There's just one round to go at both the Open de Espana and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open so read Steve's final in-play thoughts for the week here...
“Kevin Na is a fair price to convert at [2.3]. He led the Charles Schwab Challenge by two strokes with a round to go in May before going on to win by four and he won the Greenbrier by five strokes in July last year, having trailed by a stroke with a round to go so he’s matured into a reliable player in-contention.”
11:05 - October 06, 2019
Following an exceptional eight-under-par 63 in round three, defending champ, Jon Rahm, has put clear water between himself and the field at the Open de Espana and it's impossible to look beyond him now that he leads by five. Since 1996, we've seen 36 players lead a European Tour event by five strokes with a round to go and 30 of them went on to win.
The most memorable defeat from five clear was that of Jean Van De Velde at the Open Championship in 1999 and the most recent was Charl Schwartzel at the South African Open in 2015 but the last eight players to lead by five have all gone on to win and it's very difficult to envisage Rahm breaking that run.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who sits alongside Samuel Del Val in a tie for second, is the man most likely to apply the pressure to Rahm and he's the clear favourite in the Winner W/O Jon Rahm market here. He's certainly capable of going low but if he does get to within striking distance, will he then fold? Rafa is a flaky in-contention performer and Adri Arnaus looks like a better candidate to finish second to the big man. Arnaus was disappointing yesterday, shooting a one-over-par 72, but with the chance of victory seemingly gone, I can see him relaxing today and he looks a fair price in the Winner W/O Jon Rahm market.
Over at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the 2011 winner, Kevin Na, and the 2017 winner, Patrick Cantlay, are dominating proceedings. Here's the 54 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:00.
Kevin Na -22 [2.32]
Patrick Cantlay -20 [2.6]
Pat Perez -18 [23.0]
Lucas Glover -17 [32.0]
Sam Ryder -17 [46.0]
Webb Simpson -16 [34.0]
Brian Stuard -16 [130.0]
-15 and [75.0] bar
Kevin Na is a fair price to convert at [2.3]. He led the Charles Schwab Challenge by two strokes with a round to go in May before going on to win by four and he won the Greenbrier by five strokes in July last year, having trailed by a stroke with a round to go so he's matured into a reliable player in-contention. He was tied for the lead with a round to go here in 2011 (won by two) and third round leaders and co-leaders have a very solid record here. As many as eight of the last 13 winners were leading or tied for the lead with a round to go.
Patrick Cantlay is the very obvious danger but given he trails by two and that he isn't yet a rock-solid in-contention player, at the prices, I much prefer the leader. This is the fifth time he's been within two of the lead with a round to go on the PGA Tour and he's yet to win from that close to the lead. He won both his PGA Tour titles to date (this event in 2017 and the Memorial Tournament last year) having trailed by four with a round to go.
It's difficult to look beyond the front two but the 2013 winner, Webb Simpson, could capitalise if the leading pair flop and he looks a fair price at [34.0].
10:15 - October 05, 2019
With four Spaniards filling the top-four places, there'll be bumper crowds in attendance in Madrid today for the third round of the Open de Espana. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 10:05.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -11 [3.3]
Adri Arnaus -11 [5.9]
Samuel Del Val -10 [32.0]
Jon Rahm -9 [3.0]
Zander Lombard -8 [36.0]
Mikko Korhonen -7 [36.0]
Jason Scrivener -7 [55.0]
Marcel Siem -7 [140.0]
-6 and [46.0] bar
Playing in the same three-ball, pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Adri Arnaus, put on quite a show for the locals yesterday afternoon and the Spanish trio completely dominate the market this morning.
Despite trailing by two, Rahm still heads the market and rightly so. He hasn't been at his absolute best over the first two days but he's clearly not going to relinquish his title without a good scrap and I'd rather play him at 2/1 than I would either of the two leaders.
The experienced Cabrera-Bello plays alongside Arnaus and Samuel Del Val in the final three-ball today and he's the man the market views as most likely to take Rahm's title but he's not a player to get behind with confidence. Since converting a couple of leads on the Challenge Tour more than ten years ago, Rafa has led or co-led an event at halfway 11 times without success and he's not for me.
It's only a matter of time before Arnaus wins his first title and it would be an enjoyable experience to watch it come here in his homeland but that's a huge ask. The highly talented 24-year-old may well get his name etched on the trophy, and many other trophies, but he's yet to get off the mark on the European Tour and he's bound to get nervous over the weekend.
Samuel Del Val, a pre-event [1000.0] shot, is far and away the surprise package on the leaderboard and it's very hard to see him taking the title too. As highlighted in the preview, Spaniards don't have a really strong record in this event and low-ranking Spaniards have an awful record. Having won the Argentina Classic on the Latinoamerica Tour back in 2016 (an event reduced to 54 holes), the 32-year-old predominately plies his trade on the Challenge Tour and in China nowadays, with limited success, so he's playing for a future on the European Tour and not just an extremely unlikely title win. He's the one to pull for if you're a fan of the underdog but he's hard to fancy.
Everything appears to point back to Rahm but maybe it's not that simple? As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, Ricardo Gonzalez sat tied for 28th and 11 shots off the lead at halfway when he won here in 2003 and Steen Tinning was tied for 18th and six adrift at this stage when he won at the venue in 2002 so an off-the-pace winner can't be ruled out.
I'll be hoping for a run from Sergio Garcia, and my very ill-timed in-play pick, Adrian Otaegui, from the pack - they trail by seven and five strokes respectively - and my each-way pick, Mikko Korhonen, can't be discounted as he's tied for sixth and just four back.
Rahm running away with the event wouldn't be a surprise but I'm happy to throw a few pounds at South Africa's Zander Lombard at [40.0]. Lombard's looking to win his first title and that's an obvious negative but he's a juicy price considering he's only three off the lead and that three of the last six course winners were South African.
Over at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, four men are tied at the top and two of them have won the title before. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:10.
Patrick Cantlay -12 [4.1]
Kevin Na -12 [12.0]
Lucas Glover -12 [13.0]
Brian Stuard -12 [24.0]
Matt Jones -11 [30.0]
-10 and [19.5] bar
Patrick Cantlay has played this event twice previously. He won here on debut in 2017 and he traded at [1.89] when he led with two to play when defending last year so he clearly loves TPC Summerlin and six of the last 12 winners were in front at halfway. Given all that evidence, anything over 3/1 about the world number seven looks more than fair but he's not for me.
Jim Furyk is still the only man to win the event more than once so that's a bit of a negative and so is the state of the leaderboard. Matt Jones is alone in fifth on 11-under-par but it's an extremely bunched leaderboard below that with as many as 49 players within five strokes of the lead.
My pre-event pick, Brian Harman, despite birdying four holes in-a-row on the back-nine yesterday, did a great job of demonstrating how easy it is to fall out of contention at TPC Summerlin and the 2011 champ, Kevin Na, did a sterling job of showing how much ground can be retrieved. Harman's level-par 71 saw him tumble from second to tied 35th and Na's nine-under-par 62 saw him climb from 42nd to first.
We have seen the odd off-the-pace winner but up in the van is usually the way to go here so I wouldn't be in the least bit surprised if we witnessed the seventh hallway leader or co-leader going on to win in 13 years but I'm not going to bet on it.
If you haven't already played any of Paul Krishnamurty's Find Me a 100 Winner picks, now might be a good time given that they're all within five of the lead and all trading at juicy prices still and I quite like the look of Scott Stallings at [60.0] given he trails by just two but it's absolutely wide open still and a tricky one to get stuck in to.
14:30 - October 04, 2019
We're more than halfway through the second round of the Open de Espana at the easy-on-the-eye Club de Campo Villa de Madrid and the tournament is heating up nicely. All the big names are in-contention and all eyes will be on pre-event favourite and world number five, Jon Rahm, this afternoon as he looks to catch runaway first round leader, Kristian Krogh Johannessen, who's yet to begin his second round.
My main fancy, Sergio Garcia, was a little disappointing this morning, as he followed up yesterday's two under-par 69 with another one. That sees him trail Johannessen by four strokes but he's far from a forlorn hope with the course playing tougher than expected. Sergio has played really nicely tee-to-green but he's missed a lot of makeable putts.
There was a differential between the AM-PM starters of just a stroke yesterday but I can't see anyone running away with it this afternoon. Rahm has only played five holes but after a double-bogey at the second, and a birdie at the fourth, he's already over-par for the day and alongside Garcia on -4.
I'll be back to have a detailed look at the halfway stage tonight or early in the morning but I fancy the value at this precise moment sits with those already in the clubhouse and I was happy to have a small bet matched on Adrian Otaegui at [44.0]. The Spaniard sits on six-under-par after two rounds and that sees him tied for second at the time of writing. I suspect the afternoon conditions to stifle scoring somewhat and I can see him trading at shorter by the close of play.
Over at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Canada's Nick Taylor, leads on -8 but one of my fancies, Brian Harmon, trails by just a stroke and he tees off in round two shortly.
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, a fast start is often key at TPC Summerlin and six of the last 12 winners have been leading through 36 holes. I'll be keeping a close eye on the in-play action today and if I get involved, I'll post any bets to Twitter but I'll be back tomorrow with a more detailed look at the halfway point regardless.
Open de Espana Pre-Event Selections:
Sergio Garcia @ [9.6]
Jeunghun Wang @ [110.0]
Adrian Otagui @ [44.0]
Zander Lombard @ [40.0]
Shriners Pre-Event Selections:
Brian Harman @ [75.0]
J.T Poston @ [85.0]
Sam Burns @ [250.0]
Kurt Kitayama @ 250/1 (Sportsbook)
Scott Stallings @ [60.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter