We're down to four in the WGC Match Play in Austin and our man fancies the favourite to convert. Read Steve's final in-play thoughts for the week here...
“Francesco Molinari, who plays last year’s beaten finalist, Kevin Kisner, in the other semi-final, is a firm favourite and rightly so. He ticked all the right boxes before the off (winner this year, high seed, major champion, fancied in the market and Ryder Cupper) and he’s playing superbly.”
12:45- March 31, 2019
Pre-event 200.0199/1 chance, Stephen Gallacher, has just claimed the Indian Open, despite making a quadruple-bogey eight at the par four seventh in round four, and I'll have more on what turned out to be a very dramatic finish in tomorrow's de-brief but we've still got two events to go today first...
Having thrown a small each-way bet on Lucas Bjerregaard, once I saw he was drawn with pre-event pick, Matt Wallace, and having backed Joe Dyer's each-way selection, Matt Kuchar, yesterday, I've somehow got myself a guaranteed finalist in the WGC Match Play but I still don't fancy my chances of collecting.
Francesco Molinari, who plays last year's beaten finalist, Kevin Kisner, in the other semi-final, is a firm favourite and rightly so. He ticked all the right boxes before the off (winner this year, high seed, major champion, fancied in the market and Ryder Cupper) and he's playing superbly. I fancy he'll ease past Kisner and take all the beating so I'm tempted to back him now but I'm not going to. If Kisner does beat Molinari I'll be in a better position to lay back some of my Kuchar or Bjerregaard bet to guarantee a nice profit so I'm just going to wait and see what happens.
Over at the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship, my in-play pick, Sungjae Im, who was celebrating his 21st birthday yesterday, looked like running away with the tournament when he reached six-under-par for the day after two thirds of his third round but the wheels came off after that and having been matched at a low of 1.68/13 he bogeyed three of the last six holes and it's Graeme McDowell that leads with a round to go. Here are the latest standings with prices to back at 12:35.
Graeme McDowell -15 3.1511/5
Chris Stroud -14 5.85/1
Sungjae Im -13 5.85/1
Aaron Baddeley -13 7.613/2
-11 and 30.029/1 bar
Having backed Im at just a shade over 3/1 I may have layed the stakes back if I'd have been around last night but I was out celebrating the fact that I was born exactly 30 years before the young Korean so I'm just going to hope he can bounce back today.
The front two, G-Mac and Chris Stroud, both fired eight-under-par 64s and those scores were both the best of the day and two strokes better than anyone else managed. The age-old question of whether either of them can back up yesterday's brilliance therefore applies but G-Mac's already answered it once this week. He shot 64 on Friday too!
G-Mac putted fantastically, one-putting the first 15 holes but can he keep that going today? It's asking a lot to go low for a third day in-a-row and I just wonder how he'll respond to a slow start if he has one? This is the first time he's been in the final group on the PGA Tour since 2015 and he looks fractionally short to me.
Stroud is hard to fancy given he's been within two of the lead with a round to go ten times previously but never won (led three times and sat second five times) and it's hard to know how Im will react to his late collapse yesterday?
In three previous renewals of the event, we've seen one winner tied for the lead through 54 holes, one winner two back and one winner two clear, suggesting, albeit from a tiny sample size, that we shouldn't be scanning too far down the leaderboard and the value now looks to be with Arron Baddeley. The veteran Aussie has been in-the-mix a few times of late without collecting but those recent experiences could stand him in good stead. He finished second at the Puerto Rico Open a month ago having led with a round to go and he fell from third to 17th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational three weeks ago.
I've thrown a few pounds on my old mate, Ben Crane, who trails by six, at a massive price, as he can go super low if the putter gets hot and he has won from way off the pace before but other than that I'm going to stick with what I have and cross my fingers. It's a really tricky one to call but if I had to plump for one now, at the prices it would be Baddeley.
10:10- March 30, 2019
We've reached the knockout phase of the WGC - Match Play and there's no doubt at all which round four match is the standout. Rory McIlroy is the strong favourite to beat Tiger Woods, currently trading at 1.625/8, but only a fool would write of Woods, especially after his finish against Patrick Cantlay to win his group.
This isn't my favourite event in the schedule, not by a long chalk, but a tie like this gets the juices going. It's going to be a fascinating tussle and one which the golfing world is looking forward to immensely but it doesn't look like a tie to get involved in.
I didn't think I'd be getting any further involved in the tournament but having looked at the draw, I quite like the look of Matt Kuchar at 17.016/1.
The 2013 winner has already won twice this season too and his route through to tomorrow's semi-finals doesn't look too tricky. He plays Tyrrell Hatton in round four and if he gets through there, he'll face either Branden Grace or Sergio Garcia. I thought 17.016/1 looked a reasonable price for a very small wager.
There can't be too many people to have woken up on their 21st birthday leading a PGA Tour event through 36 holes but that's the case this morning for the hugely talented Korean, Sungjae Im. He's trading at just over 3/1 this morning and that looks more than fair.
Given there's only been three editions, we can't read too much in to the previous results but for what it's worth, last year's winner, Brice Garnett, was in front at this stage, while the first two winners, when the event was staged on the Web.com Tour, both won from off the pace. Dominic Bozzelli sat fifth and four back in 2016 and Nate Langley trailed five in a tie for eighth.
Graeme McDowell shot an eight-under-par 64 yesterday, three players fired 65s and three shot 66s, so low scores are out there with so little wind. That suggests there's no reason to think we'll see huge amounts of change today. Poor weather usually leads to a tumultuous leaderboard, as many of the field falter and the odd player thrives. When it's benign, in-form players (and if you're leading, you're in form) tend to just keep scoring well as long as nerves don't strike and with the wind forecast to gust no harder than five knots, I like the leader.
The third round of the Indian Open is drawing to a close and Julian Suri and Callum Shinkwin have pulled three clear of the rest, with Suri leading by two. I'm going to leave this one alone until tomorrow when I may get involved in-running. As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, the course offers up the possibility of all sorts of drama and we saw plenty 12 months ago.
21:25- March 29, 2019
The final day of the group stage of the WGC-Match Play is well underway and the results have already set up a mouth-watering round of 16 tie, with pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy meeting Tiger Woods tomorrow.
I've leaving that one alone for now but I'm updating because of I had another bet at the Hero Indian Open, where Julian Suri still leads. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:20.
Julian Suri -10 2.767/4
George Coetzee -8 6.25/1
Robert Karlsson -8 15.014/1
Scott Hend -7 10.09/1
Callum Shinkwin -7 15.014/1
Prayad Marksaeng -6 36.035/1
Masahiro Kawamura -5 40.039/1
-4 and 38.037/1 bar
Julian Suri is a perfectly fair favourite and he was very impressive when he won the Made in Denmark in 2017 but he's put in a couple of iffy efforts in-the-mix since and he hasn't been in-contention in a while so I'm happy to look for an alternative.
George Coetzee isn't the most reliable and he still hasn't won outside of his native South Africa and 49-year-old Robert Karlsson is attempting to win for the first time in more than eight years. I'm happy to ignore both.
Since losing a playoff to Rafa Cabrera-Bello at the Scottish Open in 2017, where he really should have won (traded at long odds-on in regulation play), Callum Shinkwin has put in some terrible efforts in-the-mix and I'm happy to dismiss him too so the one I like inside the top-five places is last week's winner, Scott Hend.
It's asking a lot for the veteran Australian to win back-to-back but he looks fractionally too big given the others in-contention and I'm happy to take a small chance at 10.09/1.
10:10 - March 29, 2019
It didn't take me too long to get jaded with this week's main event - the WGC Match Play. Jason Day losing to Jim Furyk, having been 3 up after eight holes, coupled with wall-to-wall coverage of the Tiger Woods - Aaron Wise game on TV on Wednesday was enough to turn me off.
Furyk holed some ridiculous putts to turn the tie around and as each one dropped, Day's back appeared to get worse. I don't know what to make of Day and his injuries but I tend to ignore them. Maybe I'm being too harsh and cynical but I've seen him go from looking unable to move to winning with ease before so I tend to just ignore any talk of injuries. Has it cost me this time? Possibly? Possibly not? He looked OK until Jimbo started holing bombs!
I'm a bit miffed not to be on the firm favourite after two days - Rory McIlroy. I'd have taken 13.012/1 before the off but he didn't trade any bigger than 12.011/1 but he looks a little short now at just 5.69/2 given he isn't yet sure to progress. Victory against today's opponent, the already eliminated, Matt Fitzpatrick, will see him through but that's no guarantee. If he does get beat, unless the two play out a tie, McIlroy will then playoff for a place in the last 16 against either Luke List of Justin Harding. All the different scenarios for each of the 16 groups are here.
My each-way pick, Abraham Ancer, is still alive but he needs to beat Charles Howell III today and hope that Paul Casey loses to the already eliminated, Cameron Smith. I won't hold my breath.
Matt Wallace, who I backed each-way at 100/1, will progress if he beats Lucas Bjerregaard and Justin Thomas fails to beat Keegan Bradley. And he'll progress if he beats Bjerregaard and Thomas in a playoff, should Thomas beat Bradley. It was much simpler in the old days when they just knocked each-other out!
The draw was made after the preview was posted and when I saw Bjerregaard had been drawn in the same group as Wallace, I decided to back him each-way too, at 150/1, so I'm hoping one of them can get through today. If one does, and they win their round of 16 match, I will have somehow scrambled a small profit form what's been a bit of a dog's dinner.
The WGC Match Play isn't looking promising but my pick's there are faring far better than they are at the Indian Open. Anirban Lahiri drifted like a barge before the off and he played like the drift was justified. He's already missed the cut and my only other selection, SSP Chawrasia, needed to finish eagle-birdie to make the weekend but look how close he came to albatross-birdie!
Julian Suri, who underwent surgery at the end of last year to repair a core muscle injury, has moved clear of the field following a pair of very impressive five-under-par 67s but the second round is still underway and last week's winner, Scott Hend, is one of those making a move from the afternoon wave. I'm inclined to think I'm going to leave the event alone for now and see what tomorrow bring but if I do get involved I'll provide a further update later today.
I signed of my Corales Puntacana R & C Championship preview stating that I'd update Twitter if I added to my sole selection, Brain Stuard, and I did.
Just Sam Burns added at the Coarales. Also backed him for a top-20 at 11/4 and Stuard at 3/1 for a top-20? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) March 27, 2019
Stuard's started nicely enough with a one-under-par 71 and I was pleased enough with Sam Burns' start. He shot a four-under-par 68 to sit tied for fifth and just two off the lead and with an early start today, I'm hopeful he can stay in-contention. I'm aslo surprised that he can still be backed at just a shade under 30.029/1.
Again, I'm going to see where we are with this one at halfway too.
WGC - Match Play Pre-Event Selections:
Jason Day @ 28.027/1
Matt Wallace @ 100/1 (each-way)
Lucas Bjerregaard @ 125/1 (each-way) (after preview published)
Matt Kuchar @ 17.016/1
Corales Puntacana R & C Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Brian Stuard @ 60/1 (Sportsbook)
Sam Burns @ 55.054/1 (after preview published)
Brian Stuard - Top-20 Finish @ 3/1 (Sportsbook)
Sam Burns - Top-20 Finish @ 11/4 (Sportsbook)
Sungjae Im @ 4.216/5
Ben Crane @ 240.0239/1
Indian Open Pre-Event Selections:
Anirban Lahiri @ 18.017/1
SSP Chawrasia @ 65.064/1
Scott Hend @ 10.09/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter