Rahm breaks course record to close the gap
Bhatia and Wu still on the premises
Finau favourite to close the deal
09:45 - April 30, 2023
My halfway 25.024/1 pick, Pablo Larrazabal, has just won the Korea Championship on the DP World Tour, after an impressive five-under-par 67 in round four, and I'll have more on his victory in tomorrow's De-Brief but for now I'm concentrating on what could transpire to be a classic finish to the Mexico Open at Vidanta.
The defending champion and hot pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm, began the third round in Mexico trailing the halfway leader, Tony Finau, by six, but after a course record 61 on Saturday, he's closed the gap to two. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:30.
Tony Finau -19 1.9620/21
Jon Rahm -17 2.8615/8
Akshay Bhatia -17 13.012/1
Brandon Wu -16 21.020/1
-13 and 150.0149/1 bar
Rahm was matched at a low of just 1.758/11 when he hit the front during round three but to Finau's credit, he responded to Rahm's birdie barrage in style.
Having played his first 11 holes of round three in just two-under-par, Finau hit a glorious 50-foot chip on the par five 12th from below the green to tap in range for a birdie four before holing from off the green on 13 for a birdie two.
Rahm missed a couple of makable putts at 15 and 16 before holing a bomb on 17 to set up a chance of a 59 but after he'd driven into a fairway bunker off the tee, the eagle three required at the par five 18th was never really on the cards.
After chipping out from under the lip of the bunker, the world number one had to settle for a par five to record his third 61 on Tour but the big prize is now firmly in his sights.
Brandon Wu, who finished tied for second here 12 months ago, will feel he has nothing to lose playing in the penultimate three-ball today and the 21-year-old Californian, Akshay Bhatia, who's playing in the event for the first time, can't be dismissed either, but a fight out between Finau and Rahm looks far and away the most likely outcome today.
There was a gap of more than five years between the once flaky Finau's first and second PGA Tour titles - the Puerto Rico Open in March 2016 and The Northern Trust in August 2021 - but he won back-to-back in July last year before winning the Houston Open in November and he's now converted each of his last two 54-hole leads.
With an advantage of two strokes, on a low-scoring course, Finau is quite rightly the favourite but he looks short enough at odds-on and having drifted since the third round finished, Rahm looks a very good price at almost 2/1.
The Spaniard is no bigger than 13/8 on the High Street so the 2.8615/8 available on the exchange looks more than fair.
I'm on from the get-go and I'm happy to let my position ride.
12:50 - April 29, 2023
Having signed off last year's Mexico Open at Vidanta with an eight-under-par 63 to finish tied second behind Jon Rahm, Tony Finau has kicked off this year's edition with rounds of 65 and 64 to lead by a stroke at halfway. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:40.
Tony Finau -13 2.0621/20
Brandon Wu -12 8.615/2
Erik Van Rooyen -12 12.011/1
Will Gordon -9 29.028/1
Andrew Putnam -9 42.041/1
Eric Cole -9 44.043/1
Akshay Bhatia -9 46.045/1
Austin Smotherman -9 75.074/1
Ben Martin -8 65.064/1
Cameron Champ -8 75.074/1
Jimmy Walker -8 80.079/1
Jon Rahm -7 8.615/2
-7 and 80.079/1 bar
Although he'll head into the weekend leading by one, pre-event 9.417/2 chance, Finau, will be disappointed by his finish to round two.
Matched at a low of 1.684/6, the world number 16 bogeyed the eighth, his 17th of the day, and he needed to hole an eight-footer for par at the ninth, so it was a scruffy finish to a great round.
The defending champ and world number one, Jon Rahm, was nine behind Finau when he started his second round but after a steady start his round ignited with an eagle three at the par five sixth.
The Spaniard followed the eagle three at six with a two-putt birdie at the drivable par four seventh and when he gave himself inside six feet for another at the eighth, he was back to trading at below 4.03/1.
Within six strokes of Finau and with less than six feet to close the gap to five, and with three par fives still to play, he didn't look ridiculously short but incredibly, he didn't get any closer to the leader.
Having watched his birdie attempt at eight lose pace at the hole and miss by the smallest of margins, Rahm found water off the tee on nine.
That led to a double-bogey five and he compounded the error by bogeying the tough 10th hole too. He fought back valiantly after that to regain the three strokes dropped at the turn but trailing by six with just two rounds to play, he's got his work cut out now.
Although there's only been one previous renewal here, course form is holding up brilliantly.
In a tie for second is Brandon Wu, who finished alongside Finau in second 12 months ago. and another of last year's contenders, Cameron Champ, is on the fringes of contention again this time around, despite entering the event on the back of six consecutive missed cuts.
I've thrown a few pounds at Champ, who's pretty ruthless when in-contention, and I'm going to cheer on pre-event pick, Rahm, and hope for something special today but Finau is most definitely the man to beat.
Bob on pole in Korea
Over on the DP World Tour, fog and rain resulted in a stop-start beginning to day three of the Korea Championship and when play was suspended for darkness, as many six players were yet to complete their third rounds.
Here's the current state of play with approximate exchange prices to back and holes played in round three where applicable.
Robert Macintyre -8 [4,4]
Pablo Larrazabal -8 5.69/2 (thru 16)
Sanghyun Park -7 11.010/1 (thru 14)
Scott Jamieson -7 11.010/1
Adrian Meronk -6 11.010/1
Richard Mansell -6 15.014/1
Marcus Hellingkilde -6 18.017/1
-5 and 30.029/1 bar
Ordinarily, I'd suggest it's an advantage to have gotten your third round done and dusted in these sorts of circumstances and Robert Macintyre will certainly be happy to have got in the house but I'm not convinced that Scott Jamieson took the right decision to finish up on the par five 18th today with the light fading fast.
The likes of Pablo Larrazabal and Sanghyun Park won't mind finishing up in the morning if the weather forecast can be believed.
They've got to get up extra early to get finished but the wind is going to be significantly lighter in the morning and although the par five 15th isn't a straightforward hole, the par five 18th should prove to be a very good birdie opportunity.
Pre-event pick, Grant Forrest, was one of those to take a nosedive down the leaderboard in very tricky conditions today but yesterday's in-play picks, Macintyre and Larrazabal are tied for the lead and they now dominate the market.
On what was a really tough day, getting up-and-down from the inevitable missed greens was key and both players were a joy to watch. Larrazabal could and arguably should have been in a better position than he is and although Macintyre missed plenty of greens, his short game was sensational.
I'm not especially confident that either man will get the job done tomorrow though, this is a tough track and as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, a number of winners have come from off the pace.
The classy Pole, Adrian Meronk, is an obvious danger given he trails by only two strokes and the home hero, Sanghyun Park, is an interesting contender given he has two par fives to play yet in round three and that he's enjoying the support of the home crowd.
Having turned 40 on Tuesday, the Korean is playing with verve and freedom and having won 11 times in his homeland and twice in Japan, he can't be underestimated.
I was tempted to get Park onside but the only addition of made to the portfolio is last week's unlucky loser, Aaron Cockerill, who did very little wrong in Japan where he lost in extra time to Lucas Herbert.
15:40 - April 28, 2023
The second round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta is underway but I'm leaving that event alone for now.
The defending champ, Jon Rahm, and the pre-event second favourite, Tony Finau, are dominating the market and I'm more than happy to see how they fare today.
Finau, who shot a six-under-par 66 to sit tied for fourth after round one, is already out on the course and Rahm is an afternoon starter today.
Beginning his round at the 10th, Finau is two-under-par for the day after birdies at the 12th and 14th holes (both par fives) and he's now tied for the lead whereas Rahm will be hoping to pick up from where he left off yesterday when he tees off this afternoon.
The world number one was matched at a high of 7.06/1 when he was one-over-par after seven holes of his opening round yesterday morning, but he ended they day tied for 14th on -4.
Over on the DP World Tour, we've reached the halfway stage of the Korea Championship and with ten players within two of the lead and 19 within three, it's a wide-open event. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 15:30.
Yannik Paul -8 4.77/2
Sanghyun Park -8 10.519/2
Antoine Rozner -7 7.87/1
Mike Lorenzo-Vera -7 23.022/1
Grant Forrest -6 21.020/1
Scott Jamieson -6 22.021/1
Pablo Larrazabal -6 24.023/1
Robin Sciot-Siegrist -6 50.049/1
Yonggu Shin -6 85.084/1
Taehoon OK -6 100.099/1
Robert Macintyre -5 13.5
Joost Luiten -5 29.028/1
Adrian Meronk -4 24.023/1
-5 and 44.043/1 bar
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, a number of previous course winners have been able to make up ground to win here and we saw plenty of movement on the leaderboard today.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Scott Jamieson both shot seven-under-par 65s to move up from tied 47th to tied third and tied 68th to tied fifth, but my Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Alexander Knappe, who was matched at a low of 22.021/1, missed the cut after sitting tied for fourth after round one!
I like the venue, it's an enjoyable watch, but it certainly creates volatile scoring and caution is most definitely advised.
Yannik Paul heads the market at halfway but he looks short enough to me at less than 4/1.
Given he only went off at around 18/1, a case can be made for backing Robert Macintyre at around the 14.013/1 mark.
The classy Scotsman only trails by three and the seven-time DP Tour winner, Pablo Larrazabal, whose last victory came in the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain 12 months ago, is only two back.
I've had tiny wagers on those two but it really is a tough tournament to evaluate.
15:25 - April 27, 2023
Jon Rahm has begun his Mexico Open at Vidanta defence slowly, playing his first four holes in one-over-par and I'll look at that one tomorrow but for now I'm concentrating on this week's DP World Tour action in Korea, where Antoine Rozner has got off to a flier with a nine-under-par 63.
The Frenchman has already been matched at a low of 2.526/4 and he leads the Korea Championship by four after round one.
The pre-event 32.031/1 shot, has drifted out to a shade over 2/1 but that looks very short given we have three rounds yet to play and that the forecast suggests he might be up against it tomorrow.
There wasn't a huge difference in the weather between the morning and the afternoon today but the morning starters still averaged almost a stroke less than the afternoon starters. The AM wave averaged 72.71 and the PM starters averaged 73.53 but they look like getting their own back tomorrow.
After what was a relatively benign day today, the wind is predicted to increase as the day goes on tomorrow and it may well transpire that those drawn PM-AM fare better over the first two days.
With that in mind, Rozner looks short enough, and after him, the market is dominated by players that start their second rounds early tomorrow.
Last year's Mallorca Classic winner, Yannik Paul, tidied up his card with an eagle at the par five 18th to get to within six of the leader and Robert MacIntyre recovered nicely after a messy double bogey at the par five 15th with birdies at 17 and 18 to get to within seven.
Those two are currently trading as second and third best in the market but the one I've chanced at a juicy price is Matt Cooper's each-way fancy Sang-Moon Bae, who's in search of his third victory at the venue.
Bae has struggled to find his game after doing his military service but it's almost ten years since he won the first of his two PGA Tour titles and he might just cause a bit of a shock here on his third visit to the venue.
Bae won the 2013 edition of the Shinhan Donghae Open here by three strokes and he won by five in 2014 so he clearly loves the track.
Trailing Rozner by seven, he already has plenty of work to do but with an early start tomorrow, he may well make inroads in the morning and 95.094/1 looked generous.
Korea Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Grant Forrest @ 46.045/1
Calum Hill @ 46.045/1
Sang-Moon Bae @ 95.094/1
Robert Macintyre @ 14.013/1
Pablo Larazzabal @ 25.024/1
Mexico Open at Vidanta Pre-Event Selection:
Jon Rahm @ 3.9
Find Me a 100 Winner Picks:
2 pt Alexander Knappe @ 100.099/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Chez Reavie @ 230.0229/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Martin Trainer @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1u Martin Trainer @ 16/1 Top-10 Finish (Sportsbook)
Back 1u Martin Trainer @ 15/2 Top-20 Finish (Sportsbook)
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