The Punter's De-Brief: Front-runners dominate as Thomases return to winning ways

Golfer Thomas Pieters
This was Thomas Pieters' first solo title in three years

With Steve Rawlings away, Paul Krishnamurty looks back on the weekend golf action and a profitable portfolio of bets...

"Pieters' win also confirmed the 'horses for courses' theory applies here. He's now won twice, been runner-up and ninth at a course that offers a clear advantage to big-hitters."

Golf betting can be extremely volatile and unpredictable but that cannot be said about either of last week's events. Both Thomas Pieters and Justin Thomas started the week prominently in the betting and were the only players in either event to trade below 3.02/1 at any stage. That's pretty rare.

Pieters wins comfortably from the front

For Pieters - available around 22.021/1 initially and very briefly up to around 60.059/1 during the opening round - this was a fourth solo win but first since 2016. The Belgian has gone backwards since finishing top points scorer at that year's Ryder Cup. This front-running effort proved what a class act he is, even if erratic and inconsistent.

Saturday's 66 gave Pieters the lead and he never surrendered it. For most of the final round he had a comfortable cushion although Adri Arnaus reduced the final deficit to one with a strong finish.

Superb Thomas takes command of FedEx race

Likewise Thomas had endured a dry spell. This was his tenth PGA Tour win but first for a year. Nobody doubted his class during that period - part of which was hampered by a wrist injury - and he couldn't have more emphatically reaffirmed his pedigree with this weekend performance.

Saturday's 61 was one of the best rounds we'll see all season. Sunday was difficult, especially as Patrick Cantlay and Hideki Matsuyama laid down the gauntlet by shooting 65 and 63 respectively.

JT had a major wobble around the turn, bogeying the par-five tenth for a two-shot swing with Cantlay. His response - two birdies and a miraculous par in the next three holes - carried the hallmark of a champion. He's now in pole position to win the $15M FedEx Cup first prize.

My Bets

It was a profitable week for my in-play bets, thanks entirely to Justin Thomas. The combined bets on him and Xander Schauffele yielded 30 units profit. That made up for a somewhat frustrating 23 unit loss on the European Tour.

Going into Sunday, the book looked fine. I needed Adri Arnaus to get matched at 4.03/1 to retrieve at least ten of those units and had three good players within four of the lead. As it turned out, the young Spaniard fell just shy of the lay target at 4.216/5.

What did we learn this week?

The trends at The Albatross course stood up perfectly. For the sixth straight year, the top-two started the round in either first or second. In this case, despite a competitive and fairly bunched leaderboard. That is a very rare stat and surely conclusive evidence that this is a front-runners' track.

Pieters' win also confirmed the 'horses for courses' theory applies here. He's now won twice, been runner-up and ninth at a course that offers a clear advantage to big-hitters. Defending champion Andrea Pavan finished third.

Medinah also lived up to expectations. The formbook stands up here, favouring those with the very best long games - Tiger Woods won both USPGAs here. This year's top-two - Thomas and Cantlay - rank second and third for strokes gained: tee to green throughout the season. There wasn't an outsider in sight.

The European Tour returns to Gothenburg for the annual fixture previously known as the Nordea Masters - now entitled the Scandinavian Invitation. The main headlines, however, will be made at East Lake, Georgia, where the Tour Championship will settle the FedEx Cup and that $15M prize.

They've rejigged the finale into a bizarre handicap, which may or may not be to our individual tastes - it certainly isn't to mine as the previous, complicated FedEx points race offered an edge if you paid close attention. Steve Rawlings will explain all when he returns with previews of both events tomorrow.

*You can follow me on Twitter @paulmotty

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