Our man takes his customary look back at last week's golf action, with lessons learnt and players to swerve, including a poor putting Englishman on his way to the States...
It was a great day for Ryder Cuppers Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell yesterday, with both winning for the first time in too long. Kaymer took the Nedbank Challenge, with another impressive front-running performance - his first win since the WGC HSBC Champions over a year ago and G-Mac's win at the Target Challenge was his first victory since his success in the same event two years previous.
It's great to see them both returning to winning ways and it's interesting to note that both won majors in 2010. Maybe a natural lull occurred after such momentous victories? And maybe they'll both kick-on in style in 2013?
It wasn't a great week by any means with my two pre event picks, Lee Westwood at the Nedbank and Tiger Woods at the Target Challenge, both flopping miserably.
I managed to make a small profit in South Africa, by backing Kaymer before round four, as detailed in the In-Play Blog, but those gains and more were lost in California.
G-Mac winning was a frustrating result as I'd backed him to win the event here three years ago when he finished second on debut. I'd considered him carefully before the off but ultimately I left him out and to make matters worse, when Keegan Bradley closed to within one of him last night, I backed the American at just 3.309/4.
I thought that was a fair price given some of the poor efforts McDowell has put in when in-contention in the last two years. He shot 79 at the Players Championship last year when leading after three rounds and he'd struggled in the mix in Singapore and Hong Kong before that.
Back in March, he'd gone into the final round of the Arnold Palmer just one shot off the lead but finished five adrift and if you wanted to be ultra-critical, he could have done better at the US Open, when his final round 73 wasn't quite enough, but he was superb yesterday and hopefully that will stand him in good stead for next year.
Yes I felt aggrieved that I hadn't backed him before the off but in the cold light of day, with all things considered, the gap of two years since his last win, his poor recent in-contention record, and his poor current form, leaving him out wasn't that hard a decision to come to.
Players to swerve
I've banged on about swerving Louis Oosthuizen for a long time and yesterday was yet another poor effort in the mix. He's a great and very consistent player but the difference between someone like Kaymer and him is like chalk and cheese.
Kaymer is now eight from nine with a third round lead, a clinical ruthless record to be proud of and one that Louis could only dream of. He just doesn't get the job done and yet the market doesn't seem to reflect this. He was very strong last week in Dubai, especially once he'd birdied the first two holes on Sunday and he was again well-supported yesterday but it's simply not justified.
I think punters remember his runaway success at St Andrews two years ago but there's a big difference between being clear of your field and being in a battle and Louis doesn't do the latter well.
After yesterday's disappointing final round at the Nedbank, Lee Westwood is off to the States - a permanent move for him and his family in an attempt to bag that illusive major, but I fear the worst...
Lee is a long and fairly accurate driver and a great iron-player too but when he gets on or near the greens the problems arise, and as he gallops headlong towards his forties, I can't see that changing any.
It's a good job he does hit his irons well (ranked 2nd for Greens In Regulation on the PGA Tour for 2012) because when he does miss a green he's in trouble. He ranked 191st of 191 for scrambling on the PGA Tour last year and you'll struggle to find a worse putter too. He ranked 165th of 191 for Strokes Gained Putting in 2012 and on the evidence of this weekend, I'm amazed he's that high!
You have to feel for Lee, it must drive him to distraction. Time after time he hits a great drive and an equally great iron-shot but time after time he hits a shocking putt and as it did yesterday, that eventually gets to him and the long game goes too.
The TV guys repeatedly state that if he gets his short game sorted he'll win majors but age is very much against the Worksop Wonder and the chances of his short game improving are very long. I'd love the likable Englishman to prove me wrong but I can't see it and he's one to avoid.
What have we learnt for next year?
Avoid the TV coverage for the first few days at the Nedbank! It was ok yesterday but they still managed to completely ignore a vital 10-foot par save for Kaymer at a crucial stage on the back-nine and over the first few days it was appalling! I thought I may have been a bit OTT with my criticism in my first post on the In-Play Blog but I received plenty of tweets to say I'd been too generous. It really was dire.
Ignore or take on the debutantes. There were five in the field this year and only Bill Haas got a look-in. It's a tough and unique test and previous experience is absolutely vital.
You don't need sparkling course form to prosper - Kaymer had been 8th on his only other appearance but you do need to have played there. The last debutante to win was Mark McNulty, way back in 1986.
We've yet another very busy week of golf to look forward to this week. The 2013 European Tour kicks off in South Africa at the brand new Nelson Mandela Championship and there's a stellar line-up on the Asian Tour at the lucrative Thailand Golf Championship. I'll be back with previews for those two events either tomorrow or on Wednesday, and if that's not enough for you, there's also action Down Under, with the Australian Open and in the States, where Keegan Bradley and Brandan Steele defend the Franklin Templeton Shootout.
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