The Punter's In-Play Blog: Leaders look vulnerable in Louisiana

Golfers Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel
Oosthuizen and Schwartzel - the leaders in Louisiana

Steve's halfway play, the Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen pairing, have hit the front with a round to go at the Zurich but an off the pace winner can't be ruled out...

"Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele shot a disappointing 73 in this format on Friday but from only three back I thought they were a fair price at 34.033/1.”

13:25 - April 25, 2021

Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen dovetailed nicely in round three of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, with Schwartzel making five of the teams first six birdies before Oosthuizen birdied the last three holes. They now hold a stroke lead with a round to go. Here's the latest standings with prices to back at 13:20.

Oosthuizen/Schwartzel -19 4.67/2
Leishman/Smith -18 4.47/2
Champ/Finau -18 5.69/2
Watson/Scheffler -17 9.08/1
Hovland/Ventura -17 15.5
Bradley/Steele -16 30.029/1
Pieters/Lewis -16 34.033/1
Duncan/Schenk -16 55.054/1
Rahm/Palmer -15 28.027/1
-15 and 80.079/1 bar

This is the fourth edition of the Zurich in this format and two of the first three winning pairs were tied at the top with a round to go. That's a good omen for the leaders and I'm happy to have them onside having backed yesterday at a juicy price but they look short enough now given the calibre of their nearest rivals.

With pre-event picks, Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler, one of the five teams within two of the lead, I'm in decent shape with a round to go but I'm certainly not counting any chickens.

The market suggests it's now between five teams but in today's format, alternate shot, it's perfectly possible that a team a bit further back than two strokes can figure. Only five pairings broke 70 on Friday in this format but with the wind forecasted to die down as the day wares on today, there's a chance a pairing from off the pace gets hot.

Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele shot a disappointing 73 in this format on Friday but from only three back I thought they were a fair price at 34.033/1. I've had a very small bet on them but it's the Aussie pairing of Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman that look the most likely winners now and I've added them to the portfolio too at 4.57/2.

10:40 - April 25, 2021

There's just one round to go at the Gran Canaria Open and Matt Cooper's each-way fancy, Garrick Higgo, has hit the front. Here's the 54 hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:30.

Garrick Higgo -18 3.1511/5
Matthias Schwab -16 7.87/1
Connor Syme -16 11.010/1
Matthieu Pavon -16 16.015/1
Sam Horsfield -15 8.415/2
Jeff Winther -15 22.021/1
-14 and 36.035/1 bar

The last two players to lead by two with a round to go on the European Tour both went on to win - Dustin Johnson (Saudi International) and Justin Harding (Kenya Open) - and since 1996, 173 players have taken a two stroke lead into round four with 76 going on to convert. That equates to a 44% strike rate suggesting, once again, that the leader is a fair price at more than 2/1.

The market considers Austria's Mattias Schwab to be the biggest danger to Matt's man Higgo but I'm not convinced. As brilliant a player as he is, Schwab is still in search of his maiden victory on the European Tour and Sam Horsfield looks a more serious threat.

The Englishman won a couple of times last year and he won't be frightened to go low and keep going but he's just a fraction short given how many are on his tail.

Horsfield trails Higgo by three so he may need some help from the leader and if he does get some, there's a strong possibility that at least one of the eight players tied for seventh will make up the solitary stroke on Horsfield anyway.

In short, the leader is a fair price given the stats for two-stroke leaders but if he does fluff his lines, it's wide open. Take Higgo out of the picture and there are 14 players within two strokes and 20 within three.

On a course that's already given up four rounds of 61 and six 62s, this is a very hard event to assess. Someone will go low towards the top of the leaderboard and if the leader doesn't he'll get caught.

I've had a tiny bet on Guido Migliozzi at 36.035/1, who's tied for seventh and four back, as he's a fearless competitor who has the ability to back-up yesterday's 62 but this is a really tough one to call.

I'll be back shortly with a look at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, where yesterday's in-play picks, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, have hit the front.

10:50 - April 24, 2021

We've reached the halfway stage of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and two teams are tied at the top and two clear of the remainder. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:40.

Champ/Finau -13 3.814/5
Hovland/Ventura -13 4.84/1
Watson/Scheffler -11 8.27/1
Rose/Stenson -11 12.5
Oosthuizen/Schwartzel -10 23.022/1
Werenski/Uihlein -10 40.039/1
Leishman/Smith -9 14.013/1
Kokrak/Perez -9 42.041/1
Rahm/Palmer -8 20.019/1
-8 and 50.049/1 bar

There have been three previous renewals of the Zurich in this pairs format and although two of the three previous winning pairs were tied fore the lead at halfway, the beaten playoff protagonists in 2017, Scott Brown and Kevin Kisner, sat five off the lead and the 2018 winners, Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy, were seven back.

After yesterday's alternate shot format, the tournament reverts to four balls again today (the format used on Thursday) so the scoring will improve considerably. Only two teams shot four-under-par 68s yesterday (the best rounds of the day) and that was six strokes worse than the 62s shot on day one by Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura and Brice Garnett and Scott Stallings. The leaders will have to go low to keep their noses in front.

I was quite tempted to lay the two leading pairs but I won't be around this evening to monitor the play so instead I've added a small bet on the South African pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Oosthuizen and Schwartzel have competed against and with each-other since childhood and they made a big move in round three in the 2018 edition of the event, shooting 62 to go from seven back to four adrift with a round to go. They eventually finished third, beaten by two, and I can see them contending to the end again this time around.

Oosthuizen and Schwartzel are generally 16/1 shots and a best price of 18/1 on the High Street so 23.022/1 on the exchange is more than fair.

22:00 - April 23, 2021

The scoring at the Gran Canaria Open was low on Thursday, with four players shooting seven-under-par 63s and the field averaging just 68.29, but it was even lower today. The halfway leader, Thorbjorn Olesen, was one of four men to shoot 61 and the field average reduced by more than a stroke to 67.19. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 21:50.

Thorbjorn Oleson -14 5.85/1
Wil Besseling -13 8.415/2
Matthias Schwab -12 9.08/1
Max Kieffer -12 12.011/1
Rhys Enoch -12 17.016/1
Robin Roussel -12 38.037/1
Garrick Higgo -11 15.014/1
Maverick Antcliff -11 36.035/1
Sam Horsfield -10 15.014/1
Victor Dubuisson -10 25.024/1
Romain Langasque -10 30.029/1
-10 and 38.037/1 bar

With tomorrow being 'Moving Day', there's a likelihood that the set-up is even easier and there's a chance we may even see a round in the 50s.

I've felt from the get-go that up with the pace is the place to be here but it's impossible to ignore the amount of ground that was made up by some of the players today. Victor Dubuisson climbed from tied 59th to tied ninth and Sam Horsfield jumped from tied 84th to tied ninth.

It's not inconceivable that someone gets into contention from deep tomorrow but with as many as 15 players within four strokes at the top of the leaderboard, it's almost certain that one or two of those will go deep too.

My Find Me a Winner pick, Zander Lombard, is one of those tied for 16th and five back but he's going to have to shoot something in the low 60s to have any chance and I'm happy to sit this one out for now and file it under too difficult.

I can't pretend I wasn't tempted to get Sam Horsfield onside. He played some spectacular golf this afternoon and he's capable of going low again but he's also capable of producing the odd bogey or two when least expected.

The leader, Olesen, has surprised himself with how well he's played.

"Didn't have that much practice coming in, expectations were pretty low." He stated after the round.

Having suffered a wrist injury, contracted Covid, and had the distraction of the birth of his son earlier in the month, this is the Dane's first start since he finished tied for 13th at the low-scoring Golf in Dubai Championship in December.

He hasn't won in almost five years, he went backwards after a bright start in Dubai (sat seventh at halfway), and he has the shadow of charges for sexual assault, being drunk on an aircraft, and assault by beating, hanging over him. The trial has been put back until December and that must be constantly on his mind so although he looks generously priced at around 5.85/1, it's hard to know how he'll fare over the weekend and I'm happy sit on my hands for now and see how round three pans out.

09:55 - April 23, 2021

After an opening 10-under-par 62, the Norwegian duo of Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura are tied at the top of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans leaderboard, alongside Americans Brice Garnett and Scott Stallings but with as many as 28 teams within just three strokes, it's an event to leave alone for now.

This is the fourth edition of the event in this format and although the first two to take the title, Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith, were up with the pace throughout, the team they beat in extra time, Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, trailed by four strokes in a tie for 37th after round one and the last two winning pairs both sat further back than three strokes after the opening day.

Ryan Palmer and Jon Rahm were four adrift in a tie for 33rd in 2019 and Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy were five back and tied for 44th a year earlier suggesting a slow start can be overcome.

After yesterday's four balls action, all 80 teams are under-par but the scoring won't be anywhere near as good today as the teams play alternate ball ands I'm happy to sit and see what today brings.

After the preview was published, I added Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler to the portfolio when they drifted from 17.016/1 to 20.019/1 before the off and like both my other selections, Tyrrell Hatton and Danny Willett, and my Find Me a 100 Winner picks, Peter Uihlein and Richy Werenski, they've started nicely but there's a long way to go yet.

The second round of the Gran Canaria Open is already underway and as detailed below, I've already added one in-running as I believe the frontrunners should figure come Sunday.

The scoring was low on day one and it could go even lower as the players get used to the course. As highlighted in the In-Play Tactics section of the preview, it's very hard to make up ground on an easy course and Meloneras is certainly that. Talk before the off amongst the caddies was of a possible 58!

Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Zander Lombard, finished his opening round with a pair of fives to trail by three, so he may have too much to do to get involved already but I certainly haven't given up on my only other pre-event pick, tournament host, Rafa Cabrera Bello.

This is Rafa's local course and he knows it like the back of his hand. Looking at his stats, he didn't play well from tee-to-green yesterday but he still shot a five-under-par 65 and he looks a fair price still.

When Rafa got off the mark on the European Tour he did so by shooting 60 in round four of the Austrian Open back in 2009 so we know he's capable of super-low scoring and if anyone can muscle in after a slightly sluggish start it could be him.

This is an easy course and only six holes averaged over-par yesterday but if you're going to bet in-running throughout the week, it's worth bearing in mind that the three hardest holes are encountered around the turn. The 10th is a straightforward par four that averaged 3.74 in round one but holes nine, 11 and 12 all averaged over-par.

Gran Canaria Pre-Event Selection:
Rafa Cabrera Bello @ 29.028/1

In-Play Picks:
Max Kieffer @ 16.5
Guido Migliozzi @ 36.035/1

Zurich Classic of New Orleans Pre-Event Selections:
Watson/Scheffler @ 20.019/1 (Placed after preview published)
Willett/Hatton @ 36.035/1

In-Play Picks:
Schwartzel/Oosthuizen @ 23.022/1
Bradley/Steele @ 34.033/1
Leishman/Smith @ 4.57/2

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Gran Canaria Open
Back Zander Lombard @ 280.0279/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.35/4

Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Back Werenski/Uihlein 2 u @ 130.0129/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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