Kraft and Tway could upset the fancied runners at juicy price
Rough weather heading for Louisiana
Story so far
Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith have defied pre-tournament quotes of 125-1 to lead the field a merry dance in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans pairs event.
Blixt has been in poor form and is without a top-ten finish on the US Tour since February last year, but the Swede has enjoyed performing alongside rising Australian star Smith this week. They have reached 19 under par through two rounds of alternate-shot and one round of best-ball at TPC Louisiana.
Blixt and Smith are four shots ahead of two pairs – Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown, and Charley Hoffman and Nick Watney. The ante-post market leaders – Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, and Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson – both missed the cut.
In-running punters need to be quick with their bets today as the US Tour has moved the tee-times forward in anticipation of bad weather. Strong winds and heavy rain are expected to arrive at some stage, threatening a suspension of play, so the first group is due on the tee at 6.40am local time (12.40pm UK and Ireland time). The leading quartet of Blixt and Smith, and Kisner and Brown, are scheduled to tee off at 8.16am local time (2.16pm UK).
-19 Jonas Blixt & Cameron Smith
-15 Kevin Kisner & Scott Brown, Charley Hoffman & Nick Watney
-14 Jordan Spieth & Ryan Palmer
-13 Brian Stuard & Chris Stroud
-12 Kelly Kraft & Kevin Tway, Angel Cabrera & Julian Etulain
8-13 J Blixt & C Smith, 6 J Spieth & R Palmer, 7 K Kisner & S Brown, 8 C Hoffman & N Watney, 50 B Stuard & C Stroud, 125 bar
Jonas Blixt and Cameron Smith are a stand-out 8-13 with Paddy Power to finish the job they have started so spectacularly over the first three days in New Orleans.
They have been frontrunning from the halfway stage and did superbly to stay atop the board in the Saturday foursomes. The switch to fourballs makes life easier for the leaders, taking pressure off Blixt's vulnerable tee-to-green game, but the weather forecast and the lack of silverware on their mantelpieces means they are far from certain to triumph.
Winds of 35 mph, along with a storm, are set to bring in the possibility of card-busting holes, even in best-ball golf. Blixt has not won a tournament since July, 2013, and Smith has never won one, so nerves should play a part too.
Nick Watney, winless since the 2012 CIMB Classic, could prove a weak link alongside Charley Hoffman, while Ryan Palmer is difficult to trust in a tight finish, even with Jordan Spieth as back-up. Kevin Kisner was abysmal in contention in his last outing (the Heritage), so his partnership with Scott Brown is not particularly appealing either.
None of the leading five pairs are begging to be backed at the pre-final-round prices. It may be worth taking a chance that they all tread water and a pair of young guns set an uncatchable clubhouse mark from just off the pace.
Kelly Kraft and Kevin Tway have both produced a recent week of brilliance. Kraft was runner-up to Jordan Spieth in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the middle of February, while Tway finished third last time out in the Texas Open.
Kraft is a former US Amateur champion and his lone Web.com Tour triumph came in the 2015 Louisiana Open. He is a Texan who is comfortable playing in the wind and further glory in Louisiana is just within reach from seven shots behind Blixt and Smith.
Tway has also tasted success on the Web.com Tour. Kraft and Tway are both 28 and are enjoying their week together. Best-ball golf is much more their cup of tea than alternate-shot – they are both aggressive players and Tway has power to burn – and a final-round flourish seems entirely possible.
With some firms still offering three places, an each-way investment on Kraft and Tway at 125-1 seems a worthwhile punt. They are only three shots off second place.
Final-round fourballs punters are pointed towards Kraft and Tway for their 1.52pm (UK) match with the humdrum duo of Brian Stuard and Chris Stroud.
K Kraft & K Tway
1pt each-way 125-1 Betfred, Coral, Ladbrokes
K Kraft & K Tway
1pt 13-10 bet365, Betfred, Hills