The Punter's De-Brief: Fleetwood and Swafford claim the spoils

Tommy Fleetwood holds aloft the Abu Dhabi trophy
Tommy Fleetwood holds aloft the Abu Dhabi trophy

Steve looks back at last week's golf where victories for Tommy Fleetwood and Hudson Swafford led to a tale of misfortune and missed opportunities...

"A birdie at the par three fourth was followed by a chip-in eagle at the par five fifth and over £18k was matched on Campbell at odds-on. He hit a low of 1.758/11 and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It was an ideal scenario and if it hadn’t have occurred so ridiculously early in the round, at the exact time I was eating my dinner, I’d have made a profit in that event too."

With 10 players within two strokes of Tyrrell Hatton's lead, the Abu Dhabi Championship looked to be set up brilliantly after three rounds and the fourth and final round certainly didn't disappoint. Course-specialist, Martin Kaymer, was the fastest out of the blocks and after he'd birdied the par five eighth to get to four-under-par for the day, the three-time tournament winner hit a low of 1.855/6, but his challenge faltered badly thereafter. Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Dustin Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal all threatened to take the title but when the music stopped, England's Tommy Fleetwood was left holding the trophy.

Fleetwood had finished 2016 well with a ninth placed finish at the DP World Championship and a third in the Hong Kong Open but he was without a win in over three years and 98 starts and his course form figures read MC-MC-19-MC-MC so it wasn't altogether surprising that he was generally an 80.079/1 chance prior to the off.

Over in the States, 70.069/1 chance, Hudson Swafford, won the Career Builder Challenge by a stroke over third round leader, Adam Hadwin, but it was a victory that looked most unlikely after he'd bogeyed the first and parred the next five. And it was a very similar win to Tommy's in Abu Dhabi...

Like Swafford, Fleetwood started slowly, with a par at the first, a bogey at the second, and a run of pars before the eighth hole and both where matched at big prices. Fleetwood drifted to 50.049/1 and Swafford 55.054/1.

My Bets

Having backed Kaymer before the off and both Hatton and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in-running, I looked set for a cracking week after a few holes of the final round when those three filled the first three places but it turned out to be a pretty ropey day all round.

Well aware of how poor Kaymer's been in contention since he blew a 10-stroke lead here two years ago, I was always going to look to lay some of my bet back and I did so after he'd birdied the seventh at 2.111/10. It looked like I'd timed it perfectly when he hit a poor drive on the par five eighth but he managed to find the greenside bunker form the desert and he hit a low of 1.855/6 but it was soon apparent that I'd been right to be wary as he bogeyed holes 10, 11 and 13.

Aphibarnrat went toe-to-toe with Fleetwood for most of the back-nine, despite finding water off the tee on the par three 12th and the two were only separated when Fleetwood birided the 16th after Aphibarnrat's birdie attempt narrowly missed. The Thai was matched at a low of 2.3811/8 but it wasn't to be. I'd made a profit after laying Kaymer but it felt like a disappointing result and there was more frustration to come...

I'd signed off the In-Play Blog yesterday with my plan for the Career Builder Challenge and it was quite a simple one. I didn't fancy any of the contenders with a round to go but that mattered not. In seven of the last ten renewals, we'd seen at least one player trade at odds-on and get beat so the plan was to lay anyone that dipped below evens. Step forward Chad Campbell.

A birdie at the par three fourth was followed by a chip-in eagle at the par five fifth and over £18k was matched on Campbell at odds-on. He hit a low of 1.758/11 and I couldn't have asked for anything better. It was an ideal scenario and if it hadn't have occurred so ridiculously early in the round, at the exact time I was eating my dinner, I'd have made a profit in that event too. Unfortunately for me, and pretty typical of how the whole weekend had gone, I switched the TV on just moments after Campbell had played his tee-shot on the par three sixth hole... straight into the water. My big chance had passed while I was stuffing my face.

After that I decided to call it a day and the only silver lining is that I didn't lay the winner when he went odds-on. I can't really complain as I didn't lose a lot but it felt like a week that could have been oh so much better.

What have we learned this week?

Greens In Regulation proved far and away the most important stat in Abu Dhabi again. Runner-up, Larrazabal, ranked fourth for GIR, third round leader, Hatton, second, and the winner ranked number one.

Somewhat bizarrely, given how tight a finish we get here year after year, we still haven't witnessed a playoff and we've again seen at least one well-fancied player touched off by an outsider. Fleetwood was the fifth winner in six years to be matched at 80.079/1 or bigger before the off.

With Tournament Ambassador, Phil Mickelson, onside, one could very easily claim that the Career Builder Challenge is changing and the profile of the tournament is on the up. After seven winners in-a-row went off at triple-figure odds before the off, the last three have all been priced at double-figures before the get-go but it continues to be an event were plenty of unheralded players contend and there were trading opportunities aplenty.

In addition to Campbell trading so low, Adam Hadwin was matched at below 3.02/1, Bud Cauley hit a low of 2.265/4 and the winner was matched at evens on Saturday before drifting right out to in excess of 50/1. I was at the Manchester City v Spurs game when that happened and I was eating my dinner when Campbell went odds-on so I've not exactly managed the event well but I can't deny that the opportunities for some easy trading profits were there.

Yet again it was all about hitting greens and putting but Par 4 Scoring is definitely the best stat. Swafford, again in common with Fleetwood, ranked number one for GIR and with a Putting Average ranking of 24, he was the only player inside the top-four to rank any worse than seventh for that stat but he was the seventh winner in-a-row to play the par fours better than anyone else.

We've got two crackers to look forward to again this week with the Qatar Masters on the European Tour and the Farmers Insurance Open in the States and I'll be back either later today or tomorrow with my two previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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