There's just one round to go at the Andalucía Masters and the CJ Cup. Laurie Canter is three clear in Spain and Rickie Fowler is up by two in Vegas but will either man convert?
"Beginning with the 2010 Memorial Tournament, Fowler's final round scores when leading or tied for the lead on the PGA Tour read a very uninspiring 73, 74, 74, 74, 71, 73, 74."
07:45 - October 17, 2021
Pre-event 120.0119/1 chance, Laurie Canter, was matched at a high of 430.0429/1 after a slow start on Thursday (+3) but after a terrific 65 in round two, which was three shots better than anyone else could muster on Friday, and a four under par 67 in round three, the Englishman is in pole position to win his first title. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 7:30.
Laurie Canter -7 2.466/4
Matt Fitzpatrick -4 4.3100/30
David Lipsky -3 13.012/1
Bernd Wiesberger -2 14.013/1
Min Woo Lee -2 19.018/1
Renato Paratore -2 30.029/1
Romain Langasque -2 36.035/1
Sebastian Soderburg -2 46.045/1
Edoardo Molinari -1 55.054/1
Level par and 95.094/1 bar
Canter has had his chances to win on both the Challenge Tour and the European Tour but at the age of 31, the Englishman is still in search of his first victory.
He lost a playoff at the KPMG Trophy on the Challenge Tour back in 2019, having been tied for the lead through 54 holes, and he was beaten twice last year having been tied for the lead with a round to go on the European Tour.
Canter finished second to huge outsider, Ross McGowan, at the Italian Open almost exactly a year ago, after being matched at a low of 1.341/3 in-running, and he finished fifth in the DP World Championship (beaten by three) in December.
He struggled all day in round four in Italy, shooting a disappointing level-par 72, when the average score for the day was 69.58 and the winning score was -20, and his one-under-par 71 in Dubai wasn't enough either.
The man who sits alone in second here with a round to go, Matt Fitzpatrick, fired a four-under-par 68 around the Earth Course to win the title for a second time and he'll have Canter in his sights again today.
Fitzpatrick is the clear and obvious danger to Canter but the stats suggest the man in front is a fair price at odds-against and it might just be his time to shine.
Canter's performances in-contention have been improving steadily and he didn't do an awful lot wrong at the BMW PGA Championship last month when he finished second to Billy Horschel having been matched at 1.511/2.
Canter has served his time and paid his dues and today could be his day.
Canter's in-contention record isn't great, but three-stroke 54-hole leaders have a near 70% strike rate on the European Tour since 1996 and third round leaders have a brilliant record at Valderrama, with seven of the last eight players to hold a clear lead through 54 holes going on to win.
I've layed a bit of my Fitzpatrick bet back and recycled the stakes on Canter.
Over on the PGA Tour, at the CJ Cup, the halfway leader, Keith Mitchell, lost his putting touch completely in round three and after birdying two of the first three holes (matched at a low of 2.3211/8) he lost his way completely after missing a four-foot par putt on the fourth.
Back-to-back double bogeys really knocked him off track at eight and nine and with the scoring so low, having led by five at halfway, he enters the final round trailing by four following his one-over-par 73.
The new leader, Rickie Fowler, and Abraham Ancer, who sits tied for third, both shot nine-under-par 63s in round three and Rory McIlroy bettered them by a stroke. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 7:35.
Rickie Fowler -21 3.3512/5
Rory McIlroy -19 3.65
Abraham Ancer -18 9.28/1
Adam Scott -18 10.09/1
Robert Streb -18 22.021/1
Tyrrell Hatton -17 19.5
Keith Mitchel -17 34.033/1
Cameron Smith -16 36.035/1
Ian Poulter -16 75.074/1
-15 and 70.069/1
Rickie Fowler has been in the doldrums for a few years now and he hasn't tasted victory since he held on to win by two at the Phoenix Open in February 2019.
He's missed his last two cuts and he began the week trading at around 220.0219/1, having been matched at a high of 390.0389/1, but a visit to his former coach, Butch Harman, appears to have worked the oracle. He ranks first for Greens In Regulation for the week so far and he hit all 18 dancefloors in round three.
Fowler had led by four with a round to go back in 2019 at Phoenix but it wasn't a convincing victory. He shot 74 in round four to win by two but that came a year after he'd entered the final round of the same event leading by a stroke before finishing 11th. On that occasion, his final round 73 wasn't anywhere near good enough.
In total, Fowler's led or been tied for the lead with a round to go nine times and he's gone on to win on four occasions. That's a reasonable strike rate but he's never been the greatest in-contention and he's only bettered 73 three times in round four when beginning the final round in front.
Fowler shot 68 when he won the Korea Open ten years ago and he shot 69 when winning the Abu Dhabi Championship in 2016 but his round four scores when leading or tied for the lead on the PGA Tour are far from convincing.
Beginning with the 2010 Memorial Tournament, Fowler's final round scores when leading or tied for the lead on the PGA Tour read a very uninspiring 73, 74, 74, 74, 71, 73, 74.
Rory McIlroy looks a very obvious danger to the leader and he won the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow back in May, having trailed the halfway leader here, Keith Mitchell, by two with a round to go.
"It's an exciting day for me (tomorrow). I'm working on a few things in my game not necessarily swing related, but more mental stuff, routine, visualization, things that I've done pretty well this week for three days, but it's exciting to try to do those things when you're under a little more pressure tomorrow and you're trying to win a golf tournament."
With that recent winning experience to draw upon, Rory may soon impose himself on the leader but it's very hard to know which Rory will turn up. He shot 68 to win at Quail Hollow in May but he trailed by two at the US Open in June before a disappointing 73 in round four saw him finish seventh and on the three occasions he trailed by two with a round to go before he won in May, he shot rounds of 73, 73 and 76.
Both the front two need to back up super-low rounds and neither can be described as rock-solid or reliable in-the-mix so they may just be vulnerable.
This has been a tournament to forget so far and I probably should just put the spade down and stop digging but I have had a tiny wager on Tyrrell Hatton.
The Englishman turned 30 on Thursday and if he can find a few more greens today he may just go low enough to give himself a nice present.
Given how changeable the leaderboard has been this week, the front few may be worth taking on and Hatton looks a fair price at 19.5.
I'm taking a couple of days off now so Matt Cooper will be on De-brief duty tomorrow and I'll be back on Tuesday and Wednesday with a look at next week's tournaments.
08:45 - October 16, 2021
Last week's Open de Espana winner, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, began the second round of the Andalucía Masters nicely, missing a few birdie putts but still playing his first seven holes in two-under-par.
The pre-event 80.079/1 chance was matched at a low of 4.216/5 but just when it looked like he might assert himself on the tournament, the wheels fell off. Having made just one bogey in his first 25 holes, he made three in-a-row twice, either side of a birdie at the par five 11th, and he ended the day outside the top-12. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 08:30.
Romain Langasque -4 11.521/2
Matt Fitzpatrick -3 4.1
Laurie Canter -3 10.09/1
Ryan Fox -3 13.5
Sebastian Soderburg -3 23.022/1
Alejandro Canizares -2 20.019/1
Julien Guerrier -2 29.028/1
Scott Jamieson -2 34.033/1
Robert Rock -2 55.054/1
Jason Scrivener -1 30.029/1
Renato Paratore -1 36.035/1
Tapio Pulkkanen -1 60.059/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello Par 32.031/1
Level par and 34.033/1 bar
The stats tell us we shouldn't be scanning too far down the leaderboard here.
The last three course winners were all in front at halfway and the last nine were inside the top three places. Sergio Garcia, ten years ago, is the only one of the nine to be more than two adrift at this stage but he only sat third and three back.
Romain Langasque has led at the halfway stage on three previous occasions, twice on the Challenge Tour and once on the European Tour, and he shot 70 in round three each time before going on to finish fourth, seventh and sixth.
That's quite off-putting and both his previous wins have come from off the pace. He was six back at halfway and two off the lead after the third round when he won the Open de Provence on the Challenge Tour in 2018 and he won the Wales Open on the European Tour last year having sat sixth and five off the lead with a round to go at Celtic Manor.
The Frenchman has scrambled well but he's not been very accurate off the tee (ranks 86th for Driving Accuracy after two rounds) and he's clear of the rest of the field on account of how well he's played the three par fives. He's made an eagle on each of the first two days and he's played the six holes in six-under-par and it's by no means certain that he can keep scoring so well on the long holes.
Despite a double-bogey six on the 18th hole in round two, Matt Fitzpatrick is the man to beat according to the market and the stats suggest the market's right.
At the halfway stage, the Sheffield star ranks 17th for Driving Accuracy, seventh for Greens In Regulation and second for Scrambling. And that's a recipe for success around Valderrama. He hasn't putted brilliantly so far but he's still the man to beat and I'm happy to be on after siding with him on day one.
Laurie Canter's 65 in round two was three strokes better than anyone else in the field could muster on Friday but he's in search of his first victory and he'll need to back that up today. Something that's notoriously tough to do.
New Zealander, Ryan Fox, is the only other player trading at less than 20.019/1 but I'm happy to swerve him too given he's far from convincing in-contention.
Over on the PGA Tour, Keith Mitchell defied the odds at the CJ Cup and backed up his remarkable first round 62 with and almost as brilliant 64 and he heads into the weekend with a commanding lead. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 08:35.
Keith Mitchell -18 3.3512/5
Jordan Spieth -13 7.613/2
Adam Scott -13 14.013/1
Harry Higgs -13 26.025/1
Seonghyeon Kim -13 90.089/1
Tyrrell Hatton -12 18.5
Rickie Fowler -12 34.033/1
Viktor Hovland -11 21.020/1
Cameron Smith -11 26.025/1
Paul Casey -11 32.031/1
Aaron Wise -11 34.033/1
-11 and 46.045/1 bar
We've been in the dark to a certain extend with this event.
The tournament is supposed to be played in Korea but it's switched to Las Vegas for the last two editions because of the pandemic and this week's venue, The Summit, has never been used before for a PGA Tour event.
The believe that the course would prove to be an easy test for the world's best has been borne out and after two rounds the par 72 track is averaging just 68.6, with the second round scoring average 0.71 strokes lower as the pros familiarise themselves with the easy layout. It's transpired to be a putting contest and one man, Keith Mitchell, is holing more than his fair share.
Mitchell ranks first for Strokes Gained Putting and fourth for Putting Average and given he's also driving brilliantly (ranks second for Strokes Gained off the tee) and hitting his irons well (ranking tied third for Greens In Regulation), it's no real surprise that he's clear of the rest.
Quite where the 29-year-old had found this form from was a bit of a mystery given he'd missed his first two cuts of the new season but it's sounds like it's all just down to pure hard work.
"I spent a lot of time in the last few days leading up to this tournament working hard on my game and it's showing," said Mitchell after round two. "I'm very thankful for that. Just shows you that hard work pays off as long as you're doing the right things."
Mitchell was tied for the lead at this stage when he won his one and only PGA Tour title to date at the 2019 Honda Classic but he was disappointing at the Wells Fargo Championship in May when he led by a couple with a round to go.
He was matched at 2.226/5 when he birdied the opening hole of round four to extend his lead to three but he made back-to-back bogeys at five and six and he was soon swallowed up. He eventually finished third behind Rory McIlroy, beaten by two.
Anyone onboard at Quail Hollow won't be in a big hurry to side with him here but his lead is huge, the stats are in his favour, and I'm more than happy to chance him at in excess of 2/1.
22 players have led an ordinary PGA Tour event by five strokes at halfway since 1996 and 17 of them went on to win. I'm quite happy to back Mitchell at in excess of 2/1? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) October 15, 2021
It's unrealistic to expect him to play as well over the weekend as he has over the first two days and his lead is likely to be reduced but even if it is, he's definitely overpriced.
If we take the scenario of someone closing the gap by a couple of strokes, given the strike-rate of 54-hole three stroke leaders is still better than 50%, he looks very fairly priced.
Of course, he could have a disastrous day and get swallowed up by the pack but the pressure isn't just on him. The chasers will assume they need to go low today and it's by no means certain that they'll outscore the frontrunner.
There's a small chance Mitchell may even increase his lead and if he does that, the odds of around 5/2 that are currently available will look absurd in hindsight given five-stroke 36-hole leaders have a better than 70% strike-rate on the PGA Tour.
Win or lose, Mitchell is far too big given the stats and I'm more than happy to side with him. I took 3.39/4 last night and I've pressed the position this morning so I'm on at an average of 3.412/5.
08:20 - October 15, 2021
The stats tell us we need to be concentrating on the early pacesetters from the get-go at the Andalucía Masters.
The last five winners at Valderrama have sat inside the front three places after round one and had Sergio Garcia started a bit better ten years ago it would have been the last eight!
The Spaniard sat tied for fifth and five back in 2011 when winning the first of his three titles in this event so he wasn't too far away anyway.
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, the forecast had suggested that we'd experience some breezy conditions early in the tournament and that was certainly the case yesterday. The par five 17th was the only hole to average below par in round one and the par four 18th averaged almost half a stroke over-par.
The forecast hasn't changed much since Monday/Tuesday, and it's suggested all week that the wind will start dropping this afternoon, so it was always the plan to keep an eye on the morning starters on Thursday with a view to getting one or two onside once they'd finished their rounds. If the wind does drop as expected, they'll get the better of it today when they tee off this afternoon.
I thought Matti Fitzpatrick looked a little over-priced at 13.5, once he'd saved par at 18, and I also got last week's winner, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, onside at 8.88/1.
Backed Cabrera-Bello and Fitzpatrick. Odds won't get any longer given the conditions? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) October 14, 2021
It's always a bit risky to bet on the strength of the weather forecasts but both players have shortened up a bit and I can't see them drifting out before they kick off their second rounds. Valderrama is a very tricky track in benign conditions and it's a devilishly tough one when the wind blows so I'd be surprised to see them drop down too far the leaderboard before they start.
I'm kicking myself for not looking at Rafa's post win record before the off here because it's pretty strong and with hindsight, 80.079/1 was huge before the off.
When he won the first of his four European Tour titles - the Austrian Open in 2009 - he finished fourth in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship next time out, he drew a blank at the WGC Matchplay following his victory in the Dubai Desert Classic in 2012 but he was fourth in the Open Championship the week after he won the Scottish Open in 2017, so a fast start here isn't a surprise.
Whether he can keep going for three more days after winning his national title is debatable but he's clearly playing brilliantly and the stats and the weather forecast are in his favour. He's the one they all have to beat.
Over on the PGA Tour, at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas, two huge outsiders are setting the early pace with another alone in third.
Pre-event 660.0659/1 chance, Robert Streb, who was matched at a high of 940.0939/1 when the market first opened, shot an 11-under-par 61 before Keith Mitchell, who was backed from 700.0699/1 to 330.0329/1 before the off, shot ten-under. Harry Higgs, who went off at 500.0499/1, then finished up on eight-under-par with Viktor Hovland, Sergio Garcia and Hudson Swafford tied for fourth on -7.
There are as many as eight players tied for seventh on -6 and a further 11 tied for 15th on -5 so it's a wide open looking tournament.
The well-backed pre-event favourite, Dustin Johnson, was matched at a low of 9.28/1 when he birdied two of the first four holes but he lost his way on the back-nine. A poor anti-water tee-shot on the hardest hole on the course, the par three 11th, led to a bogey before a wild tee-shot on the drivable par four 12th found the desert.
The world number two made a six there and just to add salt into the wounds he hit a sprinkler head on the 13th and dropped another shot! He sits tied for 73rd and 13 shots off the lead but it's the defending champion, Jason Kokrak, that props up the field. It's safe to say he won't be retaining the crown after a five-over-par 77.
I'm going to leave this one alone for now. Wagers on DJ and Marc Leishman look lost already but pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, who's a member at The Summit Club, is on the premises after a five-under-par opening round and my Find Me a 100 Winner selection, Tommy Fleetwood, sits tied for 26th on -4.
Andalucía Masters Pre-Event Selections:
John Catlin @ 70.069/1
Guido Migliozzi @ 75.074/1
Wilco Nienaber @ 75.074/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello @ 8.88/1
Matti Fitzpatrick @ 13.5
CJ Cup Pre-Event Selections:
Dustin Johnson @ 16.015/1
Collin Morikawa @ 19.018/1
Marc Leishman @ 70.069/1
Keith Mitchell @ 3.412/5
Find Me a 100 Winner picks:
Back 2 u Victor Dubuisson @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 2 u Tommy Fleetwood @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter