There's just one round to go a both the Open de España and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open so our man's back with his final in-play thoughts for the week here...
"Matthew Wolff has birdied the par five ninth every day and so far this week, he’s level-par through holes one to eight and 17-under-par for holes nine to 18."
8:45 - October 10, 2021
Having been matched at a low of 1.645/8 as early as Thursday morning, victory in the Open de España looked like it might be a formality for the defending champion and world number one, Jon Rahm, but he lost his way in round three and having been matched at a high of 32.031/1, he now trails fellow Spaniard, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, by fully six strokes. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 8:30.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -17 2.546/4
Adri Arnaus -15 4.67/2
Julien Guerrier -15 9.28/1
Jack Senior -14 14.5
Richard Bland -12 34.033/1
Shubhankar Sharma -12 42.041/1
Will Besseling -12 50.049/1]
Alex Levy -12 40.039/1
Jon Rahm -11 15.014/1
-11 and 100.099/1 bar
Having finished second and fourth behind Rahm in the 2019 edition of the Open de España at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Adri Arnaus have proven their liking for the venue and put themselves in position to win their national title this time around.
It's very hard to get away from the leader but his record when leading is very poor. He successfully converted clear 54 hole leads on the Challenge Tour back in 2006 and 2008 but since then he's led or co-led after three rounds eight times without winning. He definitely gets nervous in front but his closest pursuers all look opposable...
Arnaus has been awful in-contention and Guerrier is one to swerve too. He led the Portugal Masters by five strokes at halfway two years ago but shot 75-72 over the weekend to eventually finish eighth!
Jack Senior has played well in spells throughout the summer (led the Scottish Open at halfway but finished tenth) but at 33 he's still in search of his first European Tour win and he's hard to fancy.
Although he has a poor record when leading, given the record of his nearest challengers, Cabrera-Bello looks far and away the most likely winner but I'm in no rush to side with him at around 6/4.
Rahm will need something extra special to make up the six-shot deficit and he will almost certainly need help from the leaders so he's not a great price at around 14/1 but I was happy to chance Alex Levy modestly at 50.049/1 last night.
The Frenchman has plenty to do and like Rahm, he'll nee some help, but he's a shot closer to Cabrera-Bello than Rahm and he's a considerably bigger price.
It's more than three years since Levy won the last of his five European Tour titles but he's still only 31 and he won the China Open for a second time in 2017 from seven strokes adrift through three rounds. If there is going to be an off the pace winner today, he could be the one and I can see why he's shortened up overnight.
It's hard to win from off the pace in a low scoring event and the last three course winners were all leading after three rounds but Ricardo Gonzalez won the Open de Madrid here from six back here in 2003.
Over at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, last week's Sanderson Farms Championship winner, Sam Burns, was matched at a low of 1.9310/11 when he birdied four holes in five around the turn to go two clear yesterday but he cooled off after that, missing birdie putts from five and eight feet at 13 and 15 before finding the water with his approach on the par five 16th.
Having played his first 11 holes in four-under-par, he played his last seven in one-over and thanks to three birdies at his last four holes, Adam Schenk now shows the way. Heres' the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 8:40.
Adam Schenk -18 4.84/1
Matthew Wolff -17 4.03/1
Sam Burns -16 5.04/1
Chad Ramey -16 12.5
Andrew Putnam -16 14.5
Sungjae Im -15 11.521/2
Adam Hadwin -14 38.037/1
Harry Hall -14 65.064/1
Lanto Griffin -13 140.0139/1
-12 and 100.099/1 bar
It really doesn't look like we can scan too far down the leaderboard here. A persistent wind hassled the leaders yesterday afternoon, but the forecast suggests the early starters will see the windiest conditions today, making it very tough to make up ground from off the pace. And in addition to the generous forecast, the stats are in the leaders favour too.
The last three winners have all been in front after 54 holes and ten of the last 15 winners have been leading or co-leading with a round to go. And three of the five winners that weren't leading before the final round, trailed by just a single stroke.
The only place to start is with the leader, Adam Schenk, but he looks opposable. His sole success to date came on the Korn Ferry Tour at the 2017 Lincoln Land Charity Championship, where he was quite fortunate to win.
Having began the final round trailing by two, Schenk played his first nine holes in level par before he made a number of mistakes coming in. Luckily, the overnight leader, Kyle Thompson, shot 74, and Schenk's 72 was enough to see him get into a four-man playoff, which he won with a birdie at the second extra hole.
Schenk is most definitely in uncharted waters here and his only previous 54-hole lead came at the 2016 United Leasing Championship on the KF Tour, where he finished second.
After a superb rally on the back-nine, last year's beaten playoff protagonist, Matthew Wolff, trails by a stroke and he's the man to beat according to the market. Having backed Wolff after round one, I'm hopeful he can convert but anyone looking to side with him now may want to wait until he's played the first eight holes today...
He eagled the par five 16th for a second time this week yesterday after playing a wedge into the green with his second shot, and he really does enjoy the finishing stretch. He's birdied the par five ninth every day and so far this week, he's level-par through holes one to eight and 17-under-par for holes nine to 18.
Korn Ferry Tour graduate, Chad Ramey, and the 2018 Barracuda Championship winner, Andrew Putnam, are only two off the lead and the 36-hole leader, Sungjae Im, trails by three so that trio are certainly close enough if good enough but I'm happy to swerve all three and stick with what I have.
It's hard to know how Sam Burns will play today after last week's win and yesterday's poor finish. He must be emotionally drained, but he may just have had his wobble and I fancy him and Wolff are the two to beat.
9:25 - October 9, 2021
Having both began the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open with rounds of 63 and 65, the 2020 Honda Classic winner, Sungjae Im, and Korn Ferry Tour graduate, Chad Ramey, are tied at the top at the halfway stage. Here's the 36 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:20.
Sungjae Im -14 4.77/2
Chad Ramey -14 10.519/2
Sam Burns -13 4.84/1
Adam Schenk -13 16.5
Aaron Wise -12 15.014/1
Matthew Wolff -11 15.014/1
Talor Gooch -11 34.033/1
Adam Hadwin -11 38.037/1
Matt Jones -11 50.049/1
Rory Sabbatini -11 65.064/1
Harry Hall -11 75.074/1
Andrew Putnam -11 80.079/1
Louis Oosthuizen -10 23.022/1
Charley Hoffman -10 38.037/1
K.H Lee -10 70.069/1
Robert Streb -9 200.0199/1
-8 and 60.059/1 bar
As is so often the case with low scoring events, provided the weather is kind, being up with the pace is key and as many as eight of the last 14 winners have been leading or tied for the lead at halfway.
Given his experience on the PGA Tour, 23-year-old, Sungjae Im, is the man to beat according to the market but his record when leading through 36 holes is dire. He's led or co-led four times on the PGA Tour and his finishing positions were 51st, seventh, 12th and 12th!
Im was also tied for the lead on the Korean Tour, the Japan Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour in 2017 and 2018 but on all three occasions he failed to convert, finishing second twice and fifth.
Ramey sat second, two off the lead, at halfway when he won the Live and Work in Maine Open on the KF Tour in June but two months later he could only finish seventh having been tied for the lead at the Boise Open. This is a big step-up for the 29-year-old and he looks just as opposable as Im.
Sam Burns, who I backed in this event in each of the last two years at odds in excess of 200.0199/1, is a completely different beast nowadays and the world number 18 is operating on a whole new level now. He's in search of his third PGA Tour title and his second in two weeks after he won the Sanderson Farms Championship last week in impressive fashion.
Burns always had immense promise but he used to get nervous in contention. If last week is anything to go by, he doesn't any more and he's the man to beat given he trails by just a stroke.
Despite his triple-bogey seventh at the third hole yesterday, my first in-play pick, Matthew Wolff, isn't out of it from three back and my Find me a 100 Winner pick, K.H Lee, is only four off the lead but I was happy to add Burns at 4.94/1.
It's obviously difficult to win back-to-back but given how hard it is to come from off the pace here, we need to be concentrating hard on the leaders and Burns looks the most obvious candidate.
Adam Schenk, alongside Burns in third, is yet to win on the PGA Tour and Aaron Wise, alone in fifth, has been disappointing in-contention of late. I can definitely see one or two of the players in the large group tied for sixth alongside Wolff muscling in today but it's very hard to work out who.
19:20 - October 8, 2021
The putts didn't drop in round two of the Open de España for pre-event favourite, Jon Rahm, but he eagled the par five 14th for the second day in-a-row, and he birdied the last to post a four-under-par 67 and he's very much the man to beat at halfway.
Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 19:10.
Will Besseling -13 9.89/1
Jon Rahm -12 1.75/7
Adri Arnaus -11 12.011/1
Shubhankar Sharma -11 18.017/1
Ross McGowan -11 42.041/1
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -10 25.024/1
Grant Forrest -10 34.033/1
Julien Guerrier -10 50.049/1
-9 and 50.049/1 bar
There have been nine tournaments here since 1996 and two winners came from some way back at halfway so there's hope for the chasers going into the weekend.
Ricardo Gonzalez won the Open de Madrid in 2003, having trailed by fully 11 strokes, and that was 12 months after Steen Tinning had won that same event having trailed by six through 36 holes.
A year after Gonzalez, Richard Sterne won the Open de Madrid having sat tied for eighth and three adrift at halfway, but the other six winners here were all hard on the pace.
Rahm won the 2019 edition of this event from fourth place and two back at halfway, but four winners were in front and Retief Goosen won the Open de Madrid in 2001 having sat second and just one off the lead. It's a bit of a mixed bag but it's very hard to look past the pacesetters, and in-particular, Rahm.
Having won the last two editions of the event, the world number one is looking to emulate Spanish legend, Seve Ballesteros, who is the only man to have won three editions of the Open de España on the European Tour, and that's just about the only negative.
As highlighted this morning, Rahm has traded at odds-on a few times over the summer without converting but it's hard to envisage him not delivering the goods this weekend.
There's a Winner W/O Jon Rahm market for anyone that doesn't want to take him on in the main market and my idea of the most likely candidate would be Scotland's Grant Forrest but I'm more than happy to just sit and watch and cheer on the favourite having backed him modestly before the off.
I'll be back at some stage tomorrow to take a look at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open although I'm starting to think I'll be giving that one up as a bad job.
This morning's in-play pick, Matthew Wolff was ticking along nicely after ten holes of his second round (five-under-par for the day and leading) and he was matched at a low of 6.05/1 but he's just made a triple-bogey seven at the third.
08:50 - October 8, 2021
It took pre-event favourite and world number one, Jon Rahm, less than five holes to go odds-on at the Open de España and he was matched at just 1.75/7 when he drained his eagle putt on the par five 14th (his fifth hole of the day).
He looked the most likely to end day one in front after back-to-back birdies at 16 and 17 saw him reach six-under-par through eight but a bogey at nine was followed by a front-nine played in just three-under-par and he ended the day two strokes adrift of the early pacesetter, Ross McGowan.
Rahm will return to Club de Campo Villa de Madrid this afternoon chasing others and having made him a good thing at around 9/4 before the off (preview here), I wouldn't go rushing in at odds-on now.
Rahm's far and away the most likely winner but it does need to be considered that he went odds-on early on in a number of events in the summer without winning.
He traded at a low of 1.4640/85 at the Scottish Open during round two back in July in his first start following his US Open win and he hit a low of 1.21/5 at the Northern Trust after finishing third at the Open Championship.
Rahm eventually finished only third at the Northern Trust and he also traded at around 6/4 at the BMW Championship and 1.68/13 at the Tour Championship without winning so ploughing in at odds-on with three round still to play here might be a bit rash.
I'm going to leave that event alone for now and see how Rahm does this afternoon but I've already got involved in-running at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open where the wrong Korean Byron Nelson winner leads after day one...
K.H Lee was one of my two Find me a 100 Winner picks at the Shrinners, but this year's Byron Nelson winner shot a disappointing three-under-par 68 to sit tied for 60th and seven off the pace set by the 2019 Byron Nelson champ, Sung Kang.
Kang's a tempting price at over 20/1 given he leads by two, that three of the last 13 Shriners winners were leading after round one, and that he was up with the pace throughout when he won in Texas last year but he's been disappointing on the last two occasions he's started well and the one I like at this stage is Dave Tindall's fancy, Matthew Wolff.
After the withdrawl of Kevin Na (see preview), I backed Russell Henley and Erik van Rooyen before the off, but had I had three picks in the event, Wolff would have been the third. His Driving Accuracy stats were the only the only thing that put me off him but after a decent start, he looks well worth chancing at 12.011/1.
Wolff finished 18th on debut here in 2019 and he was beaten in a playoff 12 months ago after a slow start so he looks highly likely to contend over the weekend after a seven-under-par 64 to kick off this year's renewal, which sees him trailing by three in a tie for fifth.
Wolff opened-up last year's edition with rounds of 68-66, which saw him sitting 59th after round one and 40th at halfway so he's much closer this time around.
Open de España Pre-Event Selection:
Jon Rahm @ an average of 3.9
Alex Levy @ 50.049/1
Shriners Hospitals for Children Pre-Event Selections:
Russell Henley @ 95.094/1
Erik van Rooyen @ 95.094/1
Matthew Wolff @ 12.011/1
Sam Burns @ 4.94/1
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Open de España
Back 2 u Kristoffer Broberg @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Back 1.5 u K.H Lee @ 220.0219/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u James Hahn @ 370.0369/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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