09:30 – February 25, 2017

After an early start in Johannesburg this morning, the second round of the Joburg Open had finally been completed. Yet more rain is forecast throughout the day today so there’s a risk of further delays but with a dry day in prospect tomorrow, a 72-hole tournament is a long odds-on shot now, despite an incredible 91 players making the cut, so here’s the halfway leaderboard with prices to back at 9:20.

Darren Fichardt -11 [12.0]
Paul Waring -11 [17.5]

Dean Burmester -10 [7.0]
Jacques Kruyswijk -10 [18.5]

Haydn Porteous -9 [15.0]
Paul Peterson -9 [29.0]
Pep Angles -9 [40.0]
Anton Karlsson -9 [46.0]
Aaron Rai -9 [60.0]
Stuart Manley -9 [70.0]

Brandon Stone -8 [8.0]
Dylan Frittelli -8 [26.0]

-8 and [50.0] bar
Although six of the last seven winners (and seven of the ten winners in total) have been inside the top-four on the leaderboard and within three of the lead at this stage, we have seen three winners come from some way back. The 2015 winner, Andy Sullivan, trailed by five at this stage, the 2008 champ, Richard Sterne, was six adrift, and the 2009 victor, Anders Hansen, was as many as eight strokes off the lead at halfway so winning from off the pace isn’t impossible and given the strength of the leading pack, I can see another winner from outside the top-four.

The two leaders, Darren Fichardt and Paul Waring, don’t look the safest of conveyances. The South African veteran, Fichardt, hasn’t won on the Sunshine Tour for a few years and its four years since he won the Africa Open on the European Tour. The 41-year-old has had a successful career, with 19 professional wins, but he’s not greatest in-contention and I can see why he’s a double-figure price.

Waring has been a pro for ten years and in 160 starts the closest he’s come to winning was when he lost a playoff on the Challenge Tour in his second pro start. He’s been an ever-present on the European Tour since a successful visit to qualifying school in 2007 but this is just the second time he’s led or co-led at this stage. He was tied for the lead at the Portugal Masters in 2013 and he went into the fourth and final round with a two-stroke lead but shot 71 to finish third. It would be no surprise to see him drift out of contention over the weekend and I’m certainly not confident of him converting but he’s too big at [17.5] and I’ve had a tiny wager on him.

Zimbabwean-born South African, Dean Burmester, is the current favourite but I’m not sure he represents any value. He’s won six times on the Sunshine Tour, but not since 2015, he’s been a bit wobbly in-the-mix of late, and he’s looking for his first win on the European Tour so he looks opposable. He led the Investec Cup at halfway last March but shot 73-71 on the weekend to fall to third and just two weeks ago he blew a three stroke 54-hole lead at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship. Maybe I’m giving that performance too much credence but it’s enough to put me off at the price.

Jacques Kruyswijk was laid low with sickness before the off but that didn’t stop him firing an eight-under-par opening 63 around the West Course in round one. He followed that up with a far less impressive 70 in round two but the recent Lion of Africa Cape Town Open winner can’t be dismissed lightly and he could represent value at around the 20/1 mark.

The stats favour those front four given seven of the ten winners to date have been inside the top-four and for that reason I’ve had a very small play on Waring but other than that, I’m happy to see what round three brings. My sole pre-event pick, Brandon Stone, is within touching distance after a great second round and the defending champ, Haydn Porteous, is certainly close enough too now so it’s a very open looking tournament.

We’ve also reached the halfway stage of the Honda Classic so here’s the halfway leaderboard there with prices to back at 9:20.

Ryan Palmer -9 [8.0]
Wesley Bryan -9 [9.2]

Rickie Fowler -8 [3.9]

Anirban Lahiri -7 [17.0]

Graham DeLaet -6 [24.0]
C.T Pan -6 [36.0]

Martin Kaymer -5 [27.0]

-5 and [25.0] bar
We’ve had ten Honda Classics at PGA National to date and every winner has been inside the top-six at this stage. Ernie Els trailed by five in 2008 but the other nine were all within three so concentrating hard on the leaders here looks the way to go.

Of the two at the very top, I marginally prefer Wesley Bryan. The 26-year-old graduated to the PGA Tour last year after winning three times on the Web.com Tour and he looks a real prospect. Fresh off a great week at the Genesis Open, where he eventually finished fourth, Bryan has hit the ground running and even when he’s found a spot of bother, he’s managed to find a route out – as demonstrated here at the eighth hole yesterday.

A change of putter has given Ryan Palmer a new lease of life and if he can stay in position before the wind blows tomorrow he’ll be a big threat but he’s notoriously hard to get across the line and that’s a big negative. With his wife undergoing treatment for breast cancer, Palmer hasn’t played much over the last six months or so and he could have a more relaxed demeanour on the course after such a life-changing experience but I’m happy to let him go unbacked.

For the second year running, Rickie Fowler has opened up here with two rounds of 66 but he’ll need to fare much better over the weekend if he wants to lift the trophy. He shot 74-71 last year to fall from first to sixth and to go from one clear to beaten by six and that was the ninth time in his career that he’d been beaten when leading or within one of the lead at halfway. The only time he’s converted from such a good position was in the Korea Open on the One Asia Tour back in 2011 so he makes very little appeal at under 3/1 right now. Maybe he’ll represent better value tomorrow if he slips back a bit today before the wind blows tomorrow?

This is a very similar picture to the one in South Africa. The stats suggest we should be concentrating on the leaders at both tournaments but as hard as I’ve looked, I can’t find anyone I want to back at the odds available here. Maybe I’m being too cautious and I was close to chancing Bryan but I’m going to follow my instinct and see what today brings.
11:00 – February 24, 2017

Wet weather in the lead-up to the Joburg Open saturated the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club and so yesterday afternoon’s persistent rain soon caused a suspension in play. The inevitable clean-up operation this morning meant a delayed start so the tournament is way off schedule but with only light rains forecasted today, there’s a possibility they could get back on track.

As detailed in the preview, a bumper field of 210 plays the East and West Courses over rounds one and two before the top-65 and ties play over the weekend on the tougher East Course. It makes sense to wait and see how the land lies after round two but I couldn’t resist a small bet on promising Englishman Aaron Rai, who sat just two strokes off Paul Peterson’s nine-under-par lead, after round one.

The Challenge Tour player has never been in such a lofty position on the European Tour but I was happy to throw a few pounds his way at [60.0] given yesterday’s 65 was constructed on the East Course. There’s always around a two-stroke differential between the two courses so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do on the easier West Course today.

There were no such weather concerns in Florida where this season’s Sanderson Farms Championship winner, Cody Gribble, hit every green in regulation to post a six-under-par 64 at the Honda Classic to sit alongside Dan Geraghty’s 100/1 First Round Leader tip Wesley Bryan at the top of the first round leaderboard. This is the 11th year in-a-row that the PGA National has hosted the event and Gribble is the first player to hit all 18 greens in a regulation.

Looking back over the first ten years at PGA National, a slow start can be overcome but every winner has been inside the top-six at halfway so if your picks have started slowly, they’ll need to put a shift in today. The first course winner, Mark Wilson, trailed by seven strokes after round one ten years ago and last year’s winner, Adam Scott, also lagged by seven but both men sat inside the top-five and within three of the lead after 36 holes.

I don’t want to give the impression that being up with the pace is absolutely imperative as a number of beaten playoff protagonists have come from some way back but concentrating on the leaders, even at this early stage, could be the way to go. No first round leader has gone on to win but of the 10 winners here, eight have been within four of the lead after round one and five have been placed inside the top-four.

Ordinarily, I’d be looking to side with the early starters today. The wind gets up most afternoons in Florida and this exposed track can become a brute but the afternoon starters yesterday averaged 0.22 strokes better than the early starters and the forecast suggest light and consistent winds again today so the draw doesn’t look to be an issue.

Trailing by two, Rickie Fowler is the only player trading at a single-figure price and Martin Kaymer, who trails by just a stroke, will both have their supporters but I’ve backed a couple at much bigger odds that both sit on -4, two off the lead and inside the top-five and ties…

I backed Ben Crane in-running yesterday at [100.0] when he got to the turn in four-under. Just one more birdie followed on the front-nine (his second nine) and he bogeyed the ninth so he’s actually a fraction bigger today and the only other player I’m siding with at this stage is CT Pan.

The 25-year-old Taiwanese player is on the up and I can see him winning on the PGA Tour soon. The former world number one amateur was second three starts ago at the Farmers Insurance Open and he’s too big this morning at [75.0].

Joburg Open Pre-Event Selection:
Brandon Stone @ 14/1 (Sportsbook)

Joburg Open In-Play Picks:
Aaron Rai @ [60.0]
Paul Waring @ [17.5]
Honda Classic Pre-Event Selections:
Zach Johnson @ [48.0]
Jimmy Walker @ 50/1 (Sportsbook)

Honda Classic In-Play Picks:
C.T Pan @ [70.0]
Ben Crane @ [100.0]
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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