Cantlay defends the BMW Championship
This time last year Patrick Cantlay appeared to have taken quite the step up in class.
Already a very fine golfer, he had somewhat fortuitously won the Memorial Tournament to break a run of poor form, but even in that example he had displayed a ruthlessness of sorts because when Jon Rahm, the runaway 54-hole leader, was forced to withdraw with a positive Covid test, Cantlay didn't blink and instead pounced.
He then went toe-to-toe with Bryson DeChambeau in the final round and then extra holes in the BMW Championship, impressing all with his ability to appear unfazed and actually downright icy.
In fact, it was that week the slightly naff nickname Patty Ice took off, even inspiring one of golf's daftest-ever examples of social media content, a video that super-imposed icebergs onto the greens he was hitting.
A week later he utilised the starting strokes and his confidence in the heat of battle to claim the Tour Championship and a fine Ryder Cup effort followed.
And yet that notion of a dead-eyed golfing killer didn't quite work out when he returned to action in January after quite a protracted end-of-2021 spell of rest and recuperation.
He was in contention all week at the Tournament of Champions, but finished fourth, ditto the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
In-between he led The American Express at halfway but slipped back to ninth. He then gave himself a series of makeable putts to win the Phoenix Open, in regulation and extra holes, but missed them all.
In the summer he did win the Zurich Classic alongside Xander Schauffele, but his major championship efforts were again mostly limp (an odd career pattern) and he twice finished second, was third once and on another occasion failed to win when second with 18 holes to play.
The expressionless stare that had so impressed 12 months ago was now becoming more of a frown.
Last week's BMW Championship saw a reversion to the taker down of Beefcake Bryson.
A run of six top 15 finishes had been broken with T57th in the St Jude Championship and no-one had defended a FedExCup Playoff title so the Californian could be backed at 23.022/1 before the start.
After 18 holes he was T13th and four back. He was now 25.024/1.
The pace-setter Keegan Bradley carded a 64 to lead by one. The market was not overwhelmed by his chances. It rated him a 15.014/1 shot and was proved correct as he hurtled backwards the rest of the week to T58th.
Twenty four hours later Adam Scott led by one and was 12.011/1 but he had traded between 4.03/1 and 5.04/1 when leading by three before making a double bogey at the 17th.
Cantlay had moved two behind in a tie for sixth and was 13.5 (also sixth in the betting).
With his Saturday 65, however, he moved one clear of Scott Stallings and Schauffele, with Scott and Scottie Scheffler a further blows back.
The market liked the leader, pricing him 3.3512/5 with Schauffele 5.24/1 and Scheffler 6.25/1.
On Sunday that pair stalled somewhat and, ahem, it was in fact Stallings who offered a better challenge than his pre-round price of 11.010/1 suggested.
When Cantlay made a second bogey in three holes at the 10th he was two back, but he made immediate amends at the 11th and added two more par breakers to the close to land an eighth PGA Tour win.
Of his near-misses in 2022 he said: "You're not going to close the deal every time. You have to be cognizant of that going in and once you accept that that's a reality, it makes it a lot easier to play as free as possible coming down the stretch.
He also reminded himself that Jack Nicklaus not only won more majors than anyone else, he finished second more often too: "No one would ever say he couldn't close or wilted under pressure."
Hat tip to Dave Tindall who nominated runner-up Stallings at 101.0100/1 in his each way preview.
Kieffer finally claims a win
The Czech Masters saw no action on Saturday following torrential overnight rain and the tournament was reduced to 54 holes.
In the first instance that seemed to hand the initiative to the halfway leader Gavin Green who suddenly had only 18 holes between himself and the finish line in his quest for a first DP World Tour victory.
The Malaysian had thrashed a superb 63 on Friday to move three blows clear of the field. In his three previous visits to the course he has twice landed the first round lead and had finished third in 2018.
He had also finished second the week before in Asia to break a run of poor form so he had been backed at between 60.059/1 and 80.079/1 ahead of Thursday's first round and he was 3.9 straight after opening that gap up on the field, a price that reduced to 2.6213/8 once he had only the one round to protect his advantage.
Through 18 and 36 holes the course expert Thomas Pieters prowled at second on the leaderboard.
Over £35,000 was matched on him pre-event at between 9.08/1 and 11.010/1, he was 4.1 after an opening 65 had him one back of the lead, was briefly backed at 2.568/5 on Friday before ending the day 4.3100/30, and was 4.94/1 ahead of the last lap.
But he flattened after a bright start, playing the first 10 holes in 3-under and the next eight in 3-over.
He was far from the only player to find the closing stretch at the Albatross Golf Resort a demanding test.
Green was also 3-under through 10 but then could only add a sequence of pars interrupted by a ruinous double bogey at the 14th to finish one back of the lead on 15-under. He was backed as low as 1.341/3 before the stumble.
Sharing third two back were Tapio Pulkkanen, another course expert, who was 6-under through 12 and backed at 3.953/1, but then 1-over to the clubhouse and Louis De Jager who was less becalmed at the close but started from further back, ditto Zander Lombard alone in fifth.
But Jake McLeod and Marcel Schneider were also flying to the 12th and then lost all momentum.
Even the man who ultimately took advantage of all these struggles look for a while as if he, too, would stumble home.
Max Kieffer had thrashed six birdies to the 11th hole, a run that saw his position vault up the leaderboard and his price tumbled from a pre-round 23.022/1 to 3.02/1.
Pre-event he'd been back at a high of 80.079/1 and during the action up to 160.0159/1, but both the tough nature of that closing stretch and his history (12 DP World Tour career top fives, no win) appeared to be against him when he made bogey at the 15th.
He briefly popped out to 3.953/1 before a par breaker at the 17th the woes of others saw him head towards the finish line and an ever-diminishing price.