The Punter's In-Play Blog: Tight at the top in Detroit

Golfer Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis - tied for the lead in Detroit

We've reached the halfway stage of the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 20 players are within three of the lead so Steve' back with his final in-play thoughts of the week here...

“With 13 players within two of the lead and 20 within three, this is a wide-open event and one to treat with caution.”

13:30 - July 3, 2021

Playing from either side of the draw, Joaquin Niemann and Tom Lewis both shot 65-69 to reach ten-under-par at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and they're showing the way at the midway point. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:20.

Joaquin Niemann -10 5.59/2
Tom Lewis -10 15.014/1
Max Homa -9 11.010/1
Chris Kirk -9 15.014/1
Troy Merritt -9 20.019/1
Kevin Kisner -8 18.5
Cam Davis -8 26.025/1
Russell Knox -8 42.041/1
Pat Perez -8 46.045/1
Richy Werenski -8 50.049/1
Davis Thompson -8 65.064/1
Brandon Hagy -8 70.069/1
Sean O'Hair -8 120.0119/1
Matthew Wolff -7 22.021/1
Sungjae Im -7 29.028/1
-7 and 34.033/1 bar

The first two editions of the Rocket Mortgage Classic were won by Nate Lashley and Bryson DeChambeau, who were both up with the pace throughout. Lashley led by a stroke at halfway and DeChambeau sat tied for third, trailing by one, but I'm far from convinced we can take any notice of either renewal.

With 13 players within two of the lead and 20 within three, this is a wide-open event and one to treat with caution.

Of the two men tied at the top, I much prefer the favourite, Joaquin Niemann. This the third time he's been tied for the lead at the halfway stage on the PGA Tour and he has a 50% strike-rate. He finished sixth at the 2018 edition of The Memorial Tournament, beaten by three, but he kicked on impressively to win the 2019 edition of the Greenbrier by six, and that's an event that may well correlate nicely with this one.

It was a link I mentioned before the off last year but one that didn't really materialise, however, the presence of Richy Werenski, on the leaderboard, who was third behind Niemann in the Greenbrier, suggests there may be something in it after all.

At only 22, the world number 30, Niemann, is the man to beat but it's far too crowded a leaderboard to go backing anyone as short as he is and I'm happy to leave the event alone for now.

My Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Chris Kirk, has already hit the first lay back target, pre-event fancy, Kevin Kisner, was slightly disappointing after a fast start yesterday but he's very much on the premises, and so too is in-play pick, Troy Merritt, so I'm not without chances heading into the weekend.

I'm off for a few days now so I'm sorry to say that this will be my final in-play post of the week but Matt Cooper will be back on Monday with the De-brief.

22:20 - July 2, 2021

Australia's Lucas Herbert has followed up Thursday's brilliant 64 with a solid 67 and he goes into the weekend with a two-stroke lead. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 22:10.

Lucas Herbert -13 3.7511/4
Andy Sullivan -11 5.95/1
Grant Forrest -11 23.022/1
Dale Whitnell -10 30.029/1
Christiaan Bezuidenhout -9 9.417/2
Adrian Otaegui -9 26.025/1
Richard Bland -9 26.025/1
Johannes Veerman -9 55.054/1
-8 and 24.023/1 bar

Lucas Herbert did very little wrong today but at less than 4.03/1, he's not for me. This is the sixth time he's led at the halfway stage and his record to date reads zero from five.

On the last occasion he led through 36 holes, at the Scottish Open in October last year, he shot 79 in foul conditions in round three to tumble down into a tie for 22nd before rallying on Sunday to finish fourth. On the previous four occasions (twice in Australia and twice on the European Tour), he finished second, sixth, second and seventh.

Ranking only 97th for Driving Accuracy and 47th for Greens In Regulation so far this week, Herbert's making hay on the greens, ranking sixth for Putting Average and third for Strokes Gained Putting and if he keeps that up over the weekend he could easily go on to convert but others are preferred at the prices.

Matt Cooper made a great case for Andy Sullivan before the off, pointing to his runaway win last summer at another Jack Nicklaus designed parkland Course - Hanbury Manor -as a key clue. He'll be alongside Herbert in the final two-ball tomorrow and he's certainly his biggest danger.

If he gets on a roll tomorrow, he could go clear again and he looks a better price than Herbert. That win at the English Championship was his first in five years though and he's disappointed in-contention on numerous occasions since, most notably when I was onboard before the off at the Golf In Dubai Championship in December when he threw the event away.

It's very easy to be tainted by experiences like that and I certainly try not to be, but he also sat fourth at halfway at the Saudi International in February (trailing by two, as he does now), and he finished tied for 33rd, beaten by 11.

I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to see Sullivan go on to win but I can leave him alone at 6.05/1 given his strike rate.

It's hard to fancy the only other two players within three of the lead, Grant Forrest and Dale Whitnell. Both are in search of their first victories on the European Tour and I suspect there are bigger dangers to the leader a little further back.

Trailing by four, the classy South African, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, is fairly priced at 9.08/1 and I was tempted to play another of Matt's pick's, Adrian Otaegui, who was one of my Find Me a 100 Winner picks last week.

He disappointed greatly over the weekend in Germany last week and a repeat is a slight concern but if he drifts to 30.029/1 before he tees off, I'll back him.

Other than that, I'm happy to shout on this week's Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Richard Bland, who sits alongside Bezuidenhout and Otaegui in a tie for fourth and I haven't quite given up on Rory McIlroy, who I backed before the off, although he needs an immaculate weekend. Trailing by eight, he looks too short at 24.023/1 and I'm certainly not holding my breath.

I'll be back in the morning with a look at the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the halfway stage.

09:20 - July 2, 2021

The first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic hasn't quite concluded after a weather delay yesterday afternoon but the last groups out only have four holes to play so they should get back on track after today's action. Whether the defending champ and pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau does is doubtful though.

Having parted company with his long-time caddie, Tim tucker, on the eve of his title defence, DeChambeau struggled with Cobra-Puma Golf TOUR operations manager, Ben Schomin, on the bag, opening up his defence with a level-par 72 that sees him languishing in a tie for 110th.

DeCHambeau frustrated at Rocket Mortgage.jpg

In common with this week's European Tour event, the Irish Open, the Rocket Mortgage Classic, is a low-scoring birdie-fest and like Rory in Co Kilkenny, Bryson appears to have given himself too much to do already.

The surprise early leader, playing on a sponsor's exemption after sending an email to tournament officials to ask for a spot, is the 22-year-old former University of Georgia star, Davis Thompson.

The brand-new pro is appearing on the PGA Tour for just the seventh time and he looks like one to keep an eye on after he equalled the course record with a sensational bogey-free nine-under-par 63 but it's Dave Tindall's each-way fancy, Joaquin Niemann, that heads the market after a seven-under-par 65 in the afternoon.

It's obviously early days in Detroit but we probably shouldn't be looking too far down the leaderboard to find the eventual winner. It's hard to make up ground when the scoring is low and the first two winners have been up with the pace.

Nate Lashley won the inaugural edition wire-to-wire two years ago and DeChambeau sat tied for fourth and just one off the lead after the opening round last year.

Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Chris Kirk, has started nicely, with a five-under-par 67 to sit tied for seventh and he's alongside pre-event pick, Kevin Kisner, but I've added a pair of in-play picks this morning.

Given Detroit Golf Club was designed by Donald Ross, I looked closely at Ross-course specialist, Si Woo Kim, before the off but after he'd finished 40th in the US Open and missed the cut at the Travelers Championship in his last two starts, I was reluctant to back him at 60.059/1 before the off.

Kim looks a fair price at 32.031/1 today though given he's tied for seventh and just four off the lead and I was also happy to take a small chance on Troy Merritt, who's another player I looked at closely before the off.

Merritt got of the mark on the PGA Tour six years ago in the Quicken Loans National, the tournament that was replaced on the schedule by the Rocket Mortgage Classic and he also won the Barbasol Championship in July three years ago. Merritt comes to life at this time of year and he finished eighth here 12 months ago. I thought 60.059/1 was fair.

The second round of the Irish Open is underway, and Sky go live at 10:00 when their coverage will focus on Rory McIlroy, who's making a bit of a charge. He played his first three holes in two-under-par but he's still outside the top-50. I'll be back tonight with a look at the state of play at halfway there.

22:00 - July 1, 2021

Australia's Lucas Herbert kicked off the Irish Open somewhat inauspiciously. Playing in a two-ball alongside Laurie Canter, and starting at the 10th hole at 7:40 this morning, he was on level-par through five holes but he caught fire after that, birdying eight of his last 13 holes to post an eight-under-par 64 that nobody else could match.

This is the fourth time he's led after the opening round but only the second time he's done so on the European Tour. On the two occasions that he's ended the first round in front in his homeland, he's fallen away thereafter, finishing 20th at the Australian Open in 2016, and a very off-putting 64th in the Australian PGA Championship in 2019 but he very nearly won the Portugal Masters in 2018 after he'd led after rounds one, two and three and traded at just 1.374/11 with two holes to play.

Herbert got off the mark on the European Tour when he beat Christian Bezuidenhout in a playoff at the Dubai Desert Classic last year so he knows how to get the job done and he's a fair price at 9.08/1.

Huge outsiders, Johannes Veerman, who sits second and one shot back, and Grant Forrest, two adrift in third, are both looking for their first victories on the European Tour and the big dangers to the leader are further back.

There are 15 players tied for fourth and three off Herbert's lead and 18 players tied for 19th and four back so it's clearly wide open but the pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy isn't one of them.

Playing in the afternoon, Rory started really slowly, making the turn in two-over-par and having been matched at as low as 5.14/1 before the off, he was matched at a high of 40.039/1 before he rallied, picking up a couple of strokes on the back nine, but trailing the leader by eight, in what's clearly going to be a low-scoring birdie-fest, he's really up against it.

Rory described today as "one of those days", adding "I was stuck in neutral most of the day" and he put it down to rust. He admitted to spending plenty of time with the family in the build up to the event and he went straight to the range after his media obligations.

He's off early in the morning and he's more than capable of putting in a big charge but having backed him at 6.86/1 before the off, I'm in no rush to go in again at 22.021/1.

Over on the PGA Tour, inclement weather caused a delay at the Rocket Mortgage Classic (previewed here) but they're back out playing and it's live on Sky. I'll take a look at the state of play there in the morning.

Irish Open Pre-Event Selection:
Rory McIlroy @ 6.86/1

Rocket Mortgage Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Kevin Kisner @ 55.054/1 (added after preview published)
Doc Redman @ 80.079/1

In-Play Picks:
Si Woo Kim @ 32.031/1
Troy Merritt @ 60.059/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Irish Open
Back 2 u Richard Bland @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Rocket Mortgage Classic
Back 2 u Chris Kirk @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4
Back 1u Chesson Hadley @ 280.0279/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

1u each-way @ 200/1 Sportsbook

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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