Steve Rawlings is away this weekend so Paul Krishnamurty is covering the in-play blog. Check out his early thoughts on the Saudi International...
23:30- January 31, 2019
Saudi International Leaderboard
-7 Thomas Pieters 6.20
-5 Ross Fisher 26.00
-5 Justin Harding 42.00
-5 Zander Lombard 65.00
-5 Renato Paratore 65.00
-5 Jake McLeod 130.00
-5 Alfie Plant 280.00
As illustrated above, the first round leaderboard at the inaugural Saudi International is not quite what was expected, given that four of the world's top-five players are in attendance. In fact of the eight players not listed on -4, only Joost Luiten was less than 100.00 pre-tournament.

Pieters takes early two-shot lead

Good news for Thomas Pieters then, who holds an early two-stroke advantage over a sextet of players, only one of whom is in the same league. The word 'early' is important here - the Belgian makes no appeal whatsoever at 6.20.
In reality, this is as wide-open as it was before they teed off. There are 45 players within five shots of Pieters, 81 within seven. All of the big guns are in that pack and it would be a surprise if at least a couple of them ease forward to reach contention by Sunday.
I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the event beforehand and have placed just the one bet so far - Jordan Smith, as per our each-way column. Hopefully leaving powder dry for the in-play will work out.
My immediate thoughts were that Pieters is too short, and a combination lay along with Bryson Dechambeau and Dustin Johnson could be a good start to building a lay book. That trio take out a third of the book.
That may well be a theme I return to but not yet. Pieters wouldn't have to do too much to shorten up tomorrow and none of the immediate chasers really catch the eye. For now, just a couple of small bets are in order.
The one player within three of Pieters who I fancied beforehand is Joost Luiten. This track should be ideal for his game - staying out of trouble and hitting great approaches to set up birdie chances. He's hungry after an injury break and back to form with third in Abu Dhabi. I think he'll be thereabouts over the weekend so am getting him in the book now.
I'm also having a small press-up on Jordan Smith at 130.00. One under was a solid enough start and he's out early tomorrow. He's another with a fine long game and the good memory of his run at the DP World Tour Championship remains fresh.
More broadly though, I do still expect at least one of the big-guns to come through. Dechambeau and Johnson and will likely make a big move forward. Patrick Reed is in a promising position on -3.
However at this stage, one could just as easily making a case for Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia or Justin Rose and we can't back them all at what are, collectively, short odds considering they've all got work to do. Let's wait and see the halfway leaderboard.
Recommended bets
Back Joost Luiten 2u @ 20.00
Back Jordan Smith 0.5u @ 130.00

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