There's just a round to go at the Farmers Insurance Open and the controversial Patrick Reed is tied with Steve's in-play pick, Carlos Ortiz, but can either buck the trends and win?
“Hovland’s 65 on Friday in awful conditions was simply incredible and he might just bounce back today after yesterday’s understandably lacklustre third round.”
12:50 - January 31, 2021
Having played the front nine of his third round in five-under-par at the Farmers Insurance Open, pre-event 34.033/1 chance, Patrick Reed, was matched at a low of 2.26/5 but a controversial situation on the 10th, when Reed picked up his ball after suggesting it was imbedded, seemed to throw him off course.
There's plenty of coverage of Reed the Rogue's latest brush with the rules so I won't waste time on it here but he played his next six holes in four-over-par and I doubt that was a coincidence. He then parred 17 and birdied the last to draw alongside my in-play pick, Carlos Ortiz and the two are clear of the remainder. Here's the 54 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:45.
Patrick Reed -10 4.47/2
Carlos Ortiz -10 7.06/1
Jon Rahm -8 6.86/1
Viktor Hovland -8 11.010/1
Adam Scott -8 12.5
Sam Burns -8 20.019/1
Lanto Griffin -8 25.024/1
Rory McIlroy -7 11.5
-7 and 29.028/1 bar
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen a plethora of off the pace winners in this event. Justin Rose converted a three-stroke 54-hole lead two years ago but he's the only third round leader to go on to win since Tiger Woods in 2013.
In fact, other than Rose two years ago and John Daly in 2004, Woods is the only other player to convert a 54-hole lead in this event this century (also did it in 2003 and 2008) and if you're looking at the leaderboard thinking the world number two and 2017 winner, Jon Rahm, looks like a solid proposition, check out his performance last year when leading...
The Spaniard was one clear of the ever-flaky Ryan Palmer and three clear of the rest (Rory McIlroy sat tied third and three back) but having been matched at 1.794/5, he bogeyed the opening hole, double-bogeyed the third and bogeyed the fifth. He rallied on the back-nine to finish second but it just goes to show what's possible here. Rory, who again trails by three with a round to go, opened-up last year's fourth round with three bogeys in-a-row.
Brandt Snedeker came from tied 27th and six back to win in 2016 so there are still plenty in with a chance still, although the bad weather had a huge bearing on that result. Even so, as Ortiz showed yesterday when he moved up 20 places to hit the front, the South Course is so hard that if anyone does manage to shoot a low one, and someone always seems to manage to do so, they will make up lots of places.
I was very tempted to get Xander Schauffele onside. He was trading at 34.033/1 last night but I stupidly thought I'd sleep on it and he's now 29.028/1 so I'm going to leave him out for now and cheer on Ortiz and Hovland , who I've had a small bet on at 11.010/1.
Hovland's 65 on Friday in awful conditions was simply incredible and he might just bounce back today after yesterday's understandably lacklustre third round.
14:55 - January 30, 2021
After a brilliant start to his third round at the Dubai Desert Classic, which saw him birdie half of his first ten holes, Paul Casey cooled off fractionally on the back-nine with a run of six consecutive pars but he finished the round brilliantly with a chip in birdie three at the 17th and a successfully converted ten-foot eagle putt on 18. His eight-under-par 64 was the best round of the day and he leads by a stroke. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 14:50.
Paul Casey -15 1.991/1
Robert McIntyre --14 3.55
Brandon Stone -13 8.07/1
Sergio Garcia -10 23.022/1
Laurie Canter -10 46.045/1
Kalle Samooja -9 130.0129/1
Justin Rose -8 140.0139/1
-8 and 200.0199/1 bar
The finish to last year's edition of the Dubai Desert Classic was a barmy one. The two playoff protagonists, Lucas Herbert and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, had began the final round tied for 13th and six off the lead but having both been matched at 1000.0 in-running, they ended the day tied at the top and two clear of the rest but it's a renewal we can largely ignore.
The wind blew really hard last year, causing all sorts of mayhem, but in benign conditions this is a very hard course at which to play catch-up and the seven previous winners were all in front through 54 holes.
Prior to last year, Tiger Woods, who trailed by four in 2008, was the only winner to be trailing by more than three strokes after three rounds and only one winner, Robert-Jan Derksen, who sat seventh and three back in 2003, has been outside the top-five places after 54 holes. The winner is almost certainly listed above.
Paul Casey hasn't always been the most straightforward conveyance in-contention and his strike rate when leading isn't brilliant. He's held a clear lead 13 times previously and he's gone on to win only four times. He's given up two, three and even four shot advantages in the past but he did get the job done on the last occasion he led - at the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour in 2019. His price is probably about right but it's most definitely not one I'm interested in.
Robert MacIntyre recovered brilliantly after a bit of a wobble at holes four and five today but the way he threw three shots away so quickly after a chip-in eagle at the third did set the alarm bells ringing again. He's still relatively inexperienced and Brandon Stone, who trails by only two, looks the value play going into the final day.
He was trading at double-figures after he'd failed to birdie either of the last two holes and once Casey had hit his great second shot into 18 and I thought that was an overaction. It made sense to get him onside after what I'd written last night anway.
"The only other one that I'm interested in is Brandon Stone, who's tied for sixth and three off the lead. The South African should cope with the tricky greens over the weekend and I'm tempted to add him too at 34.033/1."
He's been shortening up ever since the third round finished but I can see why. Sergio Garcia could put in a run but he's been a bit in-and-out so far this week and it's very hard to look beyond the front three so Stone appears to represent a bit of value.
11:50 - January 30, 2021
On a very tough day at Torrey Pines, when the par 72 South Course averaged 74.76, world number 14, Viktor Hovland, fired a miraculous seven-under-par 65 around the tougher of the two venues (the easier North Course averaged 70.84) and that was fully four strokes better than anyone else that played there managed. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 11:40.
Hovland's heroics have put him in pole position but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, 36-hole leaders have a poor record in this event.
Since the South Course was extensively renovated in 2001, only Tiger Woods (in 2008 and 2013) and Justin Rose two years ago (led by three) have gone on to win having led or been tied for the lead at halfway. Last year's winner, Marc Leishman, trailed by six strokes in a tie for 17th, the 2017 champ, Jon Rahm, sat tied for 21st and five off the lead and 12 months earlier, Brandt Snedeker won having sat tied for 57th and eight off the lead!
Snedeker was helped by some atrocious weather but it's a tough place to front run in any conditions and backing an outsider or two from off the pace is a great way to play the event.
Rory McIlroy, who's hit more greens than anyone else so far this week, is the only player outside the top-seven to be trading at less than 65.064/1 so there are a plethora of players than could very easily get involved at a huge price and I've chanced three - Will Gordon, Adam Hadwin and Carlos Ortiz.
Gordan is hitting greens and putting well and is only two off the lead. The same applies to Hadwin, who trails by four, and Ortiz who was on the shortlist before the off.
There's plenty of class at the head of affairs but history shows us that anything can happen here and I'm more than happy to chance those three.
18:50 - January 29, 2021
After a second successive bogey-free five-under-par 67, Belgian's Thomas Detry shows the way at the Dubai Desert Classic. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 19:15.
Thomas Detry -10 7.26/1
Robert McIntyre -9 7.413/2
Tommy Fleetwood -8 6.05/1
Justin Harding -8 28.027/1
Kalle Samooja -8 28.027/1
Paul Casey -7 11.5
Lee Westwood -7 21.020/1
Adri Arnaus -7 22.021/1
Brandon Stone -7 34.033/1
Kurt Kitayama -7 34.033/1
Mikko Korhonen -7 44.043/1
-6 and 20.019/1 bar
Having looked highly likely to miss the cut after an opening 76, last week's Abu Dhabi Championship winner, Tyrell Hatton, who'd sat tied for 115th after day one, fired a very impressive eight-under-par 64 today to move up into a tie for 23rd but he's still six off the lead and the stats suggest that's too far back...
In very windy conditions, Lucas Herbert won from off the pace last year. He trailed by four at halfway and was outside the top-ten in a tie for 11th but he was just the third winner in the tournament's entire history to be outside the top-ten after 36 holes and since the first edition of the event, 32 years ago, only one winner, Alvaro Quiros in 2011, has trailed by more than five strokes at this stage. As well as he played today, Hatton could have done with birdying the last two very gettable holes today.
Since Mark James won the inaugural edition in 1989, only seven winners have trailed by more than three strokes at halfway so we really should be concentrating on the leaders but none of the frontrunners make much appeal.
Although he won the World Cup of Golf alongside Thomas Pieters in 2018, Detry is still looking to win his first individual European Tour event. The man in second, Robert McIntyre, is a winner, he claimed the quirky Cyprus Showdown in November but I'm not in a rush to back him at around 6/1. He's still young and not the finished article yet. He was bang in-the-mix at the Golf In Dubai tournament after his maiden success but his putting was poor under the gun.
Tommy Fleetwood looks short enough given his poor record here and his propensity to throw in a poor third round when in-the-mix. He's been leading or within two of the lead at halfway 31 times previously and he's gone on to win just twice.
Justin Harding hasn't impressed in-contention for a while but at around 2/1, he may well reward two-ball backers against Tommy but I'm going to leave it alone. Harding's putting looks decidedly iffy and I can see both struggling.
The only one inside the top-five that interested me is Kalle Samooja. He impressed me greatly at the Cyprus Open where he finished second and playing with fellow Finn, Mikko Korhonen, could be a positive. I've had a tiny wager on him at 29.028/1 and that's in addition to the below in-running bet from earlier.
Just had a small bet on Migliozi at 100 in Dubai.? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) January 29, 2021
Unfortunately, the Italian bogeyed his final hole today, after I'd backed him, so he might just have too much to do now given he's four back and tied for 12th.
The only other one that I'm interested in is Brandon Stone, who's tied for sixth and three off the lead. The South African should cope with the tricky greens over the weekend and I'm tempted to add him too at 34.033/1.
11:35 - January 28, 2021
The second round of the Dubai Desert Classic is well underway and I'll be back later today with a look at the state of play at the halfway stage.
Scotland's Robert McIntyre posted a four-under-par 68 to hit the front this morning but the afternoon wave are charging.
The first round of the Farmers Insurance Open is all done and dusted but I'm in no rush to get heavily involved there just yet. There was a sizable differential in scoring between the two courses yesterday and there certainly will be today too with poor weather forecasted.
Scoring by course, 1st round? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) January 29, 2021
South: 73.17, field combined +91, 2 rounds of 66 or lower
North: 69.45, field combined -199, 13 rounds of 66 or lower
I'm going to wait until the halfway stage and for the stagger to unwind before taking a good look at this one but I couldn't resist a very small play on event specialist, Brandt Snedeker, who shot an impressive enough three-under-par 69 around the South Course.
Snedeker won the second of his Farmers Insurance Open titles in vile conditions in 2016 so he's well equipped to survive today's forecasted poor weather.
19:35 - January 28, 2021
The morning starters had the better of the conditions on day one of the Dubai Desert Classic, and they averaged 0.81 of a stroke less than those that teed it up after lunch but two of the latter starters sit atop of the leaderboard after round one. Here's the 18-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 19:30.
Richard Sterne -8 14.5
Kurt Kitayama -7 14.013/1
Sergio Garcia -6 7.413/2
Justin Harding -6 32.031/1
Paul Casey -5 9.417/2
Robert McIntyre -5 14.013/1
Thomas Detry -5 25.024/1
Adrian Otaegui -5 46.045/1
Tommy Fleetwood -4 10.09/1
-4 and 32.031/1 bar
It was no real surprise to see Richard Sterne start well today. In the four years between 2011 and 2014 he ended day one inside the top-four places and after a 62 in 2013 he held a one-stroke lead - as he does tonight.
With first round form figures for those four years reading 4-4-1-3, his final finishing positions were very disappointing, reading 59-37-2-54. By a very wide margin, 2013 was the closest he came to winning when he and Stephen Gallacher dominated the event. Gallagher eventually prevailed by three strokes but there was a gap of seven back to Felipe Aguilar and it's hard to fancy Sterne going one better this time around.
Although I have little faith in the leader winning this time around, as many as seven first round leaders have gone on to win this century and it's extremely hard to come from off the pace here, and nigh on impossible unless the wind blows hard. Which it's not predicted to do this week.
Sergio Garcia was the last man to go on to win after leading on day one when he led wire-to-wire in 2017 and the market, quite rightly, makes him favourite to go in again this year.
Garcia's generally a 5/1 shot on the High Street and I thought 7.613/2 was more than fair.
As already mentioned, and as highlighted in more detail in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, if the wind doesn't blow here making up ground is very difficult here so I'm more than happy to back the man in second, Kitayama, as well as Sergio.
Kitayama has been within one of the lead four times previously after the opening round on the European Tour and his finishing positions have been first, 15th, first and fourth. A poor weekend at the South African Open in 2018 saw him fall from third at halfway to 15th but on the other three occasions he's hung in there really nicely and I thought he was too big at 15.014/1.
The 28-year-old Californian would have grown up mainly putting on bumpy unpredictable Poa Anua but his two European Tour wins, at the Mauritius Open in 2018 and at the Oman Open in 2019, were on courses laid to Bermuda and Paspalum greens so he can clearly cope with imperfection. And that sounds like it could be vital this week.
A number of players (including my pre-event pick, Matt Wallace) have been moaning about how bad the Bermuda greens are this year so I thought that was another positive for Kitayama.
The first round of the Farmers Insurance Open has just started so I'll take a look at that one after round one tomorrow.
Dubai Desert Classic Pre-Event Selection:
Matt Wallace @ 30.029/1
Farmers Insurance Open Pre-Event Selections:
Jason Day @ 44.043/1
Marc Leishman @ 50.049/1
Find Me A 100 Winner Selections:
Dubai Desert Classic
Back George Coetzee 1 ½ u @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Rasmus Hojgaard 1 ½ u @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
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