The Punter's In-Play Blog: Leader looks vulnerable at the Honda

Golfer Matt Jones
Matt Jones – the third round leader in Florida

There's just one round to go at the Honda Classic and the first round leader, Matt Jones, is back in front, but can he stay there? Read what Steve thinks ahead of today's final round here...

“Having backed Wise yesterday, I’m not in the greatest of positions today and I’ve put myself further behind the eight ball now by backing both J.B Holmes and C.T Pan.”

11:00 - March 21, 2021

After back-to-back 64s at PGA National, the halfway leader of the Honda Classic, Aaron Wise, started round three nicely, birdying holes two and four. With his lead stretched to six, he was matched at a low of just 1.758/11 but he hit the skids with a double-bogey at six and struggled thereafter, eventually limping round in 75 strokes, allowing first round leader, Matt Jones, to return to the front. Here's the 54 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.

Matt Jones -10 2.245/4
Aaron Wise -7 10.09/1
J.B Holmes -7 16.015/1
Cameron Tringale -6 13.5
C.T Pan -6 26.025/1
Sam Ryder -6 32.031/1
Sungjae Im -5 16.5
Keegan Bradley -5 32.031/1
Zach Johnson -5 44.043/1
Stewart Cink -5 55.054/1
Robert Streb -5 80.079/1
Brice Garnett -5 80.079/1
Russell Henley -4 55.054/1
Chris Kirk -4 60.059/1
-4 and 120.0119/1 bar

Matt Jones looks vulnerable and certainly not a value play at around 2.26/5 given third round three stroke leaders have a surprisingly poor 43% strike rate on the PGA Tour over the last 15 seasons and that's in-line with the percentage of third round leaders that have gone on to win at PGA National since the tournament was first staged here in 2007.

Only two players have entered the final round with a three-stroke lead at PGA National - Camilo Villegas in 2010 and Ian Poulter in 2015. Villegas won by five but Poulter finished third.

The last three third round leaders have all been beaten (Luke List, Wyndham Clark and Tommy Fleetwood) and Jones is one of ten men to have lost here having led or been tied for the lead here through 54 holes. He shot 73 in round four in 2008 to finish tied for fourth behind Ernie Els having been tied for the lead through three rounds.

Like last year's winner, Sungjae Im, and Padraig Harrington in 2015, Ernie was trailing by three with a round to go and that's the furthest any winner has trailed by so we probably shouldn't scan too far down the leaderboard, although a number of players have lost a playoff after a fast finish...

Villegas and Jose Coceres trailed by five after three rounds before losing in extra time to Mark Wilson in 2007, Ryan Palmer also came from five back to get beat in extra time in 2014, and Daniel Berger was nine back before round four in 2015 before he lost to Harrington in a playoff.

Although he's converted a three stroke lead twice to win his national title - the Australian Open - Matt Jones won his only PGA Tour title - the 2014 Houston Open - from off the pace (trailed by six through three rounds) and he's been beaten every time he's led in the States (twice on the Korn Ferry Tour and twice on the PGA Tour) so I'm happy to oppose him.

Having backed Wise yesterday, I'm not in the greatest of positions today and I've put myself further behind the eight ball now by backing both J.B Holmes and C.T Pan.

I'd be surprised if one of the four or five unders can get past the leader, unless he completely implodes, and the two other players within four of the lead, Cameron Tringale and Sam Ryder, both look too short given how poor they usually are in-contention. I thought Holmes and Pan looked fairly priced at 16.015/1 and 27.026/1.

13:40 - March 20, 2021

We've reached the halfway stage of the Honda Classic and pre-event 150.0149/1 chance, Aaron Wise has shot three clear of the field. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:30.

Aaron Wise -12 3.259/4
Matt Jones -9 8.615/2
Brandon Hagy -9 18.017/1
Sam Ryder -8 25.024/1
Shane Lowry -7 9.617/2
Russell Henley -7 12.5
Denny McCarthy -7 27.026/1
Scott Harrington -7 65.064/1
Camilo Villegas -6 80.079/1
-5 and 27.026/1 bar

With softer greens than we normally experience at PGA National, and shorter rough, the scoring has been much better than we normally experience but Aaron Wise's 12-under-par halfway score is still a remarkable effort and he's definitely the one to beat.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, up with the pace is the place to be here. There have been 14 editions of the Honda Classic at PGA National and the 2008 winner, Ernie Els, who sat tied for sixth, is the only winner to be more than three strokes adrift at halfway.

This is the fifth time Wise has led at the halfway stage and he has a 50% strike-rate. He won the Oil County Championship on the Canadian Tour and the Air Capital Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour, when tied for the lead and six clear respectively, but he was beaten on the Canadian Tour in 2016 when leading by four and he finished 16th at the 2017 Portland Open on the Korn Ferry Tour, having led by three at this stage.

Those two defeats are a slight concern but they were both a long time ago and he was superb when winning his first PGA Tour title - the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson - getting the better of the experienced Marc Leishman by three after a protracted weekend battle between the two.

Justin Ray's tweet below suggests he's a decent price at over 2/1 and I'm more than happy to take a chance on him.

Shane Lowry and former winner, Russell Henley, look like the biggest dangers to Wise but from five strokes adrift, they can't afford any mistakes.

Over at the Kenya Open, South Africa's Justin Harding, has hit the front with a round to go so here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:35.

Justin Harding -16 2.915/8
Kurt Kitayama -14 5.14/1
Johannes Veerman -14 6.05/1
Scott Hend -14 11.010/1
Callum Hill -13 13.012/1
Jean-Baptiste Gonnet -11 120.0119/1
-10 and 60.059/1 bar

The defending champion, Guido Migliozzi, came from off the pace to finish second at the Qatar Masters last week but trailing by six here, he may just have too much on his plate given how important it is to be up with the pace at Karen Golf Course...

In nine editions of this event here (eight editions on the Challenge Tour) and two editions of the Karen Masters on the Sunshine Tour, every winner bar one has sat first or second with a round to go. The only exception was Daniel Vancsik in 2005 who won from three strokes adrift having led by three at halfway.

The two-stroke leader, Justin Harding, has a decent enough record when leading. He's led or co-led five times after three rounds and he's gone on to win on three occasions - twice on the Sunshine Tour and once on the Asian Tour - but he'll be up against a familiar foe tomorrow...

The last time Harding was in front through 54 holes, he was alongside Kurt Kitayama at the 2018 Mauritius Open and the American came out on top. Kitayama shot 68 to win by two with Harding slumping to fourth with a 71 and having backed Kitayama at halfway, I'm hoping history's repeated.

Harding is vastly experienced with ten wins in total but I'm happy to be against him tomorrow. I thought he was poor in contention at the British Masters in July last year and Kitayama still looks a fair price at 5.04/1 given he's no bigger than 3/1 on the High Street.

Johannes Veerman was the big mover today, firing a bogey-free nine-under-par 62 to move up into a tie for second from outside the top-20 at halfway but he may struggle to back that up tomorrow and at a double-figure price, Aussie veteran, Scott Hend, appears to represent a bit of a value. I've added a small bet on him at 11.521/2.

20:20 - March 19, 2021

I've spent far too long looking at the halfway leaderboard at the Kenya Open and I'm still not convinced I've done the right thing.

Kalle Samooja and Scott Hend are tied at the top on 11-under-par with the Scottish duo, Richie Ramsay and Connor Syme, tied for third alongside South African, Dean Burmester, on -10.

As highlighted earlier, ten of the last 12 course winners have sat first or second at halfway but I'm in no rush to side with Samooja at less than 5/1 and I'd want a bit bigger than the odds of around 13.012/1 available on Hend.

Smaooja lost his place last week when in the mix at halfway and he's yet to win on the European Tour wheras Hend may have his work cut out to back up today's low round of 64.

It's very close to a no bet heat at this stage but I thought the pre-event favourite, Kurt Kitayama, was just worth chancing modestly at 8.27/1 given he only trails by two.

I'll be back tomorrow with a look at state of play at the halfway stage of the Honda Classic where Aaron Wise has just hit the front.

11:20 - March 19, 2021

We're more than halfway through the second round of the Kenya Open on the European Tour but there hasn't been any live coverage yet due to logistical issues.

That's a shame because Karen Golf Course is a gem and the tournament is heating up nicely with lots of players fancied before the off getting in to contention. Finland's Kalle Samooja, who began the tournament trading as the third best in the market, has birdied the last three holes of his second round to lead on -11 but the pre-event favourite, Kurt Kitayama, is just two back and the defending champion, Guido Migliozzi, who went off second favourite, has given himself a squeak with a six-under-par 65 in round two, after a lacklustre level-par yesterday.

As highlighted in the preview, ten of the last 12 course winners have sat first or second at halfway and the two that didn't weren't exactly miles away. Migliozzi sat fourth, five strokes behind the clear leader, Louis De Jager, who led by three, and back in 2018, Michael Palmer won the Karen Masters here having sat fifth, trailing by three.

It was always my intention to get stuck in at halfway here, given how strong the trends are, so it's a pity two of the leaders were well-fancied before the off. Had there been a couple of big outsiders showing the way, we may have been looking at some juicy prices about the frontrunners.

The afternoon wave have only just started so there's a chance it can all change by the time we actually reach the halfway stage so I'm going to see how the land lies later and I'll post an update this evening.

Over at the Honda Classic on the PGA Tour, yesterday's morning starters dominate the first round leaderboard with Aussie, Matt Jones, showing the way after an incredible course record equalling 61.

The early starters averaged 0.95 of a stroke less than the PM starters yesterday and the draw doesn't look like evening out. The wind is light and more consistent throughout the day according to the forecast and it may even drop slightly this afternoon.

With a three-stroke lead, Jones looks a very fair price at 5.04/1 given he's generally a 3/1 shot on the High Street and that this is also a course at which frontrunners do well but I'm happy to swerve him for now.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, of the 14 Honda Classic winners at PGA National, Ernie Els, in 2008, who was tied for sixth and five off the lead after two rounds, is the only winner here to be trailing by more than three strokes after 36 holes but no first round leader has ever gone on to win and Sungjae Im showed last year that a lacklustre opening round can be overcome.

Im sat tied for 63rd after round one last year, following a two-over-par 72, trailing by six, but a four-under-par 66 in round two saw him shoot up into a tie for ninth at halfway and he sat tied for fifth with a round to go.

Jones may well take some stopping though, the inaugural course winner, Mark Wilson, trailed by seven strokes after round one and Scott trailed by five in 2016 but they're the only other two course winners to be more than four adrift after the opening round.

I'm going to sit and wait on this one for now too and I'll take a more in-depth look at the halfway stage tomorrow morning.

Honda Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Chris Kirk @ 60.059/1
Wyndham Clark @ 80.079/1

In-Play Picks:
Aaron Wise @ 3.39/4
J.B Holmes @ 16.015/1
C.T Pan @ 27.026/1

Kenya Open Pre-Event Selections:
Sam Horsfield @ 80.079/1
Gaganjeet Bhullar @ 95.094/1

In-Play Picks:
Kurt Kitayama @ 8.27/1
Scott Hend @ 11.521/2

Find Me a 100 Winner picks:

Honda Classic:
Back James Hahn 1 ½ u @ 150.0149/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Kenya Open:
Back John Catlin 1 ½ u @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Richard McEvoy 1 ½ u @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 12.011/1 & 10u @ 2.26/5

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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