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Back 1 u Daniel Gavins @ 330.0329/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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