There's just one round to go in Italy and last week's winner, Tyrrell Hatton, is bang on the premises, and so too is last year's winner, Francesco Molinari. Read our man's final in-play thoughts ahead of tomorrow's final round here...
“Fisher was in a similar position to this last Sunday and if it wasn’t for Hatton’s brilliance he would have won. He’s a far better player from off the pace and I can see him getting on a roll again tomorrow.”
21:55 - October 14, 2017
Matt Wallace will take a two-stroke lead in to the fourth and final round of the Italian Open but with last week's winner, Tyrrell Hatton, and last year's winner, Francesco Molinari, breathing down his neck, we could be in for an exciting finale. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 21:50.
Tyrrell Hatton -15 [4.5]
Francesco Molinari -15 [4.8]
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -14 [14.5]
George Coetzee -14 [15.5]
Tommy Fleetwood -13 [15.5]
Byeong Hun An -13 [28.0]
Max Kieffer -13 [70.0]
Matthew Fitzpatrick -12 [36.0]
Ross Fisher -12 [48.0]
Alejandro Canizares -12 [160.0]
Marcus Fraser -12 [170.0]
-11 and [80.0] bar
The market can barely split the front three on the leaderboard. Defending champ, Molinari, is the third best, with favouritism flip-flopping between third round leader, Wallace, and last week's winner, Hatton.
This is the third week in-a-row that Hatton has been made favourite and punters need to gauge which Tyrrell will turn up. He lost his way over the weekend at the British Masters as his irritation with the bumpy greens grew and he eventually whipped himself into such a grumpy frenzy that winning became an impossibility. In stark contrast, he assumed command on Saturday last week and got the job done with the minimum of fuss and I suspect we'll see Tyrrell mark II tomorrow.
He's been slow to get into his stride this week, after last Sunday's success, but he's gone from strength to strength since and he's the one they all have to beat.
I was a little quick to dismiss the chances of Matt Wallace winning last night but my opinion hasn't shifted monumentally. This remains a big step up for the Englishman and the first couple of holes are going to be key tomorrow. My stance remains the same really and he still looks on the short size - price-wise to me.
Francesco Molinari played a steady bogey-free round today and he has an outstanding chance to defend and to win his national title for a third time but if there's value in his price I fail to see it. The way in which he claimed this title so doggedly 12 months ago will give him much heart for tomorrow and he's almost certain to be on the premises at the finish but will the pressure tell? I'm not for a second saying he can't win but of the market leaders, I much prefer Hatton with so much less pressure on his shoulders.
Paul Krishnamurty's each-way fancy, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, is hanging tough and he's more than capable of getting the job done tomorrow but I'm going to add just one to the portfolio this evening and that's Ross Fisher.
After terrific third rounds today, two of my three pre-event picks, Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick, have given themselves a squeak tomorrow and my halfway play, Byeong Hun An, isn't without a chance either. I'm happy to be cheering those three on and I thought Fisher was worth including too after last Sunday's sensational 61 around St Andrews. He was in a similar position to this last Sunday and if it wasn't for Hatton's brilliance he would have won. He's a far better player from off the pace and I can see him getting on a roll again tomorrow.
I'm very tempted to play Hatton and I might yet do so but I'm going to see what happens at the CIMB Classic first. As highlighted earlier, I've had a decent wager on Xander Schauffele so what happens there will have a bearing on my plans for Hatton.
10:30 - October 14, 2017
Six birdies on the back-nine in round three at TPC Mines has seen Pat Perez go four clear at the top of the CIMB Classic leaderboard. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 10:20.
Xander Schauffele -17 [6.0]
Sung Kang -16 [19.0]
Hideki Matsuyama -15 [11.0]
Keegan Bradley -15 [25.0]
-12 and [110.0] bar
Having had a sizable halfway wager on Xander Schauffele, the last thing I wanted to see this morning was Pat Perez making putt after putt. After opening up the CIMB Classic with rounds of 66 and 65, the 41-year old went one better with an eight-under-par 64 and the way he played 18 pretty much typified his whole round. They went in from everywhere!
Big hitters will be licking their lips at Perez at odds in excess of [1.5] given he now holds a commanding four stroke lead but there are definitely reasons to be cautious. Perez has only twice before led going in to the final round and on both occasions he gave up a four stroke lead.
Perez shot 77 in round four of the Monterey Peninsula Classic on the Web.com Tour way back in 2000 to fall to third and he finished second, three strokes adrift of the winner, Matt Gogel, at the 2002 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am following a lacklustre 76, so he's never actually converted a lead.
Those two efforts were a very long time ago and Perez is clearly more relaxed nowadays but if he were to implode tomorrow, he wouldn't be the first to do so here. Anirban Lahiri was this far clear with a round to go last year and I'm happy enough to stick with my man and see what happens.
Schauffele didn't do an awful lot wrong today and he's more than capable of pegging back Perez and the only reason I'm not topping up is that I had more than enough on yesterday.
Hideki Matsuyama is the obvious alternative to the two market leaders but nobody has won here from more than five adrift with a round to go and I'm happy enough to stick with Xander and hope for the best.
23:00 - October 13, 2017
A nine-under-par 62 in round two by Marcus Fraser saw him move up 16 places to the top of the Italian Open leaderboard, alongside one of the six first round co-leaders, Matt Wallace. Here's the 36 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 22:55.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat -11 [9.6]
Jamie Donaldson -11 [20.0]
Francesco Molinari -10 [7.0]
Sergio Garcia -9 [11.0]
Tyrrell Hatton -9 [12.0]
Eddie Pepperell -9 [25.0]
Alexander Bjork -9 [44.0]
Austin Connelly -9 [65.0]
Ross Fisher -8 [29.0]
George Coetzee -8 [50.0]
Byeong Hun An -8 [50.0]
John Rahm -7 [16.5]
-8 and [60.0] bar
Even Marcus Fraser was surprised by his low round out of the blue today and it has to be viewed as a flash in the pan. If his putter remains as hot as it was today he'll be fighting out the finish on Sunday afternoon but that's a big if. I don't fancy his chances and given the prohibitive odds on offer, I'm not keen on the other halfway leader, Matt Wallace, either...
Wallace's rise in stock had been quite remarkable - he won six times on the Alps Tour last year and he got off the mark on the European Tour in May when he won the Open de Portugal - and who's to say his career can't go on to the next level with a Rolex Series event win? I'm certainly not going to write him off but I'm not going to back him at less than 10/1 either.
The defending champion, Francesco Molinari, is the favourite now and rightly so. His iron play has been surprisingly ragged so far this week but he's putted brilliantly. Today's three-under-par 68 was a bit of a disappointment given how easy the course is playing but he can easily kick on over the weekend. He's only a point shorter than Wallace but he's a better value play.
Sergio Garcia isn't driving brilliantly according to the stats and his putting figures aren't great either but I can't help think he's a fair price at a best priced 9/1 with the Sportsbook and I wouldn't put anyone off last week's Tyrrell Hatton. Understandably, after last week's successful defence, he was slow off the mark yesterday but he's put himself right in-the-mix after today's seven-under-par 64.
Paul Krishnamurty's each-way fancy, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, is doing everything right and his work with Pete Cowan is starting to pay dividends. Wallace apart, the market leaders look very fairly priced but each has their negatives and after much deliberation I'm going to leave them all alone for now.
I backed Austin Connelly in-running this morning and I've since added Byeong Hun An at [55.0]. Connelly is remarkably inconsistent but clearly talented and An is the one I thought most out of line price-wise this evening. The 2015 BMW PGA Champion is clearly enjoying playing on a tree-lined venue again and whilst he hasn't been in terrific form of late, his stats are good this week and he's too big a price given his colossal talent.
13:25 - October 13, 2017
The second round of the Italian Open is well underway and I'll be back later to take a look at the state of play there this evening, once they've reached the halfway stage, but for now I'm going to concentrate on the CIMB Classic.
A substantial weather delay in Kuala Lumpur has meant the second round was extended until near darkness and they've done well to keep the tournament on schedule. Here are the latest standings with Sportsbook prices at 13:20.
Xander Schauffele -12 9/4
Thomas Pieters -9 9/1
Cameron Smith -9 12/1
Sung Kang -9 20/1
Keegan Bradley -8 20/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -7 25/1
Hideki Matsuyama -6 12/1
-6 and 25/1 bar
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, we've seen a couple of winners at this course come from off the pace but the majority have been right on it and all four previous CIMB Classic winners at TPC Mines have been inside the first three places at halfway. Justin Thomas, who has won the last two editions, led at this stage on both occasions.
Pat Perez and Xander Schauffele have put a bit of distance between themselves and the field and they're vying for favouritism now but it shouldn't be a close race as far as I'm concerned. Perez may be holding a slender lead but Schauffele is the man to beat now.
Both men have won twice on the PGA Tour but their CVs are very different. At 41, and with getting on for 400 appearances on the Tour, Perez can be viewed as something of a journeyman who's learnt to keep a lid on his temper to find a way to win. His two titles are the 2009 Bob Hope Classic and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Neither can be described as prestigious events. It's a decent resume and whilst he's not quite a household name, he's enjoyed a decent career and he does deserve respect but I'm not convinced he's in Xander's league...
The 23-year old has played just 28 PGA Tour events. He's already won twice and the title he claimed last time out - the Tour Championship - is one of the biggest on Tour. Schauffele is clearly on a steep upward curve and he looks to have far more scope than Perez. Given he's 17 years Perez's junior, I suspect he'll cope better with the hot and humid conditions over the weekend and I thought he was well worth getting onside. I took [4.5] as the second round closed but he looks very fairly priced now at a point shorter.
Italian Open Pre-Event Selections:
Matthew Fitzpatrick @ [26.0]
Tommy Fleetwood @ [26.0]
Joakim Lagergren @ [90.0] and 80/1 each-way
CIMB Classic Pre-Event Selections:
James Hahn @ [65.0]
Xander Schauffele @ [4.5]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter