Tyrrell Hatton has won the Abu Dhabi Championship with ease while Si Woo Kim has claimed The American Express. Steve Rawlings looks back at both events here...
"With four players layed before the off – Kim, Finau, Cantlay and Cameron Davis (hit a low of 3.412/5) - dominating the final round from very early on, it wasn’t a pleasant evening."
The first event of the year on the European Tour, the Abu Dhabi Championship, promised to serve up a treat of a finish. Rory McIlroy entered the final round with a one-stroke lead over Tyrrell Hatton with the two-time winner, Tommy Fleetwood, a further stroke back in third.
Having been well-backed before the off, shortening up from 8.07/1 to 6.611/2, Rory was trading at just a shade over evens before the final round and he hit a low of 1.511/2 when he birdied the second and third holes to go two clear but that was as good as it got for the Irishman. He bogeyed the par three fourth, parred the next three and bogeyed the eighth as Hatton took control with birdies at two, seven and nine.
Fleetwood, having hit a high of 480.0479/1 during the first round, was matched at a low of 3.412/5 during the front nine of round four but after a birdie at the par four ninth, he fell apart on the back-nine and eventually finished tied for seventh.
After Hatton had found a bit of trouble on the par five tenth, Rory found the green in two and it looked like we might get a change. He was odds-on to at least cut the gap from two to one but Hatton turned the screw nicely with this monster putt for birdie.
Rory missed his eagle attempt on ten and, somewhat deflated, he bogeyed the 11th. And that was the end of that. He followed the bogey at 11 with another dropped shot at the 16th and Hatton went on to win by four, with Australia's Jason Shrivener, who shot 29 on the back-nine, finishing second, one in front of Rory.
McIlroy now has four third-placed finishes and four seconds at the Abu Dhabi Championship and after a break of three years between his last two appearances, I wonder whether we'll see him back again. He must be sick of coming up short.
As for Hatton, well he's now won four of his last 20 starts worldwide and two of the last three Rolex Series events. He's now won four in total and that's one more than anyone else. Jon Rahm's won three. Having been matched at a high of 17.016/1 before the off, he went off at around 14.5 and the victory sees him move up into fifth in the Official World Rankings.
Over at the American Express, Tony Finau, who had been tied for the lead with a round to go with Si Woo Kim and Max Homa, birdied the first two holes to go clear and he was matched at a low of 2.0421/20 but an ugly miss from seven feet for birdie on the fourth gave an indication that the nerves were about to strike again and he fell away on the back-nine.
Patrick Cantlay, a pre-event 17.5 chance that had been matched at a high of 330.0329/1 in-running, was matched at a low of 1.51/2 after he'd birdied the 72nd hole to post an 11-under-par final round 61 and to take the lead by one but Si Woo Kim, who had played consistently well all day, kept his nerve brilliantly to birdie 16 and 17 and to take the title.
Having backed Rory before the off and having layed him back initially at 2.56/4, I was able to trade my way to a small profit in Abu Dhabi and it was a good job I did because The American Express couldn't have gone much worse.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, of the top-seven before the final round, only Finau and Kim were losers in my book and I had hoped to trade myself to profit but things didn't go my way at all. Even before the round began.
Having made the cut on the number, Cantlay's 65 on Saturday put him within four of the lead with a round to go and I was very tempted to get him onside at 34.033/1 but instead I chose to back another of my pre-event lays back, Brian Harman, who never threatened.
Had I backed Cantlay back I'd have been in a great position to trade to a profit and had Finau traded fractionally shorter I'd have been OK too. In 11 of the previous 14 renewals, we'd witnessed at least one player trade at odds-on without winning so I was going to lay anyone that went odds, regardless of whether I'd layed them previously or not. Unfortunately, he didn't quite go short enough.
With four players layed before the off - Kim, Finau, Cantlay and Cameron Davis (hit a low of 3.412/5) - dominating the final round from very early on, it wasn't a pleasant evening.
I did at least lay Cantlay at odds-on after his birdie at the 18th so the stat above now reads 12 of the last 15 and that brought the loses down a bit but having been on Kim at very fancy prices at Hilton Head (2108) and Sedgefield recently (2020), when he was quite frankly rubbish in-contention, watching him win in the manor that he did was just irritating.
What Have We Learned This Week
At the halfway stage of the Abu Dhabi Championship, four of the top-six and ties had won this week's event, the Dubai Desert Classic, and the eventual runner-up, Shrivener, has form at the Emirates reading 39-6-7-58, so it's abundantly clear that these two events correlate very nicely and it would be no surprise to see Hatton go in again. He won the Italian Open a week after defending the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2017 so back-to-back wins are nothing new to him and he's a worthy early favourite.
Rory again proved to be an excellent back-to-lay vehicle as once again he began well before stuttering and it was quite incredible to see how much better Hatton was in-contention than Rory and the ever-flaky Fleetwood. Having been matched at a low of 3.412/5, Tommy shot a one-over-par 73 in round four and Rory birdied the last to shoot level. In stark contrast, having led by five during round two and having lost the lead, Hatton battled back brilliantly and he never really looked like losing once he regained the lead.
Over at The American Express, the change in format was the big difference for Kim. He'd already won the Players Championship and he really should have won the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head (lost a playoff) so he clearly likes a Pete Dye design and playing Dye's Stadium Course three times instead of twice was a big plus.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter