The Punter's In-Play Blog: Hot Hojgaard seeks historic Danish double

Golfer Patrick Cantlay
Tommy Fleetwood - the man to beat with a round to go in Italy

There's just one round to go at the Italian Open and Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard is nicely poised to follow his brother into the winner's enclosure...

"There’s nothing to suggest Hojgaard can’t follow his twin in and if he does, it will be the first time ever that brothers have won back-to-back on the European Tour."

14:25 - September 5, 2021

A week after Denmark's Rasmus Hojgaard won his third European Tour title at the Omega European Masters, his twin brother, Nicolai, has put himself in pole position to win his first at the Italian Open. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 14:15.

Nicolai Hojgaard -13 5.04/1
Tommy Fleetwood -12 3.55/2
Daniel Van Tonder -12 5.95/1
Mikko Korhonen -11 9.28/1
Min Woo Lee -10 15.014/1
Victor Perez -9 24.023/1
Alex Levy -9 34.033/1
Oliver Farr -9 65.064/1
-8 and 75.074/1 bar

With the hallway leader, Min Woo Lee, enduring a terrible day off the tee, the recent Czech Masters winner, Johannes Veerman, who was suffering with blisters throughout the round, was matched at just 2.466/4 in-running before disaster struck at the par four 14th, where he made a quadruple bogey eight! The American couldn't recover from that body blow and with a round to go, he now trails by six.

Given 54-hole leaders have an impressive enough 43% strike-rate, the only place to start is with the leader, Hojgaard, who is most definitely motivated by his twin's achievements.

He had this to say after round three today.

"It's definitely helping. I would really love to win sometime, one time, or a few times, but seeing Rasmus win is a big motivation, and I'm just trying to follow in his steps a little bit. Hopefully I can get it done tomorrow."

He was already having a great day but the turning point for Nicolai came at the par four 16th hole when he produced this bit of magic to eagle the hole for the second time this week.

There's nothing to suggest Hojgaard can't follow his twin in and if he does, it will be the first time ever that brothers have won back-to-back on the European Tour.

Ahead of Nicolai in the market is Tommy Fleetwood who came with a late rally today after a slow start. The Englishman birdied four holes in five from the 12th but having hit a low of 2.68/5, he bogeyed the par three 17th and parred the par five last.

Daniel Van Tonder is alongside Fleetwood after he bogeyed the 18th (his only blemish on a very tidy card) and after a wobble in the middle of his round, Finland's Mikko Korhonen, rallied on the back-nine and he too eagled the 16th.

I'm hopeful that my in-play pick, Min Woo Lee, can rally tomorrow after a disappointing third round and I'm going to leave the event alone for now and shout him on but if forced to pick one at the prices, I'd plump for the leader.

Nicolai looks every bit as cool as his brother but converting from the front is never easy. Rasmus gave up a three-stroke lead at the Cazoo Classic only last month and he finished sixth at the Oman Open last year having been tied for the lead through three rounds, so if Nicolai can get the job done tomorrow, he'd still be 3-1 down to his brother in terms of ET titles won but he'd be the first of the two to convert from the front.

11:25 - September 4, 2021

With the ridiculous handicap system in place, there was always a strong possibility that the Tour Championship would develop into a very dull affair and that appears to be the case.

As you can see below, the front two would have been bang in-contention without their pre-event starts so it's a real shame the PGA Tour has persisted with the handicap system.

It did look for some time that we might enter the weekend with a competitive event to assess. One of my pre-event picks, Justin Thomas, was matched at just 4.57/2 as he made a charge yesterday, but he bogeyed 16 and 17 and missed a six-footer for birdie at 18 and in-play pick, Bryson DeChambeau was matched at a low of 6.05/1 before he made back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14.

Bryson bounced back with birdies at 17 and 18 but Cantlay also birdied the last two holes and Rahm birdied the final three so the leading two are now clear. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:20.

Patrick Cantlay -17 2.6213/8
Jon Rahm -16 2.186/5
Bryson DeChambeau -11 19.018/1
Justin Thomas -10 28.027/1
-9 and 60.059/1 bar

It's very hard to see anyone outside the front two winning now and I'm more than happy to put the spade down now and leave the event alone. The front two look very hard to split and the market looks right to me.

The third round of the Italian Open is well underway after an early start due to the threat of inclement weather and I'll be back later or tomorrow morning with a look at the state of play before round four.

21:15 - September 3, 2021

The Scottish Open winner, Min Woo Lee, leads the Italian Open at the halfway stage and he's the man to beat. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 21:10.

Min Woo Lee -10 5.14/1
Tommy Fleetwood -8 5.85/1
Johannes Veerman -8 12.011/1
Mikko Korhonen -8 15.014/1
Adri Arnous -8 17.016/1
Henrik Stenson -7 16.015/1
Alex Levy -7 20.019/1
Daniel van Tonder -7 26.025/1
Edoardo Molinari -7 30.029/1
Nicolai Hojgaard -7 36.035/1
-6 and 46.045/1 bar

I've spent too long looking at the contenders here and all I've finished up doing is arriving back to the man at the top of the leaderboard.

Cases can be made for the recent Czech Masters winner, Johannes Veerman, European Tour heavyweights, Tommy Fleetwood and Henrik Stenson, as well as the experienced Finn, Mikko Korhonen, and several others from further back but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the price of the leader at 5.14/1.

Veerman was perhaps a little fortunate to win given the collapse of several others on Sunday in the Czech Republic so I'm not convinced he's a great price to follow up and Fleetwood looks short enough given his propensity to go AWOL in round three.

Fleetwood's been leading or within two of the lead ten times since he won the Abu Dhabi Championship in 2018 without winning and on the last three occasions he's trailed by two after 36 holes he's finished 29th, 19th and 17th.

Having finished inside the top-four in each of his last two starts, Stenson is playing some of the best golf he's played in years but he's not just playing for the Italian Open title, he's also playing for a place on Padraig Harrington's European Ryder Cup team and we saw last week in Switzerland just how heavy a burden that is when Austria's Bernd Wiesberger double-bogeyed the final hole with the tournament and a place on the team on the line. Korhonen is a difficult player to weigh up. He can be reliable in-contention but more often than not, he isn't.

Looking further down the list, Matt Cooper's each-way pick, Alex Levy, and the multiple winner, Daniel Van Tonder certainly can't be dismissed lightly and there are a couple of brothers lurking with something to prove...

Edoardo Molinari would love to emulate his brother, Francesco, who's won his national title twice previously and he's certainly playing some incredible tee-to-green golf and with the putter constantly holding him back, yesterday's hole-in-one could be as good as it gets for Dodo.

Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard would no doubt love to break his European Tour duck a week after his brother Rasmus won his third title last Sunday and we can't rule out someone winning from much further back but the value appears to sit with the leader.

As many as 36.5% of two-stroke 36-hole leaders have converted on the European Tour in the last 25 years and that includes three of the last six.

Lee is playing nicely without putting spectacularly (ranks 47th for Putting Average and 57th for Strokes Gained Putting so far this week) so if the flatstick warms up a bit, he may take some stopping. He's generally a 10/3 chance on the High Street and no bigger than 7/2 so I was quite happy to take a small interest at 5.14/1.

14:45 - September 3, 2021

The second round of the Italian Open is well underway on the European Tour and the afternoon wave have a chance to dominate after enjoying an advantage of 2.24 strokes yesterday morning. I'll be back later to look at the state of play at halfway there but for now I'm concentrating on the PGA Tour action where the opening round of the Tour Championship panned out fairly uneventfully.

Tony Finau, who began the event in second place and second in the FedEx Cup standings, shot a disappointing two-over-par 72 to slide down into a tie for eighth place but the other four players in the top-five before the off all shot below-par rounds and the market hasn't changed considerably.

Jon Rahm was a well-backed favourite before the off and after an impressive opening five-under-par 65, that saw him gain two strokes on Cantlay, he's firmed up at the front of the market.

Here are the standings, before the off, with all the handicap allowances, and below that is the leaderboard after round one with prices to back at 14:40.

P Cantlay -10
T Finau -8
B DeChambeau -7
J Rahm -6
C Smith -5
J Thomas, H English, A Ancer, J Spieth, S Burns -4
C Morikawa, S Im, V Hovland, L Oosthuizen, D Johnson -3
R McIlroy, X Schauffele, J Kokrak, K Na, B Koepka -2
C Conners, H Matsuyama, S Cink, J Niemann, S Scheffler -1
D Berger, E Van Rooyen, S Garcia, B Horschel, Patrick Reed Level Par.

Patrick Cantlay -13 3.613/5
Jon Rahm -11 2.89/5
Bryson DeChambeau -8 15.014/1
Harris English -8 25.024/1
Justin Thomas -7 20.019/1
Viktor Hovland -7 27.026/1
Cameron Smith -7 34.033/1
Tony Finau -6 60.059/1
Kevin Na -6 180.0179/1
Dustin Johnson -5 46.045/1
-5 and 60.059/1

The front two are in an ominous position after just one round and should either man put in a low one later today, we might end up with a really dull weekend at East Lake.

Cantlay's putting wasn't anywhere near as good as it was last week at the BMW Championship and yet he still shot a very respectable opening round so if the putter warms up today the rest could be in trouble. And given Jon Rahm's run of form of late, he looks a better price than the Spaniard...

Rahm has been in contention in every event he's played in since May but his US Open win at Torrey Pines remains his sole success of the summer.

He led the BMW Championship after round one last week but cut a frustrated figure throughout the weekend before eventually finishing ninth and I'm more than happy to leave him out at this stage.

After last week's disappointment, where he was beaten in extra time at the BMW Championship by Cantlay, after trading at 1.021/50 with just two holes to play, it perhaps wasn't surprising to see Bryson DeChambeau starting so slowly but he birdied the last three holes of his opening round and if there's any value to be had today, it may well sit with the world number seven.

DeChambeau is generally a 10/1 chance on the High Street and no bigger than 11/1 so at 15.014/1, I was happy to take a small chance.

I suspect we'll see the event dominated by no more than two or three players after the halfway stage and DeChambeau is nicely placed to improve on yesterday's round.

Tour Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Justin Thomas @ 24.023/1
Jordan Spieth @ 42.041/1

In-Play Pick:
Bryson DeChambeau @ 15.014/1

Italian Open Pre-Event Selection:
Calum Hill @ 46.045/1

In-Play Pick:
Min Woo Lee @ 5.14/1

Find Me a 100 Winner Picks:
Tour Championship
Back 1 u Kevin Na @ 450.0449/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

Italian Open
Back 1 1/2 u James Morrison @ 180.0179/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Grant Forrest @ 220.0219/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Jorge Campillo @ 300.0299/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 1 u Ross McGowan @ 360.0359/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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