The Punter's In-Play Blog: Collin kicks clear at Albany

Golfer Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka - the nearest challenger to Collin Morikawa in The Bahamas

Collin Morikawa has kicked five clear of the field in The Bahamas but can he be caught? Read Steve's final in-running thoughts of 2021 here...

“Morikawa’s mentality is one of his major strengths and it’s very hard to envisage him slipping up. Given the stats for players in his position, brave heavy hitters won’t be taking too short a price at 1.282/7.”

14:05 - December 5, 2021

After an impressive eight-under-par 64 around Albany, Collin Morikawa is perfectly placed to win his fourth event of the year and to reach number one in the Official World Rankings for the first time. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard at the Hero World Challenge with prices to back at 14:00.

Collin Morikawa -18 1.282/7
Brooks Koepka -13 16.5
Viktor Hovland -12 26.025/1
Sam Burns -12 32.031/1
Tony Finau -12 38.037/1
Patrick Reed -12 40.039/1
Daniel Berger -12 44.043/1
Scottie Scheffler -11 75.074/1
Bryson DeChambeau -10 130.0129/1

Although five strokes clear, with a fierce competitor like Brooks Koepka in his slipstream and a collection of five of the world's best all tied for third and six off his lead, Collin Morikawa can't rest on his laurels, and he probably needs to break par at least to lift the trophy.

Since 1996, as many as 30 players have taken a five stroke lead into the final round of a PGA Tour event and only five of them failed to convert but the last one to come up short was Charley Hoffman here at Albany in this event back in 2017.

Hoffman limped round in level-par and he was caught and passed with ease by Rickie Fowler who fired an incredible 11-under-par 61.
Morikawa's mentality is one of his major strengths

and it's very hard to envisage him slipping up. Given the stats for players in his position, brave heavy hitters won't be taking too short a price at 1.282/7.

The price is certainly not too short but having backed him before the off, I've layed a bit back to ensure a stress-free evening, and I've also had a tiny bet on Scottie Scheffler at 80.079/1.

Scheffler is yet to win on the PGA Tour but it's only a matter of time and a scenario like this looks ideal. He's flapped a bit in-contention on occasions but he's far enough back to just relax and go for it today. I suspect his first victory will come from off the pace and I thought that was fractionally too big.

16:50 - December 4, 2021

With the threat of stormy weather, play started early at the Gary Player Country Club today but they still didn't get close to finishing the third round of the South African Open once the heavens opened.

It was hoped that they may come back out later on to get the round finished today but it wasn't to be and the leaders still have five holes to play. Here's the current state of play with holes played in round three and approximate odds to back at 16:45.

Justin Harding -11 (thru 13) 2.427/5
Daniel Van Tonder -10 (thru 13) 3.7511/4
Oliver Bekker -10 (thru 13) 5.69/2
Hennie du Plessis -9 (thru 13) 9.08/1
Neil Schietekat -8 (thru 13) 21.020/1
Jovan Rebula -7 (thru 18) 50.049/1
-6 and 80.079/1 bar

It's a real shame that they didn't get done today as we'd have had a much better picture to survey this evening.

Given four of the last five winners of the now defunct Nedbank Challenge at Sun City trailed by at least three strokes after 54 holes, and that two of them, Alex Noren in 2016, and Tommy Fleetwood in 2019, were six adrift with a round to go, this is definitely a venue at which it's worth chancing a few off the pace outsiders, but who knows how the leaders will finish up their third rounds?

The halfway leader, Oliver Bekker, will probably feel a bit more relaxed in the morning now that he's been caught and passed and the two market leaders, Justin Harding and Daniel van Tonder, played some lovely golf today and could easily pick up a couple more strokes when play resumes.

If they don't get away, there's a trio of likely lads within six of Harding that could well be worth chancing at big odds - last week's winner, Thriston Lawrence, and my two pre-event picks, Dean Burmester and Zander Lombard.

I won't get a chance to update in-between rounds but it's something to keep in mind.

I'll be back at some stage tomorrow to take a look at the Hero World Challenge with a round to go.

10:50 - December 4, 2021

We've reached the halfway stage of the Hero World Challenge and with the first round leaders all stalling, Bryson DeChambeau has taken up the running after an eight-under-par 64 in round two at Albany. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:40.

Bryson DeChambeau -11 4.1
Collin Morikawa -10 5.69/2
Brooks Koepka -10 7.613/2
Tony Finau -10 8.07/1
Daniel Berger -9 14.013/1
Sam Burns -8 16.5
Tyrrell Hatton -8 30.029/1
Rory McIlroy -7 16.5
Viktor Hovland -7 28.027/1
Patrick Reed -7 50.049/1
-6 and 65.064/1 bar

Last week's made for TV Match between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka appears to have focused the pair and they go into the weekend sitting first and tied second.

DeChambeau knows the course intimately, but this is the first time he's contended in three appearances in the Hero and he'll be desperate to stay ahead of the cocky Brooks, who beat him last week.

DeChambeau was one of three players to double-bogey the tough 18th on day one and after driving into a bush, he dropped two strokes at the 16th yesterday, but he didn't let it get it down. He bounced back nicely with this quite brilliant tee-shot on 17 to recover one of the two drops before parring the 18th.

My pre-event pick, Collin Morikawa, who will go to the top of the world rankings with a win, bogeyed 18 for the second day running to drop out of the lead yesterday but he's still the man to beat and I'm a little surprised to see him trading at a point-and-a-half higher than DeChambeau.

Given I'd highlighted the strong correlation between this event and the Phoenix Open in the preview, the presence of Koepka on the leaderboard, or for that matter, Tony Finau, shouldn't come as a surprise.

Koepka won his second Phoenix Open back in February and Finau was beaten in a playoff at TPC Scottsdale last year.

Finau became the first person to birdie the 18th this week when he recorded a three there yesterday to get to within one of the lead and he clearly likes it here (second in 2018), but I've had a saver on Brooks at 7.613/2. He'll get off on chasing down DeChambeau and I thought he was a fair price with two rounds to go.

Rory McIlroy, who was tied for the lead after round one, shot a disappointing one-under-par 71 yesterday, and he'll need to go super-low over the weekend to win given the depth of talent ahead of him.

They kicked off early at the South African Open today, in an attempt to beat the forecasted bad weather. I'll be back with an update later when, hopefully, they'll have completed round three, but with the wind picking up, the stormy weather is on it's way and they may not get done in time.

17:40 - December 3, 2021

Here's the latest standings at the South African Open with approximate odds at 17:30.

Oliver Bekker -12 2.829/5
Justin Harding -9 4.57/2
Neil Schietekat -9 8.615/2
Daniel Van Tonder -7 11.010/1
Lyle Rowe -7 30.029/1
Hennie du Plessis -7 20.019/1
Shaun Norris -5 24.023/1
Bryce Easton -5 44.043/1
Keenan Davidse -5 80.079/1
Hennie O'Kennedy -5 80.079/1
-4 and 80.079/1 bar

Previous course form has been a big pointer so far at the South African Open. As many as four of the top-six have won at the Gary Player Country Club previously and the two that haven't, Justin Harding and Hennie du Plessis, have both finished sixth here previously.

Last year's winner, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, was tied for the lead at halfway and Daniel van Tonder was leading at the halfway stage of the Royal Swazi Open last year before romping to victory but as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, off-the-pace winners of the now defunct Nedbank Challenge around the Gary Player Country Club were common.

Oliver Bekker's lead of three is a decent advantage but I'm more than happy to swerve him at less than 2/1.

Although he played really nicely, he chipped in a couple of times to tidy up his card today and he may just be a bit vulnerable in front given the way the most recent Nedbank Challenges finished.

With just a handful of Europeans in the event, a South African winner was always long odds-on this week but it is worth noting that the majority of homegrown winners of this event have been European Tour winners or worldwide winners that are a notch or two above the average Sunshine Tour player.

With that in mind, Harding is the obvious alternative given he's already won twice on the European Tour but the one I like at this stage is von Tonder, who absolutely hacked up at the course last year, winning the Royal Swazi Open by 18 Stableford points.

He won on the European Tour in Kenya back in March, a week after Harding, and I thought he was a value price to make a move tomorrow.

09:15 - December 3, 2021

Having not played anywhere since the Ryder Cup back in September, pre-event 25.024/1 chance, Daniel Berger, opened-up the Hero World Challenge with four straight birdies and he was far from the only one to get off to a flier.

Justin Thomas birdied the first three holes and five of the first seven, Rory McIlroy was three-under-par through five and Brooks Koepka stood on the 12th tee on six-under-par but nobody ran away from the field and a trio of the world's best are tied at the top after round one.

Here's the current leaderboard with prices to back at 9:10.

Rory McIlroy -6 5.95/1
Daniel Berger -6 9.617/2
Abraham Ancer -6 11.010/1
Justin Thomas -5 8.27/1
Webb Simpson -5 13.012/1
Brooks Koepka -5 14.013/1
Collin Morikawa -4 13.012/1
Viktor Hovland -4 14.5
Tony Finau -4 20.019/1
Patrick Reed -4 30.029/1
Bryson DeChambeau -3 16.5
Tyrrell Hatton -3 50.049/1
Xander Schauffele -2 38.037/1
-1 and 65.064/1 bar

Both nines finish with tough holes at Albany. The par five ninth, which Rory double-bogeyed, was the second hardest hole on the course, and the 18th caused all sorts of carnage.

There wasn't a single birdie recorded at the final hole all day long, as many as seven players bogeyed the hole, Thomas, DeChambeau, and Sam Burns all doubled it and Harris English, who was the only man to shoot over-par for the day (+3), recorded a triple-bogey seven. And it wasn't even that windy by Bahaman standards!

Rory is the warm favourite now, and that's correct given he only played the five long holes in level par yesterday but it's worth bearing in mind that his record when getting off to a fast start isn't fantastic.

This is the 30th time Rory's led or co-led after the opening round in his pro career and he's only gone on to win five times so far.

He was beaten at the DP World Tour Championship last time out having led by a couple after the opening round and he's currently on a streak of 11 first round lead or co-leads without going on to win.

That run is going to come to and end sooner or later and I'm in no rush to take him on but I'm also happy to let him go unbacked.

This still looks wide open and it's tough to spot any early in-running value but Patrick Reed looks fractionally big at 30.029/1

.

The 2018 US Masters winner has course form figures reading 2-10-5-11-3 and he recovered brilliantly yesterday after a slow start, playing the last 12 holes in six-under-par to post a four-under-par 68.

The second round of the South African Open is underway and it's been a frustrating watch so far with last week's disappointing 140.0139/1 Find Me a 100 Winner pick at the Joburg Open, Neil Schietekat, kicking clear after tying the lead after round one.

The live coverage of the event starts on Sky at 10:00 UK time and I'll be back at the halfway stage with a more detailed look.

Hero World Challenge Pre-Event Selections:
Collin Morikawa @ 9.08/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ 30.029/1

In-Play Picks:
Patrick Reed @ 30.029/1
Brooks Koepka @ 7.613/2
Scottie Scheffler @ 80.079/1

South African Open Pre-Event Selections:
Dean Burmester @ 12.5
Zander Lombard @ 38.037/1

In-Play Pick:
Daniel van Tonder @ 12.011/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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