After three days at The Dutch, Chris Wood will take a one stroke lead in to today's fourth and final round of the KLM Open but is he a good thing to convert at a shade of 2/1?
“Having got to the front, the experienced Chris Wood could be hard to shift. He’s a three-time winner on the European Tour and he has a very solid record when leading at this stage. He fell to sixth after leading the BMW PGA Championship by two strokes after three rounds back in 2010 but his results since when he’s led through 54 holes read 2-1-1-2.”
09:10 - September 16, 2017
Chris Wood's third round started slowly at the KLM Open yesterday but a birdie four at the par five sixth kickstarted a revival and having played the first five holes in one-over-par, he played the remaining 13 in seven-under and he now leads by a stroke with a round to go. Here's the current leaderboard with prices to back at 9:05.
Chris Wood -13 [3.3]
Hideto Tanihara -12 [6.2]
Jonathan Thomson -12 [8.4]
Ashun Wu -12 [8.6]
Richard McEvoy -11 [12.5]
Padraig Harrington -10 [17.5]
David Drysdale -8 [30.0]
Andy Sullivan -9 [25.0]
Thomas Detry -9 [25.0]
Haotong Li -8 [50.0]
Jordan Smith -8 [65.0]
-7 and [140.0] bar
Having got to the front, the experienced Chris Wood could be hard to shift. He's a three-time winner on the European Tour and he has a very solid record when leading at this stage. He fell to sixth after leading the BMW PGA Championship by two strokes after three rounds back in 2010 but his results since when he's led through 54 holes read 2-1-1-2.
If he does go on to win I'll just shrug my shoulders and move on. He's one of those ranked inside the top 10 and ties for Putting Average on the European Tour over the last three months, which I highlighted in the preview, but at around [32.0] he didn't look generously priced enough to chance and at a shade over 2/1, that still looks to be the case.
Wood has been working intensely on swing changes and it's by no means certain that it'll all hold up today. He didn't sound especially confident after yesterday's round.
"I was pleased with the progress last week. Weren't expecting much but so far so good but it's still a long way off. I'm still not hitting shots that I'm happy with. I'm sticking with what I'm trying to do and I find myself leading but I certainly wasn't expecting to."
Picking out an alternative to Wood is far from easy and it's hard to see anyone coming from too far back but I'm happy to throw a few pounds at Haotong Li at [50.0]. He was really disappointing yesterday, shooting a level par 71 after double-bogeying the easy par five sixth but he can bounce back today. That hole really is an easy birdie/eagle opportunity and Ashley Chesters, who made a bogey six, was the only other player not to make par or better there yesterday.
It's tricky to call but it's set up nicely for an entertaining afternoon and other than the tiny Li wager, I'm going to leave the event alone and see what today brings. In-Play picks, Richard McEvoy and Ashun Wu, are still on the premises and it was frustrating to see pre-event pick, Padraig Harrington, drop a shot at the final hole yesterday but he's still in the hunt too.
09:35 - September 15, 2017
China's Ashun Wu followed his brilliant bogey-free 64 on Thursday with a fabulous five-under-par 66 yesterday - a score bettered by just two players - and as a result, he now sits three clear of the field with two rounds to go. Here are the current standings with prices to back at 9:30.
Ashun Wu -12 [4.1]
Jonathan Thomson -9 [15.5]
Haotong Li -8 [7.8]
David Drysdale -8 [22.0]
Chris Wood -7 [11.0]
Benjamin Hebert -7 [21.0]
Soomin Lee -7 [48.0]
Renato Paratore -6 [48.0]
-5 and [36.0] bar
Rory McIlroy, at the BMW PGA Championship in May, was the last to lead a European Tour event by three strokes at halfway and he finished second, In fact, the last four players to lead by three strokes through 36 holes on the European Tour have all been beaten but since 1996, 27 of the 60 players to lead by three went on to win. That's a return of 45% suggesting Wu at over 3/1 is very generously priced.
Wu has only ever led at this stage once before, on the Japan Tour in 2013, when he sat tied at the top at halfway, and he went on to win and he's looking for his third European Tour title after success in his homeland in 2015 at the China Open and an impressive enough victory in Austria two years ago at the Lyoness Open. There is nothing to suggest he's the type to get nervous and at 33, he's experienced enough to handle the pressure.
Wu's nearest challenger, Jonathan 'Jigger' Thomson, did nothing wrong in the Made in Denmark a couple of weeks ago, when he lost in a playoff, but ranked 155th on the Race to Dubai standings, he needs a good weekend to secure his playing privileges and that could lead to a wobbly weekend.
Another Chinese star, Haotong Li, is the biggest danger to the leader and if Wu does struggle he looks by far the most likely to benefit. Li hasn't putted as well as Wu, or as well as many others on the leaderboard so far this week, so he needs to improve in that respect but he knows how to win and he'll be especially invigorated by the prospect of catching his fellow countryman.
David Drysdale, alongside Li in a tie for third, is 43, still looking for his first win on the European Tour, notoriously poor in-contention and easy to dismiss so Chris Wood, who's been struggling to find his form all year, looks a far bigger danger to the leader but if Wu keeps his cool, he's going to take an awful lot of beating and he looks a very solid bet at 3/1.
21:30 - September 13, 2017
Thanks to a bogey-free seven-under-par 64 this afternoon, China's Ashun Wu leads after day one of the KLM Open. England's Chris Wood sits alone in second on -6 but it's a veritable logjam after that with 15 players tied for third and 11 tied for 16th.
My pre-event picks had a mixed day. Christiaan Bezuidenhout was disappointing, finishing on level par having been two-under early on, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano was going along nicely before double-bogeying the par five 13th and Jeunghun Wang finished his round with back-to-back bogeys having been tied for the lead on -6. Wang and Phachara Khongwatmai are amongst the 11 tied for 16th so they're far from out of it and I've backed a couple of others on that score.
Pre-event favourite, Eddie Pepperell, who was matched at only [4.9] when he raced to six-under-par through 12 today, still heads the market despite playing the final third of the course in one-over-par and he's the man to beat. Chris Wood is a multiple European Tour winner and he too commands respect but I've backed both Haydn Porteous and Richard McEvoy.
Porteous fell away disappointingly last Sunday in Crans but I'd be inclined to think that was a bit of a one-off. He knows how to win and he could be dangerous after a reasonable start and the recent European Open winner, Richard McEvoy, looks overpriced at [95.0].
It's a bit frustrating to see Nino Bertasio tied for third as he didn't quite make the portfolio. I thought he was just short enough given he's never won on the Challenge or European Tour and I'm of the same opinion now and it's also a little irritating to see one of last week's big outsiders, Ashley Chesters, alongside Bertasio and Pepperell on -5 but I'll cheer him on regardless as Paul Krishnamurty picked him out for his Find me a 100 Winner column.
I'm out tomorrow night so I'll be back on Saturday morning with a look at the state of play at halfway.
Alexander Levy @ [65.0]
Padraig Harrington @ [70.0]
Phachara Khongwatmai @ [85.0]
Jeunghun Wang @ [150.0]
Christiaan Bezuidenhout @ [180.0]
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano @ [290.0]
Haydn Porteous @ [50.0]
Richard McEvoy @ [95.0]
Ashun Wu @ [4.3]
Haotong Li @ [50.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter