The Punter's In-Play Blog: Odds-on Rahm four clear at Muirfield

Golfer Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm – the clear leader at Muirfield
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Jon Rahm leads the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village by four strokes but our man's taking him on at odds-on. Read Steve's final update for the week here...

“Thomas was caught here last week despite leading by three with just three to play. It would be very foolish to think Rahm can’t be caught from four clear with 18 to play.”

12:10 - July 19, 2020

On a day that Muirfield Village really bared its teeth, Brendon Todd, who moved up 46 spots into a tie for 18th, and world number two, Jon Rahm, were the only two players to break 70 at the Memorial Tournament yesterday. They both shot four-under-par 68s and Rahm now leads by four. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at midday.

Jon Rahm -12 [1.34]
Tony Finau -8 [9.0]
Ryan Palmer -8 [17.5]
Danny Willett -6 [34.0]
Jason Day -5 [55.0]
Henrik Norlander -5 [140.0]
Chez Reavie -4 [240.0]
Matt Wallace -4 [200.0]
Patrick Cantlay -3 [120.0]
-3 and [310.0] bar

As Justin Ray's tweet below demonstrates, nearly four out of five 54-hole leaders on the PGA Tour convert so surely Dave Tindall's fancy, Jon Rahm, still looks a fair price at [1.34]?

Rahm plays alongside Ryan Palmer today - the man he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans pairs event with last year so there's another plus. Add in the poor strike rates of his two nearest challengers - Palmer and Tony Finau - and the case for Rahm is starting to look watertight but there are definitely reasons to take him on at such a short price.

Muirfield was tough enough yesterday, looking at the pin positions above, it's going to play tougher again today and it doesn't matter how good you are, if you're even slightly off your game, a high score is out there waiting. Of course, that's the same for everyone but someone always finds a way to get around on the toughest of days and if it's one of those within seven or eight and Rahm has a poor day, we could see something quite surprising.

Although Rahm's record when leading is solid enough, he's yet to convert a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour. He shot 76 at the Players last year when leading by a stroke (finished 12th) and he was second at Torrey Pines in January this year when he failed to break 70 on day four of the Farmers Insurance Open.

One could argue I'm being picky with the second result, given he was only beaten by a stroke in the end, but he definitely wobbled that day. He was four-over-par through five holes and he only finished second courtesy of three straight birdies to finish when the race was already run. And he got himself in a bit of a pickle on the last occasion he won on the European Tour too...

Back in November, with co-54-hole leader, Mike Lorenzo-Vera, flapping, Rahm started the fourth round of the DP World really well to establish a six-stroke lead after just seven holes. He was matched at just [1.03] as it looked like he'd win with ease but he played the next eight holes in two-over par and in the end, he needed to birdie the last to win by just one!

Those three episodes are enough to suggest today won't necessarily be plain sailing and there are two other reasons to think he he's worth taking on.

Victory today would see Rahm go to number one in the world rankings and that's an added pressure in itself. We've seen a couple of players lately give up chances to win with the world number one tag at stake but the main reason to think Rahm is worth taking on is the venue and the record of 54-hole leaders.

Conditions are far tougher than last week so we probably can't look too deeply at the one-off edition of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village but we can't ignore it either. Justin Thomas, who led by two with a round to go last Sunday, was twice matched in-running at less than [1.1] before eventually losing in a playoff. Thomas was caught here last week despite leading by three with just three to play. It would be very foolish to think Rahm can't be caught from four clear with 18 to play.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, this is a very hard track at which to lead and 54-hole leaders don't have a great record. Admittedly, the vast majority of leaders aren't anywhere near as far clear as Rahm is today, and we have to go back to 2000 to find the last person to lead by more than three with a round to go (Tiger Woods - led by six and won by five) but it's also perhaps worth highlighting that three of the last four players to lead by three strokes have been beaten here.

Steve Stricker won by a stroke having led by three in 2011 but Rickie Fowler (2010), Justin Rose (2015), and Daniel Summerhays (2017) were all beaten.

Al things considered, Rahm looks well worth taking on today and I'm happy to do so at [1.35]. I'll be back tomorrow with the De-brief.

If you like the idea of laying Rahm yourself but aren't sure how to go about it, the 'Exchange How-To' Hub here will help.

09:50 - July 18, 2020

Having been matched at as low as [1.5] during the second round of the Euram Bank Open, pre-event favourite and halfway leader, Joost Luiten, goes into the final round trailing by eight!

Luiten had started his third round nicely enough with birdies at three and five but he made a ten on the tricky par five seventh and followed that with a pair of bogeys. Eventually going on to record a four-over-par 74.

In stark contrast, 26-year-old Frenchman, Robin Sciot-Siegrist, fired an immaculate nine-under-par 61 and he leads by three with a round to go. Three-stroke 54-hole leaders have a 70% strike-rate on the European Tour and all five Challenge Tour winners at this venue led or co-led with a round to go, suggesting odds-against is well worth taking but I'm far from convinced.

Sciot-Siegrist's sole success on the Challenge Tour came at the Northern Ireland Open in 2017 but that wasn't a traditional stroke-play event. In 2017, the format was changed to a "Super 6" type knockout format so he's yet to win a traditional style tournament.

Sciot-Siegrist led the Victorian Open by a couple of strokes at halfway in February but shot 76 in round three (bounced back with 68 to finish third) and he went from trailing by one with a round to go to beaten by seven (finished 28th) when he shot 73 in round four if the Made in Denmark Challenge last August.

All things considered, I'm happy to swerve the Frenchman and scan a bit further down the leaderboard given there's a fair chance he has another calamitous day in-contention.

Trailing by five and tied for fifth with only Sciot-Siegrist, Richard Mansel, Joel Stalter and Christofer Blomstrand ahead of him, I thought Germany's Alexander Knappe was worth chancing for small stakes at a big price. He has a couple of Challenge Tour wins to his name already and he could be the one to prosper should the leader have a bad day.

Over on the PGA Tour, we've reached the halfway stage of the Memorial Tournament and the first and second after round one, Tony Finau and Ryan Palmer, are now tied at the top. Here's the current standings with exchange prices to back at 09:40.

Tony Finau -9 [5.6]
Ryan Palmer -9 [13.0]
Jon Rahm -8 [3.8]
Gary Woodland -6 [12.0]
Chez Reavie -6 [34.0]
Luke List -6 [46.0]
Jason Day -5 [24.0]
Patrick Cantlay -4 [14.5]
Viktor Hovland -4 [22.0]
Jordan Spieth -4 [36.0]
-4 and [19.0] bar

Although trailing by six in a tie for 16th, last week's runner-up, Justin Thomas, is trading at only [19.0] this morning and Rory McIlroy is a further stroke adrift and trading at [30.0] but a number of big names have gone home.

Dustin Johnson shot a pair of 80s to miss the cut by a mile and the likes of Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson also fell short but the biggest disappointment has been Bryson DeChambeau, who just like the pre-event favourite in Europe, Luiten, recorded a ten in round two! He too misses out on weekend employment.

Dave Tindall's fancy, Jon Rahm, is the man to beat now and it would be no surprise to see him out in front after today but he's just fractionally too short for me.

Muirfield Village is a fabulous venue and as it firms up further we can expect all sorts of drama. We saw six men shoot six-under-par 66s yesterday but we also saw plenty of carnage and we can expect much of the same over the weekend.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, this has been a great event to trade on a Sunday and we witnessed plenty of drama last Sunday here in the Workday Charity Open so I'm happy to remain cautious, although I have added one more in-play pick in the shape of Mackenzie Hughes at a huge price.

The 29-year-old Canadian has been playing some eye-catching stuff of late and he looks over-priced at a triple-figure price given he only has seven men ahead of him.

My first two in-play picks - Brendan Steele and Harris English - were disappointing yesterday but my sole pre-event pick - Jason Day - moved into contention yesterday with an impressive 66, despite being two-over through three. I'm hopeful rather than confident re Day though.

He putted brilliantly yesterday so it's a question of whether he can maintain that on the slick greens over the weekend and he was clearly feeling some pain in his back during round two too.

10:00 - July 17, 2020

I'm leaving the Euram Bank Open on the European Tour alone. Having started on Wednesday, they've already reached the halfway stage and the pre-event favourite, Joost Luiten, leads by two and he should really be a good thing now at just a shade of odds-on.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, in five Challenge Tour tournaments previously played at Adamstal - three editions of the now defunct MAN NÖ Open and the last two renewals of this event - four 36-hole leaders have gone on to win so it looks a great venue for frontrunners. A player of Luiten's calibre really should put this to bed now but he led after round one last week and he was still in-contention at halfway before a poor weekend saw him fade away so I'm in no rush to back him at odds-on.

Joel Stalter, who I backed before the off at [300.0] last week is tied for second alongside Sweden's Philip Eriksson and that's mildly annoying but I backed him at the Austrian Open due to the course so not backing him here, at a very different type of venue, shouldn't be a cause of frustration. Nevertheless, I'd still be a bit miffed if he went on to win.

The best alternative to Luiten is probably America's John Catlin, who's won four times on the Asian Tour in the last two years. Odds of around [16.0] look fair given he only trails by four but I'm happy to leave the event alone for now.

Over on the PGA Tour, day one of the Memorial Tournament was a fascinating and gruelling affair. With a fairly strong wind persistent throughout the day, the scoring average was 73.92 (1.92 over the par of 72). The morning wave fared slightly better - 73.72 compared to 74.12 - but the leaderboard and the market is dominated with players that teed off in the afternoon.

Here's the current standings with exchange prices to back at 09:45, together with today's tee times (UK time).

Tony Finau -6 [8.0] 12:55
Ryan Palmer -5 [42.0] 12:55
Gary Woodland -4 [10.5] 12:44
Brandan Steele -4 [46.0] 17:22
Jon Rahm -3 [8.8] 12:55
Lucas Glover -3 [50.0] 12:22
Charles Howell -3 [140.0] 18:06
Rory McIlroy -2 [9.0] 13:17
Patrick Cantlay -2 [10.5] 18:06
-2 and [21.0] bar

Course specialist, Tiger Woods, currently trading at [21.0], sits on -1 and pre-event favourite, Bryson DeChambeau, who amazed plenty with this 423 yard drive yesterday morning, is trading at [26.0] after opening with a one-over par 73.

This looked ridiculously competitive so I only backed Jason Day before the off. He sits alongside DeChambeau so has plenty to do but I've already backed two in-running.

I was quite sweet on the chances of Brendan Steele last week, on account of him putting so well of late, but as Tom pointed out here, that wasn't the case last week.

I backed him at [320.0] before the off last week so given we're playing at the same venue, I was perhaps daft not to have at least a small wager at bigger this (matched at a high of [400.0]) but I did manage to scramble aboard at [70.0] as he played the 17th hole yesterday.

That looked a great price when he sat in the house with the lead on his own, with the weather likely to worsen, but the later starters caught a bit of a break as the wind didn't really pick up any harder.

With both Gary Woodland and Jon Rahm inside the top-five and ties, it's been a good start for Dave Tindall's picks but the one I like this morning at the prices available is one of Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner picks - Harris English.

English was a bit rusty with his approach play yesterday but he scrambled and putted well so if he's blown the rust away with yesterday's two-under-par 70, he could climb the leaderboard nicely today.

Conditions are expected to be benign all day today and I expect a few of the morning starters to make a big move. The tournament should really take shape today and if I place any more in-play bets, as I did yesterday with my Steele wager, I'll post them to Twitter.

Euram Bank Open Pre-Event Selections:
Sami Välimäki @ [36.0]
Marcel Schneider @ 40/1 (Sportsbook)
Marcel Siem @ 90/1 (Sportsbook)

In-Play Pick:
Alexander Knappe @ [36.0]

Memorial Tournament Pre-Event Selection:
Jason Day @ [75.0]

In-Play picks:
Brandan Steele @ [70.0]
Harris English @ [70.0]
MacKenzie Hughes @ [120.0]
Jon Rahm layed @ [1.35]

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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