The Punter's In-Play Blog: Odds-on Cook clear by three in Georgia

Tommy Fleetwood – back in front of the Race to Dubai standings
Chris Kirk - chasing down Austin Cook in Georgia

A four-under-par 66 in round three has seen Austin Cook extend his lead to three at the RSM Classic but is he good thing to convert? Read what Steve thinks ahead of today's final round here...

“Since 1996, 113 players have taken a three-stroke lead in to the final round of a 72 hole PGA Tour event but only 57 of them have gone on to win. That’s a surprisingly low strike rate of 50% which has been dropping sharply recently.”

10:20 - November 19, 2017

The final round of the DP World Tour Championship is well underway and live on Sky Sports but I'm turning my attention to this week's PGA Tour event now - the RSM Classic. Here are the latest standings with a round to go, with prices to back at 10:15.

Austin Cook -18 1.814/5

Chris Kirk -15 5.24/1

Brian Gay -14 11.010/1

J. J Spaun -13 17.016/1

Kevin Kisner -12 18.5

-11 and 100.099/1 bar

This tournament looks poised for a very interesting finale. Three strokes is a decent lead but the record of three-stroke 54-hole leaders on the PGA Tour isn't as strong as I thought it might be and, although only seven years old, this is an event that's already produced a number of off the pace winners. It could get very interesting.

Since 1996, 113 players have taken a three-stroke lead in to the final round of a 72 hole PGA Tour event but only 57 of them have gone on to win. That's a surprisingly low strike rate of 50% which has been dropping sharply recently. Only one of the last eight players to lead by three has converted - Dustin Johnson at the BMW Championship last September. The last to fail was Jordan Spieth in The Northern Trust in August.

It is worth highlighting that it isn't a bunch leaderboard behind Cook so that's obviously in his favour but once the history of the tournament is factored in - the odds-on on offer about the leader looks short.

Tommy Gainey shot 60 to win from seven back and tied 29th in 2012 and Ben Crane, in 2011, and Robert Streb, in 2014, both won from five strokes back with a round to go. There's something about the Seaside Course that gives the chasers a chance and I wouldn't be remotely interested in backing Cook at around the 4/5 mark.

Brian Gay was disappointing yesterday but my other in-play pick, Chris Kirk, fared well and he's now the one most likely to prosper, should the leader falter so I'm fairly happy with my lot. I'm going to trade the tournament in-running tonight and try and get any closers onside but I couldn't resist adding Zach Johnson at 150.0149/1 this morning. He shot a low round last Sunday in Mexico and he's more than capable of putting in a charge again this week. He trails by eight strokes so it's a big ask but if Cook gets jittery the event will be wide open and as we've already seen, all sorts of things can happen here.

13:05 - November 18, 2017

The third round of the DP World Tour Championship has just finished and after a day of low scoring, the halfway leader, Matthew Fitzpatrick, is almost completely out of the reckoning after a lacklustre level par 72. Justin Rose leads by a stroke over Jon Rahm and Dylan Frittelli and here are the latest standings with prices to back at 13:05.

Justin Rose -15 2.767/4

Jon Rahm -14 4.77/2
Dylan Frittelli -14 13.012/1

Tommy Fleetwood -13 11.521/2
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -13 17.016/1
Dean Burmester -13 28.027/1

-12 and 18.017/1 bar

We've already seen some really low scores this week - Tyrrell Hatton fired a nine-under-par 62 yesterday and Dylan Frittelli matched that feat today - and Justin Rose very nearly snatched the title back in 2012 when he shot a course record ten-under-par 62 in round four, but what limited stats we have tell us that, despite the possibility of really low scores, you need to be up with the pace with a round to go to win here.

Robert Karlsson trailed by three strokes through 54 holes when he caught the third round leader, Ian Poulter, before winning in extra time in 2012 but every other winner has led or trailed by just a stroke with a round to go.

I fancied Jon Rahm's chances before the off and I'm happy to stick with him now. Justin Rose, who's already been matched at odds-on, is obviously the man to beat but the Race to Dubai is such a distraction that I'm happy to swerve him.

Rahm doesn't have the pressure that Rose and Fleetwood have and he's more than capable of going low again tomorrow on a course he's still getting to know.

Over in the States, despite there being a bumper field of 150 players, two men have opened up a gap on the rest. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 13:05.

Austin Cook -14 3.711/4

Brian Gay -13 4.84/1

Chris Kirk -9 25.024/1
C.T Pan -9 25.024/1
Vaughn Taylor -9 32.031/1

Brandt Snedeker -8 15.5

-8 and 27.026/1 bar Tour graduate, Austin Cook looks short enough to me given he's never won anywhere before, and of the two clear leaders, I much prefer the proven winner, Brian Gay.

Gay's a four-time PGA Tour winner and his most impressive victory was achieved just along the coast at Hilton Head when he won the RBC Heritage by an incredible ten strokes in 2009. If someone's going to run away from the field it's more likely to be him and I thought he was a fair price at 4.84/1.

In addition to backing Gay, I've also had a small bet on the first round leader, Chris Kirk, who won the tournament in 2013. After a lacklustre level par yesterday, Kirk could very easily just drift away but I can see him bouncing back today on a course he feels comfortable with and at 25.024/1, I thought he was a decent price too.

14:05 - November 17, 2017

Tyrrell Hatton has thrown his hat in the ring at the DP World Tour Championship with a sensational nine-under par 63, which included a bogey six at the last, but it's the defending champion, Matthew Fitzpatrick, who leads at the halfway stage. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 13:55.

Matthew Fitzpatrick -10 4.77/2

Tyrrell Hatton -9 5.85/1

Justin Rose -9 5.14/1
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -8 18.017/1
Julien Suri -8 29.028/1

Jon Rahm -7 11.521/2
Patrick Reed -7 18.5
Paul Dunne -7 30.029/1
Soren Kjeldsen -7 42.041/1
Scott Hend -7 46.045/1

Tommy Fleetwood -6 30.029/1

-6 and 44.043/1 bar

Somewhat bizarrely, the only first round leader to win the DP World Tour Championship, Robert Karlsson, is also the winner to trail the furthest at halfway. After opening up with 65 to lead by one in 2010, he shot 10 shots worse on Friday to trail by five in a tie for 12th but up until two years ago, he was the only winner not to be leading through 36 holes. Matthew Fitzpatrick sat tied for eighth and four adrift last year and Rory McIlroy trailed by four in a tie for fourth 12 months earlier, suggesting we can't scan too far down the leaderboard.

Fitzpatrick clearly loves the course and he's really got to grips with the greens again. He holed a lengthy putt for birdie at the 18th today but it wasn't a surprise to see it drop. Almost every putt he made threatened the hole and I'm more than happy to have him onside going in to the weekend. He has a strong chance of becoming the sixth halfway leader in nine years to win and if I wasn't already on board I'd be backing him now at what looks a fair price.

Justin Rose is Matthew's biggest danger but the distraction of the Race to Dubai, which is very tight going in to the weekend, could be a big factor. I personally couldn't give a stuff who wins it but Tommy Fleetwood and Rose most certainly do and it was the sole reason for Fleetwood's slow start yesterday. I'm not convinced the R2D was on Justin's mind that much today but he made a scruffy bogey at the last to drop in to a tie for third, leaving last year's main protagonists to play together tomorrow.

The limited stats we have (given we've only had eight renewals) suggest Hatton was too far back after round one to win and he may struggle to back up today's low round tomorrow but he'll be eager to avenge last year's defeat to Fitzpatrick. Hatton was matched at odds-on on five separate occasions during round four last year and he was matched at a low of just 1.132/15 when he stood on the 18th tee with a one-stroke lead so tomorrow's final two-ball is an intriguing match-up.

Jon Rahm finished well today to move to within three of the lead and after two days acclimatising to the venue, he could easily fly over the weekend and he looks a fair price at a double-figure price. He and Rose play together tomorrow and that could be good for both of them.

The largely consistent Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, looks likely to contend but he keeps flattering to deceive in-contention and the first round leader, Patrick Reed, can't be dismissed lightly either. He could bounce back after today's poor round but anyone watching the event will hope he doesn't. The rapid Scott Hend had to be put on the clock today playing in the final two-ball with the snail-like Reed and the poor sod's drawn with him again tomorrow! We got to see plenty of them today and Reed was irritatingly slow.

I'm happy to have Fitzpatrick and Rahm onside and we probably shouldn't be looking outside the top-ten but I've also thrown a few pounds at Fleetwood at 30.029/1. He was nervous yesterday but rebounded nicely today and he might just build on that momentum over the weekend. Rose's bogey at the last today has seen Fleetwood return to the top of the Race to Dubai standings so it could go either way. He could put in another jittery performance tomorrow and Rose could go back in front but I suspect yesterday's disappointing effort has blown away all the nerves. I fancy he'll have a very simple 'just go for it' philosophy now and he might just get on a roll.

Both events are fairly new and having begun life in 2010, the RSM Classic is only a year younger than the DP World Tour Championship so we have to be cautious about giving the previous stats too much credence there too but from what we've seen so far in Georgia, a fast start is by no means essential so it's still a wide open heat.

I really didn't think I'd be having an in-running bet in the event just yet but having looked at the hole averages form yesterday's first round, and having seen that the Plantation Course played noticeably easier than the Seaside Course, I've played Chesson Hadley at 46.045/1.

The par 70 Seaside average 69.37 yesterday whereas the par 72 Plantation only average 70.16 - a difference of 1.21 strokes in relation to par - so it's not surprising that the leader, Chris Kirk, the top-seven on the leaderboard, and 15 of the top-17, all played the Plantation yesterday. In theory, those that play there today should score better and I thought Hadley was worth chancing after his three-under-par around the Seaside track yesterday.

Hadley had to withdraw because of illness last week in Mexico but prior to that he was in incredible form and he overcame a slow start to contend in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open in his penultimate start after a really slow start so he's close enough here in a tie for 28th.

13:45 - November 16, 2017

Six days after weakly bogeying the 36th hole at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba to miss the cut in Mexico, Patrick Reed has rocked up at the Earth Course to take the early lead in Dubai. Here are the first round standings with prices to back at 13:40.

Patrick Reed -7 7.613/2

Justin Rose -6 3.45
Scott Hend -6 40.039/1

Matthew Fitzpatrick -5 13.5
Paul Dunne -5 24.023/1
Alex Levy -5 34.033/1
Fabrizio Zanotti -5 60.059/1
Ryan Fox -5 70.069/1
Alexander Bjork -5 70.069/1

-4 and 15.014/1 bar

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, this is very much a frontrunners course and we need to be concentrating on the leaders. Alvaro Quiros sat tied for fifth and four off the lead after the opening round when he won here in 2011 but every other winner has been within three of the lead after the opening day.

Given those stats, the obvious place to start is at the top but Reed isn't for me. He has a great record when leading after the opening round, winning three times and finishing second once, but the last of those wins was more than two years ago and he's put in some poor efforts in-the-mix later. It's also worth noting that although being up with the pace has been key, being in front this early has been a hindrance. Robert Karlsson is the only first round leader to go on to win but that was only after he'd dropped away with a poor second round.

Justin Rose's superb 66 has seen him climb ahead of Tommy Fleetwood in the Race to Dubai standings and he's now in pole position to take the big prize but could that be a negative now that momentum has shifted?

Fleetwood started poorly today and he finished up shooting a one-over-par 73. When interviewed after the round he spoke of winning the R2D being his biggest achievement to date so the pressure is clearly starting to tell. It would be a bigger deal for the younger Englishman but the pressure has now shifted to Rose and that might just have a bearing on how he plays the rest of the week. He's a major champion, an Olympic champion, a multiple winner and a former Order of Merit winner so his experience should hold him in good stead but he knows he'll wake up tomorrow feeling differently than he did today. He's more than capable of powering home and winning the tournament but the value lies elsewhere and with last year's champ, Matthew Fitzpatrick.

The Race to Dubai isn't an issue for Matthew, as it wasn't when he won 12 months ago, and I suspect he'll contend nicely throughout the remainder of the event without the distractions Rose has. He trailed by three after an opening round of 69 last year so this year's 67 to sit two back is a better start and given how well he likes the course (fourth on debut two years ago) he looks the sensible play after the opening day.

My sole selection before the off, John Rahm, trails Reed by four so he's just about close enough according to the stats but he'll need to cut the errors out. He's a similar price to Fitzpatrick but having seen a lot of the Spaniard's round today, I prefer the chances of the Englishman and he's been added now at 13.5.

DP World Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Jon Rahm @ 15.5

In-Play Picks:
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 13.5
Tommy Fleetwood @ 30.029/1

RSM Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Si Woo Kim @ 70.069/1
Russell Knox @ 80.079/1
Brian Stuard @ 140.0139/1

In-Play Pick:
Chesson Hadley @ 30.029/1

Brian Gay @ 5.04/1
Chris Kirk @ 23.022/1
Zach Johnson @ 150.0149/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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