The Punter's In-Play Blog: Is odds-on Thomas set to win again?

Golfer Justin Thomas
Justin Thomas - two clear at Muirfield Village

They're off and running in Austria and soon to start in Ohio so check out Steve's final in-running update of the week here...

“Thomas has led or co-led through three rounds 13 times in his career to date and he’s gone on to win on nine occasions so at first glance, odds of around [1.7] look more than fair but there are definitely reasons to be cautious.”

09:50 - July 12, 2020

The final round of the Austrian Open has already begun and it's tight at the top. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 9:30, together with the final round tee-times.

Marc Warren -11 [5.9] 10:54
Nicolai Von Dellingshausen -11 [7.2] 10:54
Connor Syme -10 [6.0] 10:43
Darius Van Driel -10 [10.0] 10:43
Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez -10 [11.5] 10:54
Joost Luiten -9 [6.0] 10:32
Marcel Schneider -9 [19.0] 10:43
Joel Stalter -9 [25.0] 10:32
-7 and [50.0] bar

The halfway leader, Miguel Angel Jimenez, fell away in the rain yesterday and with a gap of two strokes to those sitting tied for ninth, the event looks to be between the top-eight.

My in-play pick, Joost Luiten, was a bit disappointing yesterday but he still holds every chance and it's nice to see my [300.0] shot, Joel Stalter, one of just two pre-event picks, right in the thick of it. I've not seen any of the tournament and there are no in-running stats so given how tight it is, I'm happy to just leave the event alone now and shout those two on.

With next week's Memorial Tournament also being played at Muirfield Village, and with the possibility of more poor weather latter on today, the organisers have wisely moved the tee-times forward at the Workday Charity Open and the leaders will tee off just after 14:00 UK time. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back and tee times at 9:40.

Justin Thomas -16 [1.66] 14:01
Viktor Hovland -14 [4.8] 14:01
Collin Morikawa -13 [8.4] 14:01
Kevin Streelman -11 [48.0] 13:50
Sam Burns -11 [65.0] 13:50
Ian Poulter -10 [130.0] 13:39
Rory Sabbatini -10 [160.0] 13:39
-9 and [100.0] bar

With the putter cooling off for the halfway leader, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas has cruised into the lead with his third successive bogey-free round at Muirfield Village. He's the first to play the first three rounds of a tournament here bogey-free since Jim Furyk in 1997 and with a two-stroke lead, he's now an odds-on chance to convert.

Thomas has led or co-led through three rounds 13 times in his career to date and he's gone on to win on nine occasions so at first glance, odds of around [1.7] look more than fair but there are definitely reasons to be cautious.

On the last occasion he led through three rounds, Thomas shot 73 in round four at the WGC-Mexico Championship in February. Having led by a stroke, he went on to finish fifth, beaten by five, and he blew a four-stroke 54-hole lead at the Genesis Open two years ago, so he can't be described as bombproof. Add to the equation that 54-hole leaders don't have a tremendous record here and we might yet see plenty of drama today.

Bryson DeChambeau (2018) and William McGirt (2016) have both won from the front recently. DeChambeau began the final round one in front and McGirt was tied for the lead but they both won in extra time and it's noticeable that the last eight players to lead or co-lead at Muirfield Village have all failed to shoot any better than 71 in round four.

It's well worth highlighting that the set-ups would have been different previously, with the greens faster than they'll be today but even so, as highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, this course has witnessed lots of final round drama recently and it might be naïve to expect a comfortable cruise to victory for Thomas.

Viktor Hovland and Morikawa are the obvious dangers to Thomas and Dave's pick, Kevin Streelman, is still on the premises. Hovland was just as impressive as Thomas yesterday but like Thomas, he has to back up a low round -something that's never easy to do. Morikawa birdied the 18th to give him some encouragement yesterday and I wouldn't be surprised to see him bounce back today, given how well he's clearly playing, but I'm adding another of Dave's picks - Rickie Fowler.

Like the two leaders, Fowler also shot 66 yesterday so he too needs to back that up today, and he also has six strokes to make up on Thomas, so he has plenty to do but I thought he was worth chancing at [130.0].

Fowler is a better chaser than he is frontrunner and he's won a number of titles from off the pace. I'm happy to have Thomas onside after yesterday's wager and I'll look to lay some back in-running if he trades below [1.5] but given we've seen numerous winners here from four and five strokes back, and that Kevin Na lost a playoff in 2014, having trailed by seven with a round to go, I'm happy to throw a few pounds at Fowler at a huge price.

12:20 - July 11, 2020

It's never easy to gauge how an event's going to pan out once poor weather moves in. It's hard to know how long the breaks are going to last and whether you're better off to be in the house or not.

Looking at the forecasts, it looked like those drawn early on day two at the Workday Charity Open might catch a break - getting their second rounds done before poor weather badly disrupted the afternoon wave - but it transpired that an afternoon tee time was far from a hinderance.

Following the rain, and after two separate weather breaks, the wind disappeared and the rain-soaked course was very gettable. Collin Morikawa, who was matched at a low of [2.1] as he sat in the house with a five-stroke lead but the leaderboard has a very different look this morning.

The second round hasn't quite finished but nobody's close enough to catch Morikawa. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 12:15.

Collin Morikawa -13 [2.98]
Justin Thomas -10 [4.2]
Kevin Streelman -10 [12.5]
Hideki Matsuyama -9 [12.5]
Sam Burns -9 [40.0]
Viktor Hovland -8 [16.5]
Rory Sabbatini -8 (played 17 holes of round 2) [60.0]
-7 and [34.0] bar

Since 1996, 73 players have held a three-stroke 36-hole lead in a 72-hole tournament on the PGA Tour and 26 of them went on to win. That's a return of 35.6%, suggesting Morikawa's odds of around 2/1 are about right. If he continues to putt as well as he has for the first two days he's going to take some beating but that is an if to be considered given putting is usually his weakness. His price is fair but no more than that.

Dave Tindall's fancy, Kevin Streelman, shot the lowest round of the week so far with an eight-under-par 64 to get within three of the lead but the most obvious threat to Morikawa is world number five, Justin Thomas, who's yet to drop a shot.

Course winner, Hideki Matsuyama, is another big danger to the leader and I've felt compelled to have a small saver on Sam Burns, who I backed before the off in the Memorial Tournament here last June at [350.0] when he withdrew after shooting 81 in round one, but I've also backed Thomas.

Thomas has a fantastic strike-rate and he looks a very fair price at in excess of 3/1. He's the most likely to catch Morikawa and I thought [4.3] was more than fair for the pre-tournament favourite.

21:15 - July 10, 2020

Play has just begun again at the Workday Charity Open.

21:05 - July 10, 2020

The absence of any TV coverage at the Austrian Open is absolutely understandable given the current situation but with 56-year-old, Miguel Angel Jimenez, two strokes clear at halfway, bidding to break his own record for the oldest winner on the European Tour, for the fourth time, it's a crying shame we're not getting to see it.

Jimenez first became the oldest European Tour winner at the Hong Kong Open in 2012 when 48 years and 307 days old. He successfully defended that title the following year at 49 years, 337 days, and then he broke the record for a third time at the 2014 Open de Espana, where he lifted his 21st European Tour title at 50 years, 133 days. This is his 705th tournament on the European Tour and victory would be quite a story. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:00 and third round tee times (UK and Ireland).

Miguel Angel Jimenez -11 [5.0] 10:24
Joost Luiten -9 [4.2] 10:24
Renato Paratore -9 [8.6] 10:13
Marc Warren -9 [17.5] 10:24
Nicolai Von Dellingshausen -9 [22.0] 10:13
Craig Howie -9 [36.0] 10:13
Darius Van Driel -8 [26.0]
-7 and [38.0] bar

As fabulous a story as it would be to have Jimenez win again, and this time with his son on the bag, it's hard to see him getting the job done over the weekend. It's one thing to play two superb rounds after such a long break at his age but it's quite another to keep going for another two.

Both of my pre-event picks, Wil Besseling and Joel Stalter, sit tied for eighth and only four of the lead so they're certainly not out of it but I was more than happy to add a small wager on the pre-event favourite, and previous course winner, Joost Luiten, at [4.3]. he's no bigger than 11/4 on the High Street and nor should he be.

Over at the Workday Charity Open, we're currently experiencing the second weather delay of the day but that won't bother first round leader, Collin Morikawa, who's extended his lead to six following a very impressive six-under-par 66. He's currently trading at just [2.26] and that doesn't look too short.

I'll be back at some stage tomorrow with a look at the event but it's unlikely we'll reach the halfway stage

11:15 - July 10, 2020

The second round of the Austrian Open is well underway but updates are only every three holes and it's a frustrating tournament to follow. The pre-event favourite, Joost Luiten, who led after round one, was still showing the way early on today and having been a well-fancied [8.4] chance before the off, he's already been matched at a low of [2.38]. He was two clear of the field after he'd played his first six holes but a triple-bogey seven at the seventh saw him drop back into a tie for fourth.

I'm leaving the event alone for now and I'll take a look again at the halfway stage but I have had one small bet in the states...

Collin Morikawa has pretty much everything apart from a consistently good putter and when he began yesterday's opening round at the Workday Charity Open by missing birdie puts from eight, 12 and 11 feet at his first three holes, it looked like we might be in for another typical Morikawa performance.

So consistent is the 23-year-old Californian, that his missed cut last time out at the Travelers Championship was his first weekend off in 23 starts on the PGA Tour. He looks the best of this current crop of youngsters and when the putts start dropping, he's hard to beat.

Morikawa's irons were so well dialled in yesterday that only one of his birdie putts was from outside of 12 feet and his round got going in earnest when he made an eagle three at the fifth from just three feet! His opening seven-under-par was despite of a bogey at his final hole and he's clearly in good heart but he looks quite short at only [6.0] given only three co-first round leaders have gone on to claim the prize at Muirfield Village and no solo first round leader has won in the last 25 years.

Those stats are against him but the draw isn't. Morikawa tees off at 12:23 UK time and with bad weather forecasted for later in the day, if he can get in and post a decent score again, he won't be inconvenienced by having to finish up round two tomorrow.

The only other player inside the top-six and within two of Morikawa's lead that tees off in the morning wave is Aaron Wise. He's not been in great form since the restart and he's missed the cut here in his two previous outings but he looks worth chancing at [50.0] this morning.

As highlighted in the preview, there appears to be quite a strong correlation with Firestone and Wise finished sixth there in his only start at the course in 2018. I'm not convinced the talented 24-year-old should be eight times the price of Morikawa given he's already a winner on the PGA Tour, having won the Byron Nelson in impressive style two years ago.

Austrian Open Pre-Event Selections:
Will Besseling @ [75.0]
Joel Stalter @ [300.0]

In-Play Pick:
Joost Luiten @ [4.3]

Workday Charity Open Pre-Event Selections:
Bubba Watson @ [140.0]
Ryan Armour @ [160.0]
Mackenzie Hughes @ [230.0]
Brendan Steele @ [320.0]
Harry Higgs @ [570.0]

In-Play Picks:
Aaron Wise @ [50.0]
Justin Thomas @ [4.3]
Sam Burns @ [40.0]
Rickie Fowler @ [130.0]

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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