The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Cole a fair price at the Honda

Golfer Chris Kirk
Chris Kirk in action in round two

There's just one round to go at the Honda Classic and Chris Kirk shows the way in Florida but is he value to convert his lead?

  • Kirk leads by two at the Honda Classic

  • Lowry well-fancied despite trailing by four

  • Value may sit with Cole


8:00 - February 26, 2023

The final round of the Hero Indian Open is underway and currently live on Sky and the third round of the Honda Classic is all done and dusted, so here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 7:50.

Chris Kirk -13 2.26/5
Eric Cole -11 6.611/2
Justin Suh -10 9.08/1
Shane Lowry -9 7.87/1
Ben Taylor -9 23.022/1
Byeong Hun An -8 27.026/1
Tyler Duncan -8 50.049/1
-7 and 50.049/1 bar

After a great start to his third round, pre-event 42.041/1 chance, Chris Kirk, threatened to pull away from the field after back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 but a poor drive lead to a bogey at the 13th and he three-putted the 16th from just 20 feet to drop another shot.

Kirk hasn't won for eight years and the three-putt on 16 suggested the nerves were getting to the 37-year-old but he responded brilliantly, birdying both the 17th and 18th to pull two clear and he's the man to beat with a round to go.

Matt Jones successfully converted a three-stroke lead here two years ago (won by five) but four of the last five winners have come from behind and despite the inexperience of those around him, Kirk converting is far from a formality.

When interviewed after round three, the leader confessed to feeling the pressure.

"It's been so long since I've won. I'm going to be plenty nervous."

Although conditions were kinder than those usually experienced at the PGA National, Kirk can take plenty of encouragement from his superb 66 in round three. His previous best third round was 67 in 11 attempts here and this was only the second time he'd broken par on a Saturday but he looks short enough at around 5/4.

Kirk won the first two of his four titles from the front (the Viking Classic in 2011 and the RSM Classic in 2013) but on the last three occasions he's been in front at this stage on the PGA Tour he's been beaten, and it won't help that this is the first time he's gone into Sunday with at least a share of the lead since 2016.

Kirk's closest challenger, Eric Cole, like the man in solo third, Justin Suh, is looking to win on the PGA Tour for the first time but he's the one I like at the prices on offer this morning.

Although attempting to get off the mark on the PGA Tour for the first time, Cole has plenty of experience having won an incredible 56 times on the Minor League Golf Tour and he looks a fair price to become the seventh player since 2007 to win his first PGA Tour title at the Honda Classic.

Suh, who's card was tidied up greatly by this hole-out eagle on the 12th yesterday looks opposable (see yesterday's post) and Shane Lowry is the only other man trading at less than 20/1 with a round to go.

Lowry, who was matched at a low of 1.444/9 last year before finishing runner-up, is the name the others will be tracking once play begins.

The 2019 Open champ commands plenty of respect but four strokes is a lot to make up for someone trading at less than 7/1.

This looks really tricky to call and I was very close to leaving the event alone but Cole sounds and looks a confident individual and odds of more than 5/1 look fair.

13:45 - February 25, 2023

The forecast had suggested that the early morning starters on Friday might be advantaged at the Honda Classic and so it proved.

The AM wave averaged 69.47 compared to the afternoon's 71.28 and three of the top-four at halfway began the event on Thursday afternoon. England's Ben Taylor, who shot 65 yesterday afternoon, is tied third but the front two both made hay in the early dead-flat conditions. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:30.

Justin Suh -10 5.04/1
Chris Kirk -9 4.3100/30
Ben Taylor -8 13.5
Ryan Gerard -8 30.029/1
Eric Cole -7 19.018/1
Ben Martin -7 23.022/1
Brice Garnett -7 36.035/1
Tyler Duncan -6 38.037/1
Tano Goya -6 50.049/1
-5 and 22.021/1 bar

The four-time PGA Tour winner, Chris Kirk, heads the market and rightly so given how inexperienced those in and around him are but I'm in no hurry to side with the 37-year-old.

He's been leading or within a stroke of the lead at halfway seven times and he's gone on to win only once - at the RSM Classic ten years ago - when he led by a stroke through 36 holes.

Kirk led the Sony Open back in January before finishing third (beaten by three) and he sat second at this stage in this event 12 months ago before weekend rounds of 71 and 73 saw him eventually finish seventh, beaten by seven.

He played beautifully yesterday and at the halfway stage he ranks third for Greens In Regulation and first for Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and if he keeps that up he'll be tough to beat but he's short enough given his record in-the-mix.

The second favourite and halfway leader, Justin Suh, looks even easier to dismiss.

This is only the third that he's contended this strongly on the PGA Tour and his first two efforts, in much weaker company, were poor.

He sat second in the 2020 Corales Puntacana R&C Championship at halfway before tamely finishing 14th and 12 months later he led that same event by a stroke after 36 holes but finished 24th!

To his credit, he did convert a one-stroke 54 hole lead at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in September but he looks opposable.

Since switching to the PGA National in 2007, Sungjae Im is the only Honda Classic winner (2020) not to be inside the top-seven places at halfway and he sat ninth but the last three winners have trailed by five, three and three strokes.

Ernie Els also won the 2008 edition despite trailing by five but he was sitting tied for sixth so it seems you can concede a few strokes but passing traffic is tough.

Those stats suggest we should be concentrating on those listed above and the one I like is the 2018 Corales Puntacana R&C Championship winner, Brice Garnett, at 38.037/1.

Although the stats suggest he has too much to do from tied 10th, I felt compelled to also have a small wager on the US Ryder Cup captain - Zach Johnson.

As an Open winner and a Sony Open champ, Zach's pedigree for the PGA National is perfect and he might just hang around over the weekend as the conditions get slightly tougher.

German's lead in India

After a sticky start to the third round of the Hero Indian Open today, Yannik Paul shot a one-under-par 71 and his lead has been reduced from five to one over fellow German, Marcel Siem, but he still heads the market. Here's the state of play with a round to go, with prices to back at 13:40.

Yannik Paul -11 2.01/1
Marcel Siem -10 3.412/5
Joost Luiten -8 6.611/2
Thorbjorn Olesen -5 26.025/1
Jorge Campillo -5 50.049/1
Veer Ahlawat -5 120.0119/1
-4 and 200.0199/1 bar

Having layed Paul yesterday I'm happy to stick with what I have but he looks a fair price now at around even money.

Although it wasn't an entirely convincing victory (shot 72 in round four), Paul won the Mallorca Open in October having been tied for the lead with a round to go and his closest challengers haven't won in a long time.

Siem has never been brilliant in-contention and the fourth of his four DP World Tour wins was now nine years ago. The 42-year-old is almost certain to feel plenty of pressure tomorrow.

Joost Luiten's last victory was as recent as 2018 but the 37-year-old's form was so poor last year that he toyed with retirement.

Marriage and a long break appear to have rekindled the six-time winner and from three back, he might be the one to prosper should the top-two get in a tangle, but I can see an even more dramatic finale.

This is a tricky track and it's very easy to flitter shots away so the value may well lie with the likes of Thorbjorn Olesen, who won last week nicely, and Jorge Campillo at a big price.

It's perfectly possible that the front three get in each other's way and if either Olesen or Campillo can back up today's decent rounds (Olesen shot 66 and Campillo 67) I can see one of them finding themselves in front once the music stops.

I backed Olesen before the off but I've topped up at 26.025/1 and I've had a few pounds on Campillo at 60.059/1.

10:40 - February 24, 2023

Play was suspended due darkness at the Honda Classic yesterday where Billy Horschel and Joseph Bramlett are tied at the top following five-under-par 65s but it's the 2020 winner, Sungjae Im, that heads the market after he crafted a three-under-par 67 yesterday afternoon.

The Korean will get to play his second round in flat calm conditions this morning and although the wind isn't forecasted to pick up much, that should be advantageous.

I'll be back tomorrow morning with a closer look at the halfway stage.

Over on the DP World Tour, the second round of the Hero Indian Open is still ongoing but it's a hard watch and we know who's heading into the weekend with a commanding lead - pre-event 25.024/1 shot, Yannik Paul - who's already been matched at a low of 1.814/5!

I'm really not a fan of the Gary Player Course at DLF Golf and Country Club and it's a really tough watch. The course is difficult, birdie opportunities are few and the pace of play is painful. One group took 40 minutes to play the 18th hole on Thursday!

Although play is still ongoing, it looks highly likely that Yannik Paul is going to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend and punters need to decide whether he's a play or a lay?

Yannik Paul in India.jpg

I'll be back at the end of round two should anything dramatic happen before the end of play but it appears safe to assume Paul will lead by five and five-stroke 36-hole leaders have a strong record on the DP World Tour.

Since 1996, we've seen 13 players head into the weekend leading by five and ten of them went on to win suggesting odds of around 4/5 aren't too short but I'm far from convinced that's the case.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've witnessed all sorts of in-running drama at this quirky venue and Emiliano Grillo finished only sixth in 2018, beaten by six, having led by four at halfway and having been matched at a low of 1.695/7 on Friday.

Paul is clearly the one to beat but he has the added pressure of qualifying for the Ryder Cup, which will definitely be on his mind, and around this venue, shots can be flitted away very easily.

I'm happy to lay Paul at 1.865/6 and see what tomorrow brings.

Hero Indian Open Pre-Event Selections:
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 13.5
Shubhankar Sharma @ 34.033/1

In-Play Trade:
Yannik Paul layed @ 1.865/6
Thorbjorn Olesen @ 26.025/1
Jorge Campillo @ 60.059/1

Honda Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Sungjae Im @ 9.89/1
Harris English @ 40.039/1

In-Play Picks:
Brice Garnett @ 38.037/1
Zach Johnson @ 70.069/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back 2u Manu Gandas @ 150.0149/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Back 2u SH Kim @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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