Rory a fair price with a round to go
World number one difficult to oppose
Fox and Herbert sportingly priced
17:25 - January 29 2023
The pre-event 4.47/2 favourite, Rory McIlroy, sat two off the lead at the halfway stage of the Dubai Desert Classic but he opened up round three with four birdies in-a-row to go odds-on and he looked like running away from the field before a hiccup at the last.
The world number one was matched at just 1.192/11 after birdies at 13, 14, 15 and 17 but after a brilliant drive had split the 18th fairway, McIlroy's approach found a watery grave when he unexpectedly failed to make the green and after taking a penalty drop, he recorded a bogey six.
Having looked like leading by five or maybe even six with a round to go when he stood in the middle of the 18th fairway, McIlroy heads into round four only three clear. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:20.
Rory McIlroy -15 1.412/5
Callum Shinkwin -12 27.026/1
Dan Bradbury -12 38.037/1
Victor Perez -11 30.029/1
Patrick Reed -11 30.029/1
Adri Arnaus -11 42.041/1
Ian Poulter -11 60.059/1
Richard Bland -11 65.064/1
Shaun Norris -11 [100.0
Angel Hidalgo -11 140.0139/1
-10 and 50.049/1 bar
After all the rain on Wednesday and Thursday, the field have experienced largely calm conditions and that will again be the case tomorrow if the forecasts can be believed.
We've seen three winners this century come from off the pace but on each occasion, blustery conditions have caused mayhem. In benign conditions, up with the pace has been the place to be around the Emirates and only two of the last ten 54-hole leaders have been beaten - Ashun Wu in 2020 and Justin Harding last year.
In 21 of the 33 editions staged here, the third round leader has gone on to win and Rory was in front at this stage before both his previous wins.
McIlroy was two clear before winning his first ever event here in 2009 and he was four in front six years later.
The world number one is the only man to go into the final round leading by as many as four strokes here and the three men to lead by three after 54 holes also went on to win.
The last five to lead by three with a round to go on the DP World Tour all went on to win and since 1996, 97 of 137 three-stroke leaders have converted. That's stroke rate of 71%.
Having led by four with a round to go, McIlroy was beaten in a playoff at the European Masters way back in 2008 and he famously blew a four-shot 54-hole advantage at the US Masters in 2011.
Since that Masters meltdown, Rory's led by three after three rounds on three occasions and he's converted twice and failed once.
He often gets in his own way (as demonstrated on the 18th today) and a loose shot out of the blue can cause issues but given all the evidence presented, he's definitely not too short at around 2/5, although he is attempting a couple of surprising firsts...
Rory has never won his first event of the year and he's also never won a Rolex Series event.
Sitting tied for 11th and five behind Rory, the 2020 winner, Lucas Herbert, and the 2022 player of the year, Ryan Fox, are both generously priced at 70.069/1 but it's very hard to look past the leader.
17:40 - January 28 2023
The final round of the Farmers Insurance Open on the PGA Tour is underway but after wet weather caused a six hour delay on Thursday, we've only just reached the halfway stage of this week's DP World Tour event - the Dubai Desert Classic. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 17:30.
Thomas Pieters -10 6.05/1
Michael Thorbjornsen -10 16.015/1
Richard Bland -10 17.5
Adri Arnaus -9 20.019/1
Connor Syme -9 36.035/1
Markus Kinhult -9 38.037/1
Rory McIlroy -8 3.953/1
Lucas Herbert -8 19.018/1
Patrick Reed -8 23.022/1
Matt Wallace -8 32.031/1
Bernd Wiesberger -8 34.033/1
Ian Poulter -8 55.054/1
Dan Bradbury -8 100.099/1
Angel Hidalgo -8 160.0159/1
-7 and 34.033/1 bar
Although four of the last five winners have trailed by at least three strokes at halfway, only one of them, Lucas Herbert in 2020, was outside the top-six places after 36 holes. The Australian trailed by four in a tie for 11th.
Robert-Jan Derksen sat tied for 20th and five adrift at halfway before winning in 2003 and Alvaro Quiros sat 27th and eight back before crafting a brilliant 68 in very windy conditions in round three but every other winner this century has been within four of the lead and inside the top-seven suggesting the winner is highly likely to be listed above.
Rory McIlroy, who has already been matched at a low of 2.1411/10, still heads the market despite another sloppy round by his lofty standards.
McIlroy finished round one birdie-eagle-birdie to tidy up his card but he described his play as 'rusty' after he'd posted his two-under-par 70 today.
The world number one hit only two of 14 fairways which hindered his approach play considerably. He managed to hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation but wasn't able to hit it close enough often enough to put in a charge.
He scrambled well to keep things ticking over and although he made just one bogey, he was only able to pick up strokes on two holes. He birdied the par five third (after hitting an eight iron from the rough!) and he holed a bomb on 13 for an eagle three.
Given he went off at around 4.3100/30, and that he only trails by two, he looks a reasonable price now and after laying him at 2.68/5 after round one, I've backed him back now at 4.03/1 - effectively halving potential returns for the original lay but clearing the liability entirely.
Spurred on by missing the cut when defending in Abu Dhabi last week, Thomas Pieters is the biggest danger to Rory according to the market.
Tied for the lead at halfway, Pieters looks nicely poised but it's not easy to convert from the front here. Major winners, DeChambeau, McIlroy and Tiger Woods are the only halfway leaders or co-leaders to kick on and win the title since Ernie Els won wire-to wire way back in 1994.
This is a tricky event to untangle but I'm happy to throw two more darts at halfway.
The 2019 runner-up, Matt Wallace, hasn't won in more than four years but I thought he was fractionally big at 32.031/1 given he ranks second for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, seventh for Greens In Regulation and sixth for Scrambling at halfway.
Wallace needs to putt better over the last two rounds but that's in the price given he only trails by two.
The recent Joburg Open winner, Dan Bradbury, shot an impressive nine-under-par 63 today to sit just two adrift and the market appears to be disrespecting him somewhat. He's no bigger than 66/1 on the High Street so I'm happy to back him modestly at 100.099/1.
08:10 - January 28 2023
A level-par 72 around the South Course in round three has seen pre-event 680.0679/1 chance, Sam Ryder, maintain his advantage with a round to go at the Farmers Insurance Open but with a chance to return to the top of the world rankings and to win his fourth event in five starts and his third PGA Tour event in-a-row, Jon Rahm, is lurking menacingly.
Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 8:00.
Sam Ryder -12 3.9
Jon Rahm -10 2.265/4
Tony Finau -8 9.08/1
Collin Morikawa -7 21.020/1
Max Homa -7 22.021/1
Sungjae In -7 25.024/1
Sahith Theegala -7 36.035/1
S.H Kim -6 140.0139/1
-5 and 170.0169/1 bar
History tells us that third round leaders tend to struggle here.
Like Justin Rose four years ago, once he'd hit the front at halfway, Tiger Woods was never headed in both 2008 and 2013 and he was also in front after round three in 2003 but other than Patrick Reed in 2021, the only other third round leaders to go on to win this century are Phil Mickelson in 2000 and John Daly in 2004, and the latter needed to win a three-man play-off.
In the last nine editions of the event, we've seen winners come from as far as two, three (three times), four, five and even six strokes back with a round to go and Rahm was trailing by three after 54 holes when he won the US Open here in 2021.
We've seen two winners trading at in excess of 200.0199/1 with a round to go and two stroke leaders have a surprisingly poor record of late on the PGA Tour too.
Add into the mix the fact that Ryder is attempting to win on the PGA Tour for the first time and the only conclusion I can come to is that he's too short at less than 3/1.
Ryder has never been in this position before on the PGA Tour but to his credit, he's led three times through 54 holes on the Korn Ferry Tour and he went on to win twice.
Although it's perhaps worth mentioning that he was seven clear at the Pinnacle Bank Championship the last time he led through three rounds, back in 2017, and on the only other occasion he held a clear lead - at the News Sentinel Open in 2016 where he'd led by one - he finished second, beaten by a stroke.
The clear and very obvious danger to Ryder is Rahm, but he looks short enough at around 2.35/4.
Rahm's clearly the best player on the planet so far in 2023 and a return to the top of the rankings is overdue. He loves the venue and after a frustrating first round, he's been back to best over the last two days but with five top-class players within two of the Spaniard, around a track where off the pace winners are common, he might not be the good thing the market suggests he is.
I'm obviously happy to have backed Rahm before the off but the value this morning sits with the man that shot the best round of the day yesterday - Tony Finau.
Finau's tee-to-green game has been superb all week but it's taken three days for the putter to warm up.
Incredibly, he missed as many as six putts from inside six feet on Wednesday and another two from inside nine feet.
Now that the putter has finally started to work, he looks like a huge danger to the front two and he's a fair price 9.08/1.
I've also thrown a few pounds at Keegan Bradley at 270.0269/1. He's won five times on the PGA Tour and on three occasions he's been trailing with a round to go. He's twice won from four back and he was three adrift at the BMW Championship 2018
We may only have a round to play on the PGA Tour but over on the DP World Tour, the second round of the Dubai Desert Classic is still ongoing after the big delay on Thursday morning.
Last year's runner-up, Richard Bland, is in the lead in the clubhouse on -10 but all eyes are now on Rory McIlroy who's just four holes into his second round.
I'll be back later with a more detailed look at the event once we've finally reached the halfway stage.
14:45 - January 27 2023
We've reached the halfway stage of the Farmers Insurance Open and the stats suggest starting on the South Course on Thursday and playing the North Course in yesterday's blustery conditions, was very slightly advantageous.
Only 33 of the 73 players to make the cut were drawn North - South and the scoring averages over the first two days show that those drawn South - North averaged 1.4 over-par and those drawn North -South averaged 1.6 over-par.
It's a negligible differential and with the benefit of hindsight, pondering the effects of the draw beforehand or after round one, was just a waste of time.
Sam Ryder and Brendan Steele, who played together on the North Course on Thursday and the South yesterday, have enjoyed each-others company and they sit atop of the 36-hole leaderboard.
Ryder shot the best score of the day on the North on Thursday and on the South on Friday to put daylight between himself and the rest and the pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm, who lost his way on day one, equalled the best round of the day on the North Course when he rallied late in the day to post a five-under-par 67.
The Spaniard still trails by eight but he's back trading at just 7/1 as he bids to win his fourth event in five.
Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 14:30.
Sam Ryder -12 5.04/1
Brendan Steele -9 8.415/2
Tano Goya -7 75.074/1
Max Homa -6 9.28/1
Taylor Montgomery -6 12.011/1
Sahith Theegala -6 17.5
Vincent Norman -6 95.094/1
Sam Stevens -6 120.0119/1
Brent Grant -6 180.0179/1
Collin Morikawa -5 13.5
Jason Day -5 19.5
Ben Griffin -5 65.064/1
Andrew Novak -5200.0199/1
Jon Rahm -4 8.07/1
-4 and 60.059/1 bar
Given he leads by three over Steele and by five over the remainder, the 4/1 available about the leader may look tempting but it hasn't enticed me in.
At 33, Ryder is yet to win on the PGA Tour, here's never led a PGA Tour event through 36 holes, and since Tiger Woods won here ten years ago, having led by two at halfway, Justin Rose, in 2019, is the only halfway leader to convert. Like Ryder, Rose led by three after 36 holes.
Having backed both Rahm and Max Homa before the off, I'm happy to sit on my hands for now and see what happens today and I haven't given up on my Find Me a 100 Winner pick yet either. Byeong Hun An sits alongside Rahm in tied 14th.
Over on the DP World Tour, after losing six hours yesterday, the Dubai Desert Classic will run into Monday.
Having been matched at a high of 11.521/2 and having birdied the seventh hole before play was suspended on Thursday, the pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy, finished his first round in fine style this morning with this eagle two at eight and a birdie and nine.
Although he trails the co-leaders, Ian Poulter and Richard Bland, by two, Rory is now a very warm favourite at around 2.68/5 (has hit a low of 2.466/4) and that looks plenty short enough to me.
I'm happy to lay Rory at that price with so long to go and I've also thrown a few pounds at Adri Anaus at 42.041/1.
The Spaniard, who sits just one behind Rory after round one, missed the cut here last year but he was third in 2020 and ninth 12 months later and I thought he was fractionally big given he's a 33/1 chance on the High Street.
08:35 - January 26 2023
It's only Thursday morning but the first round of this week's PGA Tour event - the Farmers Insurance Open - is already done and dusted.
As highlighted in the preview, the field plays both the North and South Course over the first two days and it's debatable as to which side of the draw is best this week.
As highlighted below, the North Course averaged almost two-and-half strokes less than the South yesterday. The top-four on the leaderboard all played the North yesterday, nine of the top-11 began the event there and as many as 25 of the top 32 will be teeing it up on the South Course today but both sides of the draw are in for a rocky ride in round two if the weather forecasts are anything to go by.
With winds forecasted to gust up to as high as 30 mph today, scoring won't be as good at either track and it's debatable whether having a good score in the bag at the North Course already is better than having to try and construct one there today in the blustery conditions.
A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush but on the other hand, with the rough up on the South Course, we could witness some very high scores there today and the likes of Sam Ryder, Aaron Rai and Brent Grant, who are tied at the top after eight-under-par 64s around the North Course yesterday, may well tumble down the leaderboard today.
Those that constructed a good score around the South Course yesterday - Taylor Montgomery (-5), Justin Thomas (-4) and Sungjae Im (-4) - now head the market with the in-form PGA Tour rookie, Montgomery, the surprising new jolly.
Of those that started nicely on the North, Collin Morikawa is the shortest in the market this morning - trading at 16.015/1 - but his putting stroke looked a bit iffy yesterday and I'm happy to swerve all the market leaders at this stage.
The pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm, who's looking to become the first man to win three PGA Tour titles in-a-row since Dustin Johnson in 2017, looked like he was back in business when his second shot landed on the green at the par five sixth hole on the South Course yesterday.
Odds-on to make another birdie to get to three-under-par for the day, the bang-in-form Spaniard was backed down to a low of 3.55 but he three-putted for par and overshot the green on seven.
In the space of a few minutes he'd gone from looking like assuming command again to being all at sea and he never really got going again after recording a double-bogey six at the seventh.
A grumpy and swarey Rahm bungled his way to an opening one-over-par 73 and he now sits nine off the lead in a tie for 116th.
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, a slow start can be overcome in this event but Rahm's definitely up against given the forecast.
The breezy conditions today won't help him at all as he attempts to make up the lost ground on the easier North Course and the 25.024/1 available this morning about the world number three doesn't scream value to me.
I'm going to exercise plenty of caution given the forecast but I was happy to throw a few pounds at South Africa's Garrick Higgo at 85.084/1.
With three DP World Tour titles and a win on the PGA Tour already in the bag, the 23-year-old has already been more successful than most but his ceiling's high and if his 64 in the windy conditions in round four of the Bermuda Championship in October (the best round of the day) is anything to go by, he may hang in there around the South Course better than most today.
Higgo had caught the eye last week when signing off The American Express with a nine-under-par 63 to climb up into a tie for 11th and he's carried that form forward with a six-under-par 66 at the North Course yesterday to sit tied for fifth and just two off the lead.
Over on the DP World Tour, torrential rain has hit Dubai and the Dubai Desert Classic (previewed here) hasn't started yet.
The opening round is predicted to start at 13:15 local time (9:15 UK time) after a delay of more than six hours.
Dubai Desert Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Rory McIlroy @ an average of 14.5 in the 1st Round Leader market
Min Woo Lee @ 25.024/1
Nicolai Hojgaard @ 65.064/1
Sami Valimaki @ 130.0129/1
Rory McIlroy layed @ 2.68/5
Adri Arnaus backed @ 42.041/1
Rory McIlroy backed @ 4.03/1
Matt Wallace backed @ 32.031/1
Dan Bradbury backed @ 100.099/1
Farmers Insurance Open Pre-event Selection:
Jon Rahm @ 5.85/1
Max Homa @ 28.027/1
In-Play Picks:Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Garrick Higgo @ 85.084/1
Tony Finau @ 9.08/1
Keegan Bradley @ 270.0269/1
Back 2u Sebastian Soderberg 170.0169/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1u Byeong Hun An 260.0259/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
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