With just a round to go at the Shot Clock Masters and the FedEx St Jude Classic, longs odds-on favourites look hard to oppose. Read our man's final in-running take on this week's golf here...
10:05 - June 10, 2017
It was impossible not to be impressed by Finland's Mikko Korhonen yesterday. The 37 year-old, who's yet to win on the European Tour, was completely nerveless and in absolute control of his game as he extended his lead from one stroke to five at the Shot Clock Masters and he looks very hard to oppose at around 1.40.
We've seen all sorts of in-play drama at this event over the last four years and Korhonen could be a completely different beast today. Extending a halfway lead is a bit different to sleeping on a big lead after three rounds and there's a chance he'll feel the heat today. He's not been great in-the-mix before now and I highlighted yesterday how he finished outside the top-40 on the only other previous occasion that he led at halfway so there's a chance he could flop. He's in uncharted waters and anything can happen.
For the record, he was tied for the lead with a round to go at the Portugal Masters in 2016 and he did OK, eventually finishing fourth after a final round 68. If he performs anywhere near close to that he'll win and since 1996, 80% of five-stroke 54-hole leaders on the European Tour have gone on to win.
We've had a couple of famous collapses - Jean Van De Velde at the 1999 Open Championship and Thomas Bjorn at the BMW PGA four years ago - but five strokes is a massive lead and having already layed him a couple of times (I did so again in-running yesterday at 2.58) I'm putting the spade down and accepting my losses.
Over at the FedEx St Jude Classic, Dustin Johnson and Andrew Putnam have put five strokes between themselves and the field and it's very hard to imagine anyone else figuring. This is how the market looks at 10:00.
Dustin Johnson -15 1.46 Andrew Putnam -15 3.65 Stewart Cink -10 65.00 -9 and 95.00 bar
As dull as it is, I'm leaving this one alone now also. Putnam may well put up a bit of a fight but it's very difficult to oppose DJ, who'll return to the top of the world rankings if he wins. Pre-event 200.00 chance, Putnam, who has won twice on the Web.com Tour, is looking for his first win on the PGA Tour, DJ is in search of his 18th. The market suggests it's something of a mismatch and I'm inclined to think it's correct.
I'll be back later tonight, with my US Open preview.
10:45 - June 09, 2017
I've had a bit of a change of plan at the Shot Clock Masters in Austria. I was going to wait until tomorrow and look to lay anyone that traded really short or even odds-on during the final round. It's been a tough place to lead in the past and, as highlighted in the preview, we've witnessed plenty of players trade at odd-on and get beat but I've looked at the leaderboard at halfway and feel I need to get cracking now.
The leader, Mikko Korhonen, has great course form, but at 37 he's yet to win on the European Tour and at just 4.80 he looked plenty short enough with the winning post so far off. He's only ever been tied for the lead at this stage once before, at the Qatar Masters last year, and he finished 41st! I think I'd be mad not to take him on given how hard it is to win from the front here.
I've also got Matthias Schwab, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ashun Wu in the book as well and I'm going to take it from there. I've still got three of the top-seven onside (Steve Webster, Justin Walters and Jeppe Huldahl) and there are 19 others that are four and five shots adrift at this stage. I may get involved in-running later on today or I may just leave it alone and have another look at the close of play. I haven't put too much cash in to the market and I'm going to wait and see how things develop.
Those four combined works out at around 4/5 so I'm happy to have the field onside at odds-against at this stage.
Over at the FedEx St Jude, pre-tournament favourite, Dustin Johnson, has put himself in pole position. Here's the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 10:40.
Dustin Johnson -10 1.95 Andrew Putnam -9 14.50 Ryan Blaum -9 24.00 CT Pan -8 17.50 Wesley Bryan -8 23.00 Brandt Snedeker -7 18.00 Chez Reavie -6 29.00 Seams Power -6 110.00 Brooks Koepka -5 17.00 -5 and 38.00 bar
I'm not one for backing odds-on shots and won't be playing here myself but DJ looks a very solid bet at just a shade under even money. He's six from 13 when leading 72- hole tournaments at halfway, eight of the 16 to hold a clear advantage here through 36 holes have gone on to win, on yesterday's evidence he's playing superbly, and the opposition is decidedly weak. Everyone currently within four of Johnson's lead began the week at a triple-figure price.
Pre-event pick, Wesley Bryan, played well yesterday so I'm hopeful he can continue to progress but another of my picks, Brooks Koepka, was very disappointing. He's currently on five-under-par but he was on that score after a dozen holes on Thursday and he hasn't impressed since then.
I'm tempted to play DJ and I may well look back at it on Monday and think it was a great opportunity missed but he's a mercurial character at times and he was beaten on the last two occasions he led at halfway. After rounds of 67 and 64 to take up the running in the AT&T Pebble Beach National in February he shot 70-72 on the weekend to lose by three and having been one in front through 36 holes, he ended up going six clear through three rounds at the HSBC Champions event in China last November before losing, so I'm happy to let him go unbacked.
10:00 - June 08, 2018
The second round of the Shot Clock Masters is well underway and currently live on Sky Sports and there's quite a sizable story developing with 54-year-old Spanish legend, Miguel Angel Jimenez, leading the field.
Jimenez hasn't won on the European Tour since he became the oldest winner on the European Tour when he won his national title at the age of 50 years and 133 days more than four years ago! If he can keep going in Austria, he's going to smash his record to smithereens.
My plan, as outlined in the preview, was to keep the powder dry until Sunday, when I'd start laying the leading contenders but separating out emotion and laying Jimenez if he goes clear might not be too easy. This may be a weak field but winning at getting on for 55 on the European Tour would be incredible and I'd quite like to see him forge his name in the record books even deeper. Jimenez is one of those characters that are impossible to dislike. Even if you've layed him!
Over in the States, at the FedEx St Jude Classic, one of my pre-event picks, Patton Kizzire, withdrew before the off and another, James Hahn, only shot level-par but my other three all started nicely and all three sit in a tie for second, one stroke behind the early pacesetter, Seamus Power, who shot a five-under--par 65.
Last year's winner, Daniel Berger, trailed by six after round one 12 months ago, and so did the 2011 winner, Harrison Frazar. And the 2006 winner, Jeff Maggert, trailed by nine after the opening round but since 1996, eight first round leaders have gone on to win so up with the pace is certainly preferable.
It's a good start from my gang but I'm not getting excited just yet. The likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Byeong Hun An have also all started well and I'm more than happy to wait and see what today brings.
On three-under-par, and two off the lead, pre-event favourite, Dustin Johnson, still heads the market and it'll be interesting to see where he is after round two. DJ tees off in the morning today and yesterday's morning starters enjoyed an advantage of 0.7 of a stroke over the latter starters.
I'll be spending much of the day continuing my US Open research, with the aim being to have my preview published on Sunday evening, but in the meantime here's a cracking piecefrom Paul Krishnamurty on next week's major to whet your appetite.