The Punter

The Punter's In-Play Blog: Morikawa miles clear in Maui

Golfer Collin Morikawa
Collin Morikawa in action in round two

Collin Morikawa has shot six strokes clear of the field with just one round to go at the Sentry Tournament of Champions but can he be opposed?

  • Morikawa six clear of the field

  • Hot-putting leader looks ready to win again

  • Scheffler short enough for a top 5 finish

12:50- January 8, 2023

After three days of brilliant bogey-free golf, pre-event 28.027/1 chance, Collin Morikawa, will head into today's final round with a commanding six stroke lead at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 12:45.

Collin Morikawa -24 1.241/4
Scottie Scheffler -18 17.016/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick -18 23.022/1
J.J Spaun -18 65.064/1
Jon Rahm -17 29.028/1
Tom Kim -17 60.059/1
Sungjae Im -16 130.0129/1
Mac Homa -16 170.0169/1
-15 and 320.0319/1 bar

As highlighted yesterday, on the last occasion that Morikawa held a commanding 54-hole lead, at the 2021 Hero Challenge, he failed to convert and that will give his layers a crumb of encouragement.

In addition to that failure, when five strokes in front with a round to go, those intent on laying the leader will also point to his final round here two years ago when he shot 73 to finish seventh, having sat solo third and just a stroke out of the lead with a round to go, but he looks unopposable to me.

Having worked on his putting with Stephen Sweeney since November, Morikawa looks like a new man on the dancefloors this week, ranking first for Putting Average and second for Strokes Gained Putting and given the putter has been the only club in his bag to hold him back since he won the Open Championship in fine style in 2021, he looks more than ready to win again.

Geoff Ogilvy converted a six-stroke lead here in 2009 and the three men to lead by five through 54 holes all went on to win too so it's very hard to make a case for taking Morikawa on at odds of 1.241/4.

The Sportsbook have put up a Betting W/O Collin Morikawa market and the 12/5 favourite, Scottie Scheffler, who can return to the top of the world rankings with a tied third or better looks a bit short.

Scheffler hasn't putted well this week and I'm happy to take him on but not in the W/O market.

I'm not a huge fan of backing someone to finish second. It's not a place anyone strives for, and it feels too much like guesswork for my liking but I'm happy to lay Scheffler modestly in the Top 5 Finish market.

There are as many as dozen players within three strokes of Scheffler and second place and none of them have the pressure of returning to the top of the world rankings.

If Scheffler misses a few putts early on he could easily get frustrated and odds of around 1.51/2 look short enough.

15:55- January 7, 2023

World number 11, Collin Morikawa, backed up his opening bogey-free 64 around the Plantation Course on Thursday with a bogey-free 66 yesterday and he now shows the way at the Sentry Tournament of Champions by two strokes with two rounds to go. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 15:45.

Collin Morikawa -16 3.3512/5
Scottie Scheffler -14 3.8514/5
J.J Spaun -14 19.5
Jordan Spieth -13 8.615/2
Tom Kim -12 15.014/1
Jon Rahm -11 11.521/2
Matt Fitzpatrick -11 28.027/1
-10 and 30.029/1 bar

With a new driver in the bag, pre-event favourite, and co-first round leader, Jon Rahm, opened round two with back-to-back bogeys and he finished the day with disappointing back-to-back fives.

The Spaniard still ranks 39th of 39 for Driving Accuracy and a slightly cooler putter on Friday didn't help his cause either.

In contrast, Morikawa goes into the weekend ranking second for Putting Average and first for Strokes Gained Putting and given how hard it is to win from off the pace here, if he can keep putting nicely, he's very much the man to beat.

Having not set the world alight with his putter again, the former world number one and reigning Masters champions, Scottie Scheffler, birdied his last four holes to close up into a tie for second but he looks short enough at around 11/4 given he ranks 14th for Putting Average and only 31st for Strokes Gained Putting so far this week.

Nobody has found more greens than Scheffler over the first two days but as highlighted in the preview, the last six winners have ranked first or second for Putting Average and as many as 15 of the last 17 have ranked inside the top-four for that stat so Scottie needs to start sinking a few more putts over the weekend if he's going to apply the pressure to Morikawa.

Morikawa putting this well usually results in a high finish and given the last two winners have been in front at halfway, he looks the man to beat and a fair price at odds in excess of 2/1.

Morikawa is without a win since the Open in July 2021, and I'm not convinced he's completely over his incredible collapse in the Hero Challenge in December 2021 so that tempers my enthusiasm somewhat but I'm in no rush to side with anyone else either.

As highlighted yesterday, first timers have a poor record, so that goes against Tom Kim and J.J Spaun so the value may well sit with the 2016 winner, Jordan Spieth, who Dave Tindall backed before the off but I'm happy to sit on my hands for now and take another look after round three.

11:55 - January 6, 2023

The first round of the PGA Tour's first event of the year, the Sentry Tournament of Champions, is complete and three players are tied at the top - course debutant and 280.0279/1 outsider, J.J Spaun, the world number 11, Collin Morikawa, and the pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 11:45.

Jon Rahm -9 3.7511/4
Collin Morikawa -9 8.415/2
J.J Spaun -9 34.033/1
Tom Kim -8 15.014/1
Scottie Scheffler -7 9.28/1
Sungjae Im -7 17.016/1
Matt Fitzpatrick -7 20.019/1
Aaron Wise -7 32.031/1
Tom Hoge -7 65.064/1
Mackenzie Hughes -7 80.079/1
-6 and 20.019/1 bar

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, very few winners start slowly around the Plantation Course and being up with the pace is usually the place to be.

Sergio Garcia in 2002, Stuart Appleby in 2005 and Xander Schauffele four years ago, all overcame slow starts but the other 21 Sentry TOC winners at this venue have been no more than three strokes off the lead after the first round and the last two winners, Harris English and Cam Smith, both won wire-to-wire.

As many as seven of the last 20 winners have been leading or tied for the lead after round one so a fast start is a huge plus.

That doesn't help a great deal given there are as many as ten players within two of the lead and 16 within three but we can thin it out a bit more if we boldly dismiss the debutants.

As many as 13 players are making their course debuts this week and included in the baker's dozen are the first-round co-leader, Spaun, Tom Kim, who's alone in fourth, Matt Fitzpatrick and Tom Hoge, who are both tied for fifth and Sahith Theegala, who sits tied for 11th and just three off the lead.

Although a straightforward and easy test on paper, debutants have a particularly poor record at Kapalua and Sergio Garcia and the shock 2008 winner, Daniel Chopra, are the only first timers to win here in 24 previous editions at the venue.

Both of my two Find Me a 100 Winner picks, J.T Poston, who rallied on the back nine to post -5, and Adam Scott (-3), appear to have too much on their plates already but I'm more than happy with the start made by Jon Rahm, who I backed at 8.415/2 before the off.

Rahm picked up from where he left off with the flatstick, ranking first for Strokes Gained Putting yesterday, but he needs to improve his driving.

Having replaced his Calloway Rogue driver with the brand-new Calloway Paradiym, Rahm found just four fairways yesterday, ranking 39 of 39 for Driving Accuracy and that has to be a bit of a concern - especially given how ridiculously wide the fairways are here.

Jon Rahm at the Sentry TOC.jpg

I'm hoping he improves in that department and if he does, I'm confident that he'll be there or thereabouts at the finish, but I have added one more to the portfolio...

As highlighted in the preview, putting is the key to success here so given he's a quite brilliant putter (ranked first for Putting Average yesterday), that he sits tied for fifth and only two back, and that he won the Sanderson Farms Championship as recently as October, I was more than happy to place a small bet on Canada's Mackenzie Hughes at 80.079/1.

I'll be back again tomorrow with a look at the state of play at halfway.

Pre-Event Selection:
Jon Rahm @ 8.415/2

In-Play Pick:
Mackenzie Hughes @ 80.079/1

In-Play Lay:
Scottie Scheffler - Top 5 Finish @ 1.538/15

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:

Back 2u Adam Scott 100.099/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Back 2u Adam Scott @ 4.03/1 Top 10 Finish

Back 1u J.T Poston 200.0199/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

Back 2u J.T Poston @ 7.06/1 Top 10 Finish

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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