The Punter's De-Brief: Australian success both sides of the Atlantic

Golfer Lucas Herbert
Lucas Herbert and caddie celebrate winning the Irish Open.

It was a fantastic week for Aussies with Lucas Herbert winning a second European title and Cam Davis grabbing a maiden PGA success. Matt Cooper looks back as Steve Rawlings takes a well-earned rest...

"Merritt and Davis (who had finished eagle-birdie to set the clubhouse target) were about to echo the English-Hickok ding-dong."

Play-offs can be drab affairs - rather than adding drama, extra holes often suck the excitement from the conclusion to an event.

Not on the PGA Tour these last two weeks. After the sensational Harris English-Kramer Hickok head-to-head at the Travelers Championship, we were treated to a three-way cut and thrust between Joaquin Niemann, Troy Merritt and Cam Davis as the thrilling finale at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Niemann had been heavily tipped pre-event (including by Dave Tindall in his Each-Way column at 28/1) and went off at 25.024/1 Thursday morning and 3.259/4 three days later ahead of the final round when he shared the lead with Merritt who was available at 170.0169/1 Thursday morning and 5.85/1 ahead of the last 18 holes. In the same spell Davis, sharing third, had dropped from 85.084/1 to 8.07/1.

Niemann had not made a single bogey throughout the 72 holes of regulation and then did so immediately in extra holes. He was at least conforming to play-off type.

But Merritt and Davis (who had finished eagle-birdie to set the clubhouse target) were about to echo the English-Hickok ding-dong. Davis missed a six-foot winning birdie opportunity at the first extra hole and then from 20-feet at the second. Merritt saved himself from sand at the same time.

A wayward tee shot was followed by an emphatic six-foot par-saver by Merritt at the next before two-putt birdies at the par-5 14th followed. At the fifth extra hole, the 15th, Davis again missed a birdie chance, but Merritt failed to get up-and-down; victory for the Aussie. As expected, every shot impacted the odds significantly, but it was also a case of punters siding with Davis, thumping him regularly below 1.51/2 and then either he failed to drain the winning putt or Merritt pulled off a save.

cam davis wins rm classic 2021.jpg

Over on the European Tour Lucas Herbert, fresh from landing the first two PGA Tour top 20s of his career, grabbed the Irish Open by the scruff of the neck on Thursday and never really let go.

Backed at a high of 70.069/1 before the action started, he settled at around 55.054/1 before the off and when his first round 64 opened up a one-shot lead on the field he dropped to 8.615/2 ahead of Friday's resumption of play.

He added a Friday 67 to double his advantage and closed the evening at 3.7511/4. A third round 70 returned his lead to one yet whereby he was available at 2.226/5.

The market was showing faith in the Aussie, whose previous European Tour success had come in last year's Dubai Desert Classic.

He was one clear of Johannes Veerman - available pre-tournament at 310.0309/1, matched at a high of 1000.0, and then 5.24/1 ahead of the final day's play - and two in front of Justin Harding who had been 60.059/1 on Wednesday and started Sunday on 9.08/1.

With the rest of the chasers at least four blows back, punters didn't rate the chances of someone setting a target or even chasing down Herbert.

One man came close to doing that and he ran out of steam, backing that faith in the leader. That was Italy's Francesco Laporta who went off at 670.00669/1, was matched at 1000.00, and would have given a few backers some excitement as he painted his scorecard red midway through the final round.

He ticked six birdies in a row from the fifth and, with a short par four and par fives to come, may have entertained hopes of a first win, but instead he added seven pars until, pressing at the last, he pulled his approach into water and made double bogey six.

But, in truth, the market got him right. He was matched as low as 4.47/2, but there was a constant appreciation that too much needed to go right for him to triumph.

Veerman briefly tied the lead with a birdie two at the 14th and was matched at 2.26/5, but thereafter Herbert moved clear: he made two birdies heading home and Veerman two bogeys.

The Open

It was not a week when many big names played - and those who did failed to enhance any Open Championship aspirations.

However there were little nibbles at a few players.

Alex Noren thrashed weekend scores of 67-64 in Detroit to claim a share of fourth and his two Open top 10s, allied to a Scottish Open win at Castle Stuart, prompted a little action. Now settled at 120.00119/1 he has been matched as high as 440.00439/1.

Bubba Watson has a poor Open record (no top 20 in 11 starts), but he led the Travelers Championship during the final round and also closed last week 67-64 for a share of fourth. That form interested some: he's already been matched at a high of 750.00749/1 and a low of 42.041/1 but has settled at 150.00149/1.

But these were small moves. Expect more volatility this week, especially with a strong Scottish Open field playing on the (modern) linksland track at The Renaissance Club.

Steve's bets

If you hadn't noticed already, this is Matt Cooper standing in for Steve, who is taking a well-earned break.

His Irish Open pre-tournament selection Rory McIlroy did him no favours and the 32-year-old's frustrations on home soil continue.

Imperious at the K Club in 2016, he has more or less been dire at all other times. He opened with a flat 72, briefly woke up with a second round 67 (midway through which his pre-round 25.024/1 dropped to 8.415/2 before he ended the day 19.5), but then added 73-74 at the weekend for a ninth failure (in 13 tournament starts) to make the top 30.

On the other side of the pond Doc Redman carded 72-73 to miss the cut.

There was much more joy in Find Me a 100 Winner however.

Steve rated recent British Masters winner (and US Open contender) Richard Bland's pre-event price of +100 as "insulting" and that proved astute. Bland started 69-66 to head into the weekend four back and 26.025/1. He'd make the places, but a Saturday 72 hurt the win potential.

Over in the States Chris Kirk opened 67-68 and, having been flagged at 130.0129/1, Steve was able to report the first lay back target had been reached. He eventually finished T12th.

*You can follow Steve on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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