The Punter's In-Play Blog: DJ's poised to pounce at Riv

Golfer Dustin Johnson
World number one Dustin Johnson in action at Riviera on Thursday

Sam Burns is clinging on at Riviera but his lead is down to two. Steve updates again with the latest standings and prices after round three

"Dustin Johnson is most certainly the one they all have to beat but we’ve seen some funny results here before and anyone coming from off the pace and posting a score will be worth getting onside."

16:30 - February 21, 2021

Round three of the Genesis Invitational has just finished and, having parred his way to the house this morning, Dustin Johnson now heads the market. Here's the standings after round round three with prices to back at 16:25.

Sam Burns -9 4.77/2
Dustin Johnson -7 3.185/40
Matt Fitzpatrick -7 8.415/2
Max Homa -7 9.28/1
Patrick Cantlay -5 15.014/1
Tony Finau -5 23.022/1
Cameron Smith -5 34.033/1
Alex Noren -5 50.049/1
Talor Gooch -5 55.054/1
Matt Jones -5 60.059/1
Jordan Spieth -4 48.047/1
-4 and 75.074/1 bar

A par save from nine feet at the 18th by the leader, Sam Burns, has kept his lead to two with a round to go but the tournament has a much more open look about it after the completion of the third round.

The group of six on -5 are still in it and I really don't fancy the leader to get the job done now. Having led by five at halfway, he looks to be treading water now and he looked very tired. I suspect he hasn't slept well.

Dustin Johnson is most certainly the one they all have to beat but we've seen some funny results here before and anyone coming from off the pace and posting a score will be worth getting onside. It's a tough finish at Riviera and it should provide plenty of entertainment.

12:10 - February 21, 2021

Strong winds, causing the balls to move on the fast greens, forced a suspension of play at the Genesis Invitational yesterday afternoon, just before the 36-hole leader, Sam Burns, teed off. Play eventually resumed but not early enough to get the third round finished and play resumes at 14:50 UK time. Here's the latest standings with prices to back and holes played in round three.

Sam Burns -10 4.3100/30 (13 holes played)
Matt Fitzpatrick -8 6.05/1 (17 holes played)
Dustin Johnson -7 5.04/1 (13 holes played)
Max Homa -7 12.5 (13 holes played)
Wyndham Clark -7 16.5 (15 holes played)
Patrick Cantlay -6 9.617/2 (16 holes played)
Tony Finau -5 27.026/1 (round three completed)
-5 and 50.049/1 bar

The hooter went off just in time for Burns last night. He'd made back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13 and there were no signs of him getting a foothold in the tricky conditions. He'll begin the day with his tee-shot on the tricky par three 14th once Dustin Johnson has finished the hole.

DJ has 17 feet for par so it's odds-on he'll slip to four back and the finish to the course is tough (bar the par five 17th). With only the tough par 18th left to play, Matthew Fitzpatrick is in a decent position but a par there is no given.

It's a really tricky leaderboard to assess and we can only guess how the leaders will wake up and finish up today but my preference is for DJ.

Safely in the house, both Matt Jones and Talor Gooch on -5 are interesting contenders at big prices and if the leaders struggle in the cool early morning conditions, their current prices of 75.074/1 will soon fall but I just can't get away from the world number one.

If DJ can get in the house at -7, assuming a probable bogey at 14 and a birdie at 17, there's a strong likelihood that he'll make ground up on Burns who looks to be flapping in front and even if he plays the last five holes in one-over, I don't foresee him trailing by any more than three or four strokes.

The longer I look at the current state of play the more I fancy DJ. He was 6/1 to win the event at the start of the week and he's 4/1 on Sunday morning with half-a-dozen plausible candidates to beat.

Taking onboard that there's a very real chance he could miss his par save, drop another one or two finishing off round three, and then just fall away, I still think DJ's the play at 5.04/1. Given the contenders and given the position the world number one is in right now, around a course he loves and has won at before, I fancy he'd convert this opportunity more often the market currently suggests.

11:30 - February 20, 2021

For the second day in-a-row, Sam Burns shot the lowest round of the day at the Genesis Invitational and his bogey-free 66, to follow Thursday's brilliant 64, sees the 24-year-old Louisianan five clear of the field at Riviera. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:25.

Sam Burns -12 3.55
Dustin Johnson -7 3.9
Joaquin Niemann -7 12.011/1
Jason Kokrak -7 23.022/1
Tyler McCumber -7 100.099/1
Jordan Spieth -6 20.019/1
Max Homa -6 29.028/1
Wyndham Clark -6 55.054/1
Patrick Cantlay -5 16.5
-5 and 36.035/1 bar

Sam Burns' five stroke lead is the biggest halfway lead at Riviera since round-by-round scores were published (1950) and given 16 of the 20 players to hold a five stroke 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour since 1996 went on to win, he looks a huge price at around 5/2 but it's never that simple is it.

The fact that 80% of five-stroke leaders have gone on to collect is the single positive and there are plenty of negatives.

I've been a bit of a Sam Burns fan for quite some time and I backed him repeatedly at huge odds when he first graduated to the PGA Tour but having watched him closely in-contention, he's a player I've been swerving for a while now. I distinctly remember him hitting the front at Harbour Town when on at a monster price, only to see him quickly lose the plot and on the two previous occasions that he's held a 36-hole lead (both this season), he's gone on to finish seventh.

Burns led by two at this stage at both the Safeway Open and the Houston Open and he was beaten by four and six strokes respectively.

The fact that the world number one, Dustin Johnson, is one of his nearest challengers is an obvious negative and so too is the fact that DJ is the only halfway leader to win here since 2008. Riviera is a tough course and it's only going to get tougher as it continues to dry out and speed up and leaders are usually more vulnerable when conditions are testing.

In benign conditions on low scoring courses, frontrunners have a much easier task. Everyone makes birdies and holding on to a lead is much easier than on a tough course where mistakes can be made on every hole. Burns could play well today and still shoot over-par, while one or two of his rivals somehow manage to carve out a score and all of a sudden, his lead could disappear.

With such a big lead, how Burns starts today is going to be pivotal. Even if one or two players get off to flying starts he'll still hold a healthy advantage when he tees off and if he can birdie the par five first (no hard task given it averages 4.28 so far this week) and keep the bogeys off his card he could soon be far enough clear to relax. However, a scruffy start and even a par at the opening hole could see him start to question himself and all things considered, even though that 80% stroke-rate loudly screams back at around 5/2, I'm happy to continue to swerve him.

DJ is the obvious danger but unlike the leader, who ranks first for both Putting Average and Strokes Gained Putting, the world number one isn't putting great. He struggled with the flatstick over the weekend when winning in Saudi a couple of weeks ago and so far this week he ranks 53rd for Putting Average and 66th for SGP. That's enough to put me off at less than 3/1 with a five-stroke deficit to make up but I'm well aware that - that could all change in an instance and he's a massive danger.

Next up in the betting is Joaquin Niemann, who I backed yesterday at 20.019/1, and I'm more than happy to stick with him for now and see what today brings. He's driving the ball superbly so far, and the rest of his stats are very good too. If the leader is to fold, Niemann could very easily be the one best placed to capitalise.

11:50 - February 19, 2021

After an eagle at his opening hole and three birdies to finish the round, Sam Burns leads the Genesis Invitational on seven-under-par with Matt Fitzpatrick and Max Homa two back in a tie for second.

Burns is still in search of his first PGA Tour win but if he were to go on and take the title this week, he'd be the fourth first round leader to do so here in 11 years. Aaron Baddeley (2011), James Hahn (2015) and J.B Holmes two years ago, all went on to win having led or sat tied for the lead after round one.

That's a healthy and quirky strike rate given Dustin Johnson is the only halfway leader to win since 2008 (Baddeley, Hahn and Holmes all fell back in round two before rallying) and it's perfectly possible to come from some way back at Riviera. The defending champ, Adam Scott, sat tied for 65th and eight off the lead after round one 12 months ago and in the last ten years both Bill Haas and Bubba Watson have won from outside the top-30 and at least four strokes back.

A number of well-fancied players look out of it after slow starts - most noticeably Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, who putted deplorably. McIlroy trails by nine in a tie for 85th and Thomas has only three players below him on the leaderboard after his six-over-par 77! It's starting to look like being dropped by Ralph Lauren for uttering a homophobic profanity in Hawaii could be having a deeper effect on him than first thought.

After a pedestrian start to his opening round, world number one and pre-event favourite, Dustin Johnson, finished nicely with birdies at three of his last five holes and he sits tied for 12th, four off the lead, and still at the head of the market.

Although Thomas, and my other pre-event pick, Carlos Ortiz, were both very disappointing, all three Find Me a 100 Winner picks broke par on day one and I've also added Joaquin Niemann at 20.019/1.

The 22-year-old Chilean was an impressive winner of the Greenbrier Classic in 2019 so he knows how to get the job done and he's begun the year brightly with a second at both the Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii.

It's early days and it's obviously a wide-open event but given his decent start (sits tied fourth and three off the lead), I thought 20.019/1 was a fraction big.

Pre-Event Selections:
Justin Thomas @ 17.016/1
Carlos Ortiz @ 90.089/1

In-Play Pick:
Joaquin Niemann @ 20.019/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back Kevin Na 2 u @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Russell Henley 2 u @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Charley Hoffman 1u @ 270.0269/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 12.011/1 & 10u @ 2.26/5

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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