Justin Thomas will take a one shot lead into the fourth and final round of the ZOZO Championship at Sherwood Country Club but is he a fair price to convert?
"Rahm has to be the pick. He’s made a habit of creeping his way into contention before finishing the job off in style and I can see why he’s the one attracting support this morning. Odds of around 3.412/5 are very fair."
11:10 - October 25, 2020
With a nine-under-par 63 in round three, world number two, Jon Rahm, climbed 20 places up into second and he's very much the big danger to the 54-hole leader of the ZOZO Championship, Justin Thomas. Here's the 54 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:00.
Justin Thomas -19 2.727/4
Jon Rahm -18 3.3512/5
Lanto Griffin -17 16.5
Patrick Cantlay -16 15.014/1
Sebastian Munoz -16 32.031/1
Ryan Palmer -16 32.031/1
Webb Simpson -15 30.029/1
Bubba Watson -15 40.039/1
Matthew Fitzpatrick -15 40.039/1
Scottie Scheffler -15 48.047/1
Brian Harman -15 80.079/1
Dylan Frittelli -15 95.094/1
-14 and 95.094/1 bar
World number three, Justin Thomas, who's in search of his third PGA Tour win of the season, and his 14th in total, has a very respectable record when out in front, as Justin's tweet below demonstrates.
Justin Thomas leads by 1 entering the final round of the @PGATOUR Zozo Championship.? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) October 25, 2020
Thomas is 8-for-13 converting 54-hole leads/co-leads into wins on the PGA Tour.
Most 54-hole leads on PGA Tour since 2015:
Those stats suggest he's a perfectly fair price to convert today but if we dig a little deeper, doubts begin to surface.
When holding a clear lead, Thomas has a 50% strike-rate, converting four of eight, but he's actually been beaten on three of the last four occasions he's led and he's been a bit wobbly.
He was cruelly denied at the end of the Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village in July when Colin Morikawa produced an incredible finish but Thomas didn't help himself that day. He started the final round poorly and finished it poorly too to let in Morikawa.
Back in February, he fell from first and a stroke clear to sixth, beaten by five, after a final round 73 at the WGC-Mexico Championship and in February last year, he blew a four-stroke lead at the Genesis Open at Riviera. He did win the BMW Championship in August last year, having led with a round to go but he led by six that day and went on to win by three. With Rahm on his shoulder, this is a big day for Thomas.
With a career strike-rate of almost 10%, Rahm is even more prolific than Thomas and the Spaniard is looking to win his third title in just nine starts having pulverised the field at the memorial tournament back in August and pounced late to beat Dustin Johnson in extra time in the BMW Championship.
These are two of the game's absolute best and there's just a chance that we may get another glorious finish, like we did at the BMW, but at the prices, Rahm has to be the pick. He's made a habit of creeping his way into contention before finishing the job off in style and I can see why he's the one attracting support this morning. Odds of around 3.412/5 are very fair.
I'd like to think my in-play pick, Lanto Griffin, can keep tabs with the two giants at the head of affairs but he really didn't make the most of yesterday's terrific start (birdied the first four holes) and he looked adgy coming in, bogeying two of the last four to fall out of the lead.
My 150.0149/1 Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Sebastian Munoz, who led after round one, isn't out of it after battling his way back into the fray yesterday but I'm certainly more hopeful than confident that he can at least trade low enough to hit the lay target of 10.09/1 and if there are to be any dangers to the front two, they may well come from further back.
As we saw yesterday with Rahm, and as detailed in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, it's perfectly possible to make up ground here so we can't rule anyone within five, six or even seven shots out.
I've backed Rahm at 3.412/5 but I've also thrown a few pounds at the five players tied for 15th and six off the lead at a minimum price of 400.0399/1.
9:20 - October 25, 2020
Laurie Canter, who led the Italian Open after both rounds one and two, birdied the last three holes in round three and his nearest pursuer at the halfway stage, Ross McGowan, birdied three of the last four. Here's the current state of play with prices to back at 9:15.
Laurie Canter -19 2.466/4
Ross McGowan -19 5.49/2
Dean Burmester -16 8.615/2
Nicolas Colsaerts -15 15.5
Sebastian Heisele -15 20.019/1
Adri Arnaus -14 21.020/1
Tapio Pulkkanen -14 50.049/1
Martin Kaymer -13 34.033/1
Bernd Wiesberger -13 34.033/1
-13 and 100.099/1 bar
With four holes of round three to play, this event had a very different look about it but the finishes by Canter and McGowan have opened up a bit of a gap. Should one of them shoot four or five under par today then they'll take an awful lot of catching but they both look vulnerable to me.
Canter is in search of his first European Tour victory and it's never easy to win wire-to-wire. He must be getting mentally tired at least and given victory for McGowan would secure his playing privileges for the next couple of years, he's bound to be feeling nervous this morning too.
If I had to plump for one of the two leaders, I'd go for McGowan at the prices. His sole European Tour success came 11 years ago at the Madrid Masters but he's won on the Challenge Tour as recently as last year and I'd rather take in excess of 4/1 about him than around 6/4 about Canter.
Defending champion, Bernd Wiesberger, and major winner, Martin Kaymer, are the big names on the leaderboard but even if the front two really struggle, six strokes is a lot to make up and the one I like is last year's Open de France winner, Nicolas Colsaerts.
But for a crazy three-hole stretch on Friday morning, when he played three holes in four-over-par, the big-hitting Belgian has looked extremely dangerous and he could very easily knock it around here in six or seven under today.
I'll be back shortly with a look at the ZOZO Championship where Justin Thomas leads by one with a round to go.
12:00 - October 24, 2020
Much like Laurie Canter had done in his second round at the Italian Open, Justin Thomas stuttered slightly as he approached the clubhouse in round two of the ZOZO Championship. Having been matched at a low of 2.01/1, Thomas parred his last six holes and with two rounds to go, he leads by just a stroke. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:50.
Justin Thomas -14 3.65
Lanto Griffin -13 19.018/1
Dylan Frittelli -13 26.025/1
Patrick Cantlay -12 13.5
Scottie Scheffler -12 15.5
Tyrrell Hatton -11 16.5
Patrick Reed -11 17.016/1
Bubba Watson -11 24.023/1
Tony Finau -11 25.024/1
Harris English -11 29.028/1
Abraham Ancer -11 32.031/1
Kevin Kisner -11 48.047/1
Richy Werenski -11 160.0159/1
Webb Simpson -10 27.026/1
-10 and 32.031/1 bar
Justin Thomas is as tough as teak and is extremely reliable in-contention. On the last four occasions that he's held a clear lead on the PGA Tour he's gone on to win and his record when leading or co-leading through 36 holes is impressive too.
Since finishing fifth at the John Deere Classic five years ago, when he was still learning his trade, Thomas has led or co-led eight times in total. He went on to win six times and he finished second on the other two occasions.
He was very disappointing at the Genesis Open last year when he let slip a four-stroke lead with a round to go but he's basically pretty solid and very hard to beat. I'm not convinced he's a great price here though...
Low scores are ridiculously easy around Sherwood Country Club, with as many as seven players shooting eight-under par or better yesterday alone. Ricky Werenski banged in an 11-under-par 61 and ground can be made up very quickly. It's also noticeable, and probably more pertinent, how easy it is to lose your way around here too. Plenty of players have put in sorry spells were shots are dropped like confetti and I suspect we may get a very different looking leaderboard after round three.
With as many as eight players tied for sixth and just three off the lead, and with another eight only five adrift, it really does look like anyone's still but I have found a couple of players to back with the Sportsbook.
Lanto Griffin hasn't really taken advantage of the par fives yet but he's putted well so far. He looks reasonably priced at 18/1 given he trails by just a stroke and I've also had a tiny each-way bet on the aforementioned Werenski.
It's notoriously difficult to back up a low round so that's definitely against him but I thought 150/1 with four places still up for grabs was a little bit too big. He won the Barracuda Championship in August so he does at least have recent winning experience on the PGA Tour to draw upon and a place at least is not out of the question.
20:50 - October 23, 2020
The second round of the ZOZO Championship is well underway on the PGA Tour and it's a very long way from enjoyable. Pre-event pick, Tyrrell Hatton, is treading water, having traded at a low of 4.77/2 during the first round and my 150.0149/1 Find Me a 100 Winner selection, Sebastian Munoz, who led after the first round, is tumbling down the leaderboard at a rare rate of knots!
I'll be back tomorrow with a look at the state of play at halfway there but for now I'm concentrating on the Italian Open, where Matt Cooper's 50/1 fancy, Laurie Canter, holds a two-stroke lead. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 20:40.
Laurie Canter -16 3.052/1
Ross McGowan -14 17.5
Dean Burmester -12 11.010/1
J.B Hansen -11 13.012/1
Adrian Otaegui -10 18.017/1
Nicolai Hojgaard -10 42.041/1
Robin Roussel -10 70.069/1
Martin Kaymer -9 21.020/1
Bernd Wiesberger -9 24.023/1
Adri Arnaus -9 30.029/1
Matt Wallace -8 30.029/1
-9 and 60.059/1 bar
At first glance, 30-year-old maiden, Laurie Canter, may look a little short at just a shade over 2/1 with only a two-stroke lead with two rounds to go but 38-year-old, Ross McGowan, who sits second, won his sole title way back in 2009 and he's been largely out of form ever since.
Dean Burmester, alone in third, looks a bigger threat to the leader but he's not one I'd rush to side with either. He's won seven times in his native South African and the last of his wins was at the co-sanctioned Tshwane Open three years ago so he does have a European Tour title to his name but the big-hitting 31-year-old often gets in his own way in-contention. He sat second and just one off the lead at the English Championship back in August but finished sixth, beaten by 11 strokes!
Alone in fourth and fully five back, JB Hansen is still looking for his first European Tour win and he looks short enough at around 12/1.
Canter looked like running away from the field after a decent start today (three-under-par through four) but he didn't add to the tally until the ninth hole and he stuttered after that. Having bogeyed the par five 11th, he had to make a couple of lengthy par saves to keep the round going and he needed a birdie at 18 to post a level-par back-nine in the end.
How the leader begins his third round is critical. The three players immediately behind him aren't likely to frighten him too much but last week's winner, Adrian Otaegui, is tied for fifth and there are a host of quality players lurking, including the defending champions, Bernd Wiesberger (-9) and the pre-event favourite, Matt Wallace (-8). Should Canter struggle, the event could be blown wide open.
I was tempted to play Otaegui, who must be so confident after they way he won last week, and I'm a bit peeved I didn't play Nicolai Højgaard at a huge price before the off but after much deliberation, I'm going to sit this one out for now.
Italy Open Pre-Event Selections:
Matt Wallace @ 13.012/1
David Horsey @ 60.059/1
Chris Paisley @ 65.064/1
Nicolas Colsaerts @ 15.5
ZOZO Championship Pre-Event Selections:
Tyrrell Hatton @ 24.023/1
Matthew Wolff @ 42.041/1
Find Me a 100 Winner Picks:
Back Phil Mickelson 2u @ 140.0139/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1
Back Sebastian Munoz 2u @ 150.0149/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1
Back Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 1u @ 200.0199/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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