- Defending champs have work to do
- Experienced pair the sensible play
- Herbert pips Cockerill in Japan
10:10 - April 23, 2023
Halfway pick, Lucas Herbert, has won the ISPS Handa Championship, beating Canada's Aaron Cockerill in a playoff and I'll have more on that result in tomorrow's Debrief but for now I'm concentrating on this week's PGA Tour event - the Zurich Classic of New Orleans - where there's just one round to go.
With as many as four teams firing 10-under-par 62s in yesterday's four ball format, the defending champions and strong pre-event favourites, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, have again put themselves behind the eight ball with an underwhelming effort in the easiest format.
Having opened the tournament with a five-under-par 67 on Thursday with two balls in play, they managed only one better yesterday and they now trail the leaders, Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler, by six strokes with a round to go, which is really quite bizarre given they shot a record-breaking nine-under-par 63 on Friday in the far more difficult foursomes format.
Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:00.
Clark/Hossler -26 2.8815/8
Mitchell/Im -25 2.9215/8
Moore/NeSmith -23 13.012/1
Riley/Hardy -23 15.014/1
Schwab/Norman -23 28.027/1
Matthews/O'Hair -22 75.074/1
Hope/English -21 48.047/1
Fitzpatrick/Fitzpatrick -21 55.054/1
Trainer/Ramey -21 120.0119/1
Schauffele/Cantlay -20 27.026/1
Horschel/Burns -20 70.069/1
Merritt/Streb -20 300.0299/1
-19 and 220.0219/1 bar
I've listed the top-12 above but history tells us that in all likelihood, the finish will be fought out between the top two teams.
When Brian Stuard won the final edition of the Zurich Classic in the old, individual stroke play format, he was the ninth winner in 11 years to be in front with a round to go and three of the five winning pairs in this new format were also in front through 54 holes.
Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy won from three shots back and tied fifth with a round to go in 2018 but they were helped greatly by those ahead of them.
The 2021 winners were only one off the lead through 54 holes, last year's victors were five in front, and this is a tough place to play catch up.
With all that in mind, it looks like the event could develop into something of a match between the top two pairs and at a fraction bigger odds, I'm more than happy to back the multiple PGA Tour winners, Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell, who trail by just a stroke.
The front two, Clark and Hossler, haven't dropped a shot all week and they've been in front from the start so it's hard to pick faults in the pairing but the fact that neither man has tasted success on the PGA Tour could prove to be a slight negative and they don't sound convinced they get the job done.
"I hope tomorrow we're light and loose like we've been all three days," Clark said. "If the momentum goes in our direction, I hope we just keep riding it."
"Frankly, getting yourself in position to win a golf tournament is difficult, and closing the deal is really hard," added Hossler. "The more opportunities you get, the more comfortable you get, and hopefully we can lean on that tomorrow."
Trailing by just a stroke and two clear of the remainder, Im and Mitchell look a fair price at almost 2/1 and I'm happy to have a modest play on them now that Herbert has insured a profitable week.
12:05 - April 22, 2023
The defending champions and strong pre-event favourites, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, had their work cut out after a lacklustre start to their defence at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Thursday.
Having gone off at around 4.3100/30, the pair were matched at a high of 19.018/1 after their opening five-under-par 67 in the four-ball format in round one but after a record-breaking nine-under-par 63 in the much tougher foursomes format on Friday, the pair are back at the head of the market.
Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 11:40.
Clark/Hossler -16 6.25/1
Mitchell/Im -15 5.95/1
Redman/Ryder -15 17.5
Schauffele/Cantlay -14 3.9
Moore/NeSmith -14 21.020/1
Riley/Hardy -14 23.022/1
Matthews/O'Hair -14 60.059/1
Ramey/Trainer -14 65.064/1
-13 and 38.037/1 bar
Given the scoring average for Thursday was 65.5, Schauffele and Cantlay's 67 was a surprisingly slow start, but they responded in style.
"We needed to be aggressive here in alternate shot, which is a little dangerous," Schauffele said. "It was just necessary."
Their nine-under par 63 yesterday was a tournament record and now just two off the lead, they look a very fair price at around 3/1.
The Sungjae Im - Keith Mitchell pairing are obvious dangers but given the defending champions are only fractionally shorter than they were before the off, and that they trail by just two strokes, I was more than happy to get them onside at 3/1.
Herbert still the man to beat in Japan
Over in Japan, the big movers in round three of the ISPS Handa Championship were Canada's Aaron Cockerill and David Law but the halfway favourite, Lucas Herbert, still heads the market.
Here are the current standings with prices to back at 11:50.
Aaron Cockerill -13 5.49/2
Lucas Herbert -12 3.7511/4
David Law -12 8.615/2
Takumi Kanaya -11 9.417/2
Rikuya Hoshino -11 10.519/2
Grant Forrest -11 13.012/1
Jazz Janewattananond -10 26.025/1
Rafa Cabrera Bello -10 28.027/1
Jordan Smith -9 40.039/1
Guido Migliozzi -9 50.049/1
Calum Hill -9 65.064/1
Max Kieffer -9 70.069/1
-8 and 120.0119/1 bar
With 12 players within four strokes, it's an open event with a round to go but the favourite, Herbert, sounded very confident after his two-under-par 68 in round three.
Having played his third round in the predominantly trickier late afternoon conditions, when asked what his mindset is like going into tomorrow, his answer was short and to the point.
"Win. Yeah, there's nothing else, nothing else I want to do tomorrow other than win."
He sounds ridiculously confident and rightly so. His driving has been superb and he's most definitely the man to beat.
The 54-hole leader, Aaron Cockerill, is yet to win on the DP World Tour and this is the first time he's held a clear lead.
The Canadian was tied for the lead at the ISPS Handa Championship in Spain almost exactly a year ago but he finished third and he fell from tied first to fifth at the Open de Provence on the Challenge Tour in September 2019.
Like the leader, David Law, who came off the pace to win both the Scottish Challenge on the Challenge Tour and the Victorian Open on the DP World Tour, needs to back up today's lowest round of the day - a six-under-par 64 - and that's never easy.
Both men began the event trading at triple-figure odds and having trailed by three and four strokes before the third round, they got to play in slightly easier conditions today. I'm happy to look elsewhere for dangers to the favourite.
Grant Forrest is a big threat if he can get a few more putts to drop and the Japanese pair alongside him on -11 and two off the lead are going to enjoy plenty of support tomorrow.
Of the two, I prefer Rikuya Hoshino, who came into the event with course form figures reading 2-1, but I'm going to scan a little further down the leaderboard for my only play today.
I'm obviously happy that halfway play, Herbert, looks so strong and that my sole pre-event pick, Calum Hill, is tied for ninth and only four off the lead but I've also added the classy Italian, Guido Migliozzi, to the portfolio this morning.
At only 26, Migliozzi is already in search of his fourth DP World Tour title, and if we don't get any rain and the course toughens up a bit more, he could well be the one to benefit from any trouble ahead.
In two US Open appearances, he's finished fourth and 14th so the tougher the better for Guido and he has a history of finishing events well from off the pace too.
He won the Open de France from five back in September last year, finished second to Antoine Rozner at the Qatar Masters in March 2021 (beaten by a stroke), having sat tied for 18th and six adrift through 54 holes, and he moved up from 14th to second at the Made In HimmerLand in May 2021 with a 63 in round four, so he's shown he can close on a Sunday.
He's shortened up to 50.049/1 on the exchange but the 50/1 with the Sportsbook, with three places still up for grabs, looks very fair.
14:00 - April 21, 2023
The opening round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans is all done and dusted and as expected, given the four-ball (best ball) format, the scoring was super-low yesterday.
The Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler pairing and the Sean O'Hair and Brandon Matthews team both shot 11-under 61s to kick off the event but the favourites after round one are Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell who sit tied for third on -10.
I backed Billy Horschel and Sam Burns before the off and they've started nicely enough, shooting eight-under-par but the well-fancied defending champions, Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, needed to dig in after a slow start.
Having gone off at around 4.3100/30, the pair were one-over-par after six holes, which was a very poor start in this format.
They looked to have got back on track when they played holes seven to 13 in six-under-par but after a somewhat sloppy finish, which saw them bogey the 15th and 17th, they have their work cut out today after an opening five-under-par 67.
I'm going to leave that event alone for now and I'll have another look at halfway, but I have got involved in-running in Japan...
Matt Cooper stood in for me with the Find Me a 100 Winner column and it looked like one of his three picks, Sebastian Soderberg, might reach the first lay back target after a fast start.
The Swede was matched at a low of 15.014/1 after his opening five-under-par 65 but his 68 in round two has seen him slip to a tie for eighth.
Soderberg is only three off the lead at halfway though and my sole selection before the off, Calum Hill, is only four back but the man to beat is Matt's each-way fancy, Lucas Herbert, who's tied at the top with two others. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 13:50.
Lucas Herbert -10 5.14/1
Jazz Janewattananond -10 8.615/2
Grant Forrest -10 9.617/2
Max Kieffer -9 19.018/1
Jordan Smith -8 13.012/1
Takumi Kanaya -8 14.013/1
Deon Germishuys -8 80.079/1
Rasmus Hojgaard -7 17.016/1
-7 and 26.025/1 bar
Helped considerably by a monster birdie putt on the par three eighth, Scotland's Grant Forrest shot the lowest round of the day today - an eight-under-par 62 - to tie the halfway lead, but it's Herbert that understandably heads the market.
Having not arrived in Japan until late on Wednesday, Herbert muddled his way through day one with a three-under-par 67 around Ishioka Golf Club, but he hit the ground running today, birdying nine holes on his way to a seven-under-par 63.
Given his obvious talent, his record around Jack Nicklaus layouts, and the record of frontrunners here, he looks a very fair price at around 4/1 and I was happy to get him onside.
The Aussie is no bigger than 7/2 on the High Street so the 5.04/1 that he currently trades at is very fair.
Trailing by two, Jordan Smith, who really enjoys a low scoring birdie-fest like this, looks fairly priced at 12.011/1 but it's quite a tight leaderboard with as many as 13 players alongside Soderberg in a tie for eighth.
There are 21 players within three of the lead so with low scores available, anyone within four or five will feel they can make a move tomorrow but in reality, low scoring tournaments tend to suit the frontrunners, and that's certainly been the case here previously.
As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, sixth place and four back is the furthest any course winner has trailed by at halfway so concentrating on the leaders makes sense.
I'm more than happy to side with Herbert at 5.14/1 and the early pre-event favourite, Rasmus Hojgaard, also looks a decent price at 16/1. I'll take those two against the field and see where we are tomorrow.
ISPS Handa Championship Pre-Event Selection:
Calum Hill @ 130.0129/1
Lucas Herbert @ 5.14/1
Rasmus Hojgaard @ 17.016/1
Guido Migliozzi (each-way) 50/1 with the Sportsbook
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Pre-Event Selections:
Horschel/Burns @ 22.021/1
Cantlay/Schauffele @ 4.03/1
Im/Mitchell @ 2.962/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter