The Punter's In-Play Blog: Déjà vu for Steele at the Sony

Golfer Brendan Steele
Brendan Steele - the third round leader at the Sony Open

For the second year in-a-row, Brendan Steele takes a healthy lead into the final round of the Sony Open but can he convert this time? Read Steve's final in-running thoughts on the event here...

“I certainly don’t want to rule out an off-the-pace winner and we’ve certainly seen plenty of change throughout the week so far but I can’t get away form the leader at 4.57/2.”

10:35 - January 17, 2021

After a splash of rain, Waialae Country Club played ridiculously easy in round three and records were broken.

With a threat of more rain later in the day today, the tee times have been brought forward and that's great news for viewers in the UK as the leaders now tee-off at a much more sociable 20:20 UK time. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:30.

Brendan Steele -18 4.57/2
Joakim Niemann -16 5.69/2
Kevin Na -16 8.27/1
Russell Henley -15 14.013/1
Charley Hoffman -15 20.019/1
Chris Kirk -15 21.020/1
Peter Malnati -15 21.020/1
Stewart Cink -15 23.022/1
Daniel berger -14 18.017/1
-14 and 50.049/1 bar

There's an opportunity for redemption for both the two market leaders today.

Joakim Niemann, who was in front after round one, was beaten in a playoff last week at Kapalua and Brendan Steele, who leads by two, led by three at this stage last year before eventually losing in a playoff, having been matched in-running at 1.111/9!

One of my Find Me a 100 Winner picks, Stewart Cink, finished his third round nicely to remain in touch. He sits tied for fourth and three off the lead and he won the recent Safeway Open from tied seventh and two shots adrift through three rounds so I certainly haven't given up on him but how far back we can look after that is debatable.

As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, in 52 years, only five players have been more than three strokes off the lead through 54 holes.

I certainly don't want to rule out an off-the-pace winner and we've certainly seen plenty of change throughout the week so far but I can't get away form the leader at 4.57/2.

The last five two-stroke 54-hole leaders have been beaten on the PGA Tour but over the last 25 years, almost 50% have gone on to win and the market is being too critical of last year's finish by Steele.

Steele most definitely has demons to overcome after his late collapse 12 months ago (led by a stroke with a hole to play) but 7/2 is an overreaction. He's a three-time winner on the PGA Tour so he's not completely wet behind the ears and I'm happy to chance him modestly at that price.

11:35 - January 16, 2021

A fortunate ruling after a poor drive and a birdie four at the par five ninth, his final hole of the day, was the icing on the cake of an impressive eight-under-par 62 for Canada's Nick Taylor yesterday afternoon and he leads the way by two at the Sony Open but it's extremely tight below him with a solitary stroke separating the next 13 on the leaderboard. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 11:30.

Nick Taylor -12 12.5
Webb Simpson -10 7.613/2
Russell Henley -10 13.012/1
Stewart Cink -10 25.024/1
Chris Kirk -10 28.027/1
Vaughn Taylor -10 36.035/1
Collin Morikawa -9 10.519/2
Hideki Matsuyama -9 14.013/1
Joaquin Niemann -9 15.014/1
Billy Horschel -9 22.021/1
Marc Leishman -9 24.023/1
Brendan Steele -9 44.043/1
Peter Malnati -9 44.043/1
Charley Hoffman -9 48.047/1
Daniel Berger -8 19.018/1
-8 and 46.045/1 bar

As many as eight 36-hole leaders have gone on to win the Sony Open this century and a further three players have been beaten in a playoff having led at the halfway stage so at 12.5, the leader looks a fair price.

He was very impressive when winning the AT&T wire-to-wire last February so it would be dangerous to think he won't be able to handle the pressure of frontrunning, but he probably needs to start hitting his approaches better over the weekend.

So far this week, Taylor ranks first for Strokes Gained Putting and second for Putting Average but 109th for Greens In Regulation! It's hard to imagine that the putter remains so hot and that he can stay in front if he doesn't start finding more greens.

Collin Morikawa, who trails Taylor by three, is putting better than he did at Kapalua last week and he was the one I came closest to backing but given how tight the leaderboard is, following yesterday's debacle, when each-way in-play pick, C.T Pan, shot 72 to miss the cut, I'm happy to sit on my hands for now and see what today brings.

It looks wide-open below Taylor and we're bound to see at least a couple of players in-the-mix go low again in the benign conditions so I'm happy to sit back and see what the day brings.

Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Stewart Cink, has moved up nicely and he'll be alongside Taylor and new tournament favourite, Webb Simpson, in the final three-ball (22:50 UK time) and his stats suggest he can hang around given he ranks fourth for GIR and 14th for Putting Average.

11:45 - January 15, 2021

It's usually best to get a morning draw at a coastal track but that wasn't the case yesterday at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu where the wind dropped fractionally in the afternoon and the latter starters enjoyed an advantage over their morning counterparts of 0.78 strokes. Here's the 18 hole leaderboard at the Sony Open with prices to back at 11:30.

Joaquin Niemann -8 7.06/1
Jason Kokrak -8 12.011/1
Peter Malnati -8 21.020/1
Daniel Berger -6 10.519/2
Si Woo Kim -6 30.029/1
Patton Kizzire -6 34.033/1
Vaughn Taylor -6 90.089/1
Jim Herman -6 100.099/1
Aaron Baddeley -6 130.0129/1
Webb Simpson -5 12.5
-5 and 18.017/1 bar

Given his sole PGA Tour success to date came at the Greenbrier Classic in 2019, by a convincing six strokes around the only other Seth Raynor-designed course used on the PGA Tour (the Old White), last week's runner-up, Joaquin Niemann, is a perfectly fair price at 6/1 after his opening 62.

The 22-year-old Chilean is clearly in good order and we've already seen five first round leaders go on to win here this century (all wire-to-wire) but it's a lot to expect him to keep pressing on after last week's disappointment.

I wouldn't want to put anyone off Niemann but I'm happy to let him go unbacked for now. This is the third time he's led after the opening round and on the last two occasions, at last year's Sentry Tournament of Champions, and at the Memorial Tournament in 2018, he went on to finish fifth or sixth.

How relevant those efforts are is highly debatable and he certainly sounds as though last week won't bother him.

"It was the first time that it really hurt me, like finishing a golf tournament," he said. "Probably one or two days I just keep thinking on how I couldn't make birdie on 18 and get it done. I was talking with my coach, with my psychologist. We talked for an hour about the whole tournament, not for that 18th hole. It was a good way to take all the positives from that week."

I was certainly tempted to get Niemann onside and he's far from the only one of interest this morning. Last year's runner-up, Brendan Steele, who trails by three, looks a bit big at 100.099/1 and I came close to getting Mackenzie Hughes, also on -5, onside at 80.079/1 but for now I'm adding just two more...

Given he's won three times on the PGA Tour already, and twice in the last two years, Jim Herman looks over-priced at 100.099/1. Having won the Wyndham Championship in August, Herman should have been playing at last week's Sentry Tournament of Champions but he had to withdraw after catching COVID.

There's obviously a strong chance that the after-effects will catch up with over the rest of the week but he's nothing if not a fighter and those odds are a bit disrespectful given he's a generally 50/1 chance on the High Street.

With five places still available, CT Pan, who sits tied for 10th and three off the lead, looks big at 100/1 with the Sportsbook. Pan's sole PGA Tour win to date came in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head (a venue not dissimilar to this one) and he could be ready to win again if his seventh placed finish at the US Masters in his penultimate start is anything to go by.

Pre-Event Selections:
Kevin Kisner @ 40.039/1
Brendon Todd @ 60.059/1

In-Play Picks:
Jim Herman @ 100.099/1
C.T Pan each-way @ 100/1 (Sportsbook
)

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back Brian Gay 1 ½ u @ 230.0229/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
1 ½ U Top-20 Finish @ 6/1 (Sportsbook)
Back Stewart Cink 1u @ 250.0249/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Hudson Swafford 1u @ 230.0229/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 8.07/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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