Thomas Pieters takes a two-stroke lead into the final round of the D&D REAL Czech Masters and Si Woo Kim leads by four at the Wyndham Championship. Can either be opposed? Read what Steve thinks here...
“Si Woo Kim, has doubled his advantage to four strokes and at a bigger price than Pieters, he looks a good thing if you don’t mind taking odds-on. His closest challenger is the flaky Spaniard, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and given 32 of 42 four-stroke leaders have gone on to win on the PGA Tour over the last 20 years (76%), odds of almost 1.910/11 on the exchange look very fair.”
10:40 - August 21, 2016
Pre-event favourite, Thomas Pieters, has a fantastic opportunity to defend his title in the Czech Republic and looks almost unopposable and with a four-stroke lead, Si Woo Kim looks a very fair price at around 1.910/11.
After a run of four birdies in five holes, Pieters was matched at just 1.282/7 after only ten holes of yesterday's third round but back-to-back bogeys at 11 and 12 and a string of pars thereafter have seen his lead reduced to just two with a round to go.
Only 42% of two-stroke third round leaders on the European Tour have converted since 1996 so an argument could be made for taking on Pieters at less than 1.75/7 but his opposition doesn't look strong and I can see him defending his title.
Paul Peterson in second and Jeff Winther in a tie for third and three behind Pieters were both matched at 1000.0 before the off and Robert Rock, alongside Winther in third, has won just twice in 341 European Tour starts and he hasn't tasted success in over four years.
I haven't completely given up on Matt Fitzpatrick, who trails Pieters by five, and it's not inconceivable that first round leader and early in-running wager, Ryan Evans, could yet get involved from five back also but I can't really see past Pieters.
Over at the Wyndham Championship, halfway leader, Si Woo Kim, has doubled his advantage to four strokes and at a bigger price than Pieters, he looks a good thing if you don't mind taking odds-on. His closest challenger is the flaky Spaniard, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, and given 32 of 42 four-stroke leaders have gone on to win on the PGA Tour over the last 20 years (76%), odds of almost 1.910/11 on the exchange look very fair.
I've not had a great week and maybe I should have just put the spade down and stop digging but I can't see past the front two and the double on the Sportsbook pays 2.6813/8 at odds of 8/15 Pieters and 3/4 Kim . I am also looking to lay Cabrera-Bello for a Top 5 Finish at odds-on but I won't lose any sleep if I don't get matched.
I'll be back tomorrow with the De-brief.
09:15 - August 20, 2016
Defending champion, Thomas Pieters, and Denmark's Jeff Winther are tied at the top at the D&D REAL Czech Masters. The pair are four clear of the remainder and it's hard to argue against the former's case.
His layers will point to his third round at the Olympics last week when he tumbled out of contention after shooting 77 last Saturday but if that's the one-off I suspect it to be he's going to be very hard to beat. He rallied last Sunday to finish fourth and he's carried that form forward to the Czech Republic nicely. This time last year his family travelled through the night from Belgium to watch him win his first European Tour title and I suspected they've already left this time around.
There's something quite special about Pieters' concentration and determination and he'll take all the beating. We can't dismiss Winther out of hand but it's difficult to see him going toe-to-toe with Pieters all weekend given his profile. He finished a distant second to Charl Schwartzel at the Tshwane Open in February but that's by some distance his best effort to date and it's not entirely surprising to see he was matched at 1000.0 before the off. He's made just three cuts since the Tshwane and tied 48th at the China Open is his best result.
Matt Fitzpatrick, who I backed after round one, is one of the six men tied for third and I'm hopeful he can keep moving forward but Pieters is going to be hard to catch. At anything odds-against the Belgian is a fair price but I can live with leaving him go unbacked at around 2.35/4.
Over in the States, the Wyndham Championship is finely poised after a dramatic second round that saw two players threaten to break 60. Si Woo Kim had a putt at 59 but had to settle for a course and tournament record 60 and Lucas Glover had an even better chance to shoot 59. The 2009 US Open champ had 26 feet to break Kim's brand new course record but he left his birdie attempt 19 inches short and then missed the par putt! Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 9:05.
Hideki Matsuyama -10 6.05/1
Jim Furyk -10 6.411/2
Kevin Na -10 7.87/1
Lucas Glover -10 17.5
Rafa Cabrera-Bello -9 15.014/1
Brandt Snedeker -7 23.022/1
-7 and 44.043/1 bar
As highlighted in the preview, since the tournament returned to Sedgefield in 2008, every winner bar one has been within two of the lead at halfway and the only exception, Webb Simpson in 2011, was only three back and he sat second so it's hard to envisage anyone outside the top five winning.
Si Woo Kim, who only last month was beaten in a playoff at the Barbasol Championship, has to be respected. The Korean was the youngest player ever to graduate to the PGA Tour via Qualifying School back in 2012 but he was so young he had to wait until he'd turned 18 to join the tour in June. He didn't make a cut in any of his eight starts so he dropped off the PGA Tour and plied his trade on the Web.com Tour up until this season.
Kim won the Stonebrae Classic on the Web.com Tour last year and he's clearly on the up. He looks destined for an excellent career but can he hold off an experienced peloton and can he back up yesterday's low round? Something that's notoriously difficult to do.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello struggles with his nerves in the weakest of European Tour events so I'd be astonished to see him win on the PGA Tour and Kevin Na is another that lacks mettle so they're readily dismissed.
Glover hasn't won for five years and can't be trusted to putt well enough all weekend to win and I'm always keen to oppose Jim Furyk in-the-mix nowadays too. I know he got across the line at the Heritage last April but that's his only victory in the almost six years and he's failed to convert a third round lead or co-lead on each of the last ten occasions. Mr. 58, as he'll be forever known after his glorious record-breaking round at the Travelers last time out, is a fabulous player and he looks nailed on to reward Dave Tindall for a place at least but I'm not convinced he's solid enough in-contention nowadays to go backing win only.
Brandt Snedeker has a history of winning from off the pace and he definitely can't be dismissed lightly, despite the stats, but the one I like at the prices is Hideki Matsuyama. The world number 20 isn't a great putter and he will miss short putts over the weekend but he's hitting the ball so well he can overcome that. He's the worthy favourite at this stage and I think he should be a bit shorter than the 6.05/1 he currently trades at.
22:30 - August 18, 2016
I was going to wait until tomorrow to kick off the in-running blog but as I've got involved at the D&D REAL Czech Masters already I thought I'd start it before round two begins.
It's been a poor day for my pre-event picks and especially so in the Czech Republic where both my selections have been bitterly disappointing. Playing in the afternoon, Callum Shinkwin shot a three-over-par 75 but the big disaster was the first nine holes shot by my other pick, Haydn Porteous.
I fancied the South African to go really well this week but by the time he made the turn this morning he was already 10-over-par! He played his second nine holes (the front nine) in four-under-par so quite what went wrong on the back-nine I've no idea but along with Shinkwin, he has zero chance of success.
It's a bit disappointing but these things happen and I was always going to take a look at the in-running market early on anyway. As highlighted in the In-Play section of the preview, the first two winners at this venue, Jamie Donaldson and Thomas Pieters, were always in the van and the first three home 12 months ago were all tied for third after round one. We don't have oodles of form to go on but what we do have suggests that this is a course that heavily favours the frontrunners so I'm playing early pacesetter Ryan Evans and classy Sheffielder, Matt Fitzpatrick.
Evans is a player I've been watching for a while and he certainly caught the eye while the USPGA Championship was in progress a couple of weeks ago. Playing in Thailand in the Kings Cup, it looked as though he'd made the long journey in vain when he made the turn in round two. After a drab three-over-par first round, the Englishman played the front nine of his second round in four-over-par but he went bonkers on the back nine, shooting a six-under-par 29 to make the cut and a respectable 67-68 weekend performance saw him climb to a tie for 15th. What's he capable of with a fast start?
Ryan only turned pro in 2014, this is his first season on the European Tour and this is the first time he's led a tournament after the first round. How he'll react is anyone's guess but I'm happy to throw a few pounds on him and cheer him on at 40.039/1.
Prior to the off, the one I liked towards the head of the market was Matt Fitzpatrick but given his form can be a bit hit and miss, I was happy to leave him out before the start. He's missed ten cuts this year already but he's also won the Nordea Masters so it made sense to wait and see how he started.
After a bogey-free three-under-par 69, Fitzpatrick sits three off the lead in a tie for 11th and that's good enough for me. Like Evans, Fitzpatrick will be out early tomorrow and I can see him moving up nicely.
The first round of the Wyndham Championship is still in progress so I'll take a look at that one tomorrow.
Callum Shinkwin @ 55.054/1
Haydn Porteous @ 70.069/1
Matt Fitzpatrick @ 9.28/1
Ryan Evans @ 40.039/1
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