The Punter's De-Brief: Drama aplenty as long odds-on shots are beaten on both tours
There were all sorts of dramas on both main tours last week with two experienced pros failing to cross the line. Read Steve's customary look back on all the action here...
"With so many brilliant players and so many fabulous wind exponents playing in each and every tournament, there'll always be one or two players that manage to score well, no matter how hard it blows, and if that someone is within touching distance of the lead with a round to go, they very often come from off the pace to steal the trophy at a handsome price."
If ever we need a reminder of just how tough it is to win on either the European or PGA Tour we need only to refer back to Sunday October 7, 2018.
Looking for a third Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in-a-row and his fourth European Tour title, Tyrrell Hatton sauntered five strokes clear of the field on the front-nine in round four yesterday, after four birdies in-a-row from the third hole. The Englishman, who had begun the week as a well-fancied [18.0] chance, was matched at just [1.11] in-running as nothing but a straightforward victory looked likely but it all started to unravel on the 10th when he failed to make par after finding a pot bunker off the tee.
Further bogeys followed at 11, 15 and 16 and he was unable to make a single birdie on the back-nine as both Tommy Fleetwood, who was matched at a low of [1.85], and the eventual winner, Lucas Bjerregaard, closed in on him.
Bjerregaard, a pre-tournament [65.0] chance, matched at high of [130.0] in-running, always looked the most likely to benefit from Hatton's demise. With a shotgun start in operation and an early start to beat the forecasted worsening winds, the 27-year-old Dane, had started his round with a birdie at the now drivable 18th and he kept his card clean with further birdies at four, six, eight and 13 before yet another at the 16th, his penultimate hole, looked to have sealed the deal. He bogeyed the tricky 17th Road Hole but neither Hatton or Fleetwood managed to birdie the 18th and the Dane was left holding the sizable trophy.
Over at the Safeway Open, Brandt Snedeker began the final round with a three-stroke lead and after birdies at five and seven, he too opened up a five-stroke lead and he was matched at a low of just [1.08] but just like Hatton, his grip on the title also started to loosen on the 10th hole.
A troublesome wind irritated as Snedeker turned for home but it was no excuse for his sudden bout of 'the lefts'. From 100 yards out on the fairway he pulled his approach in to the left rough on 10, missed the green left on the par three 11th, and he pulled his approach on 12, again from the fairway, in to the left-hand greenside bunker and on every occasion, he failed to get-up-and down for par.
To his credit, he looked to have steadied the ship after that with three hard-fought pars in-a-row before a birdie at the par five 16th saw him move back in to the lead but a bogey soon followed after his tee-shot found position Z in the left rough on 17 and he failed to birdie the par five 18th. It had looked an impossibility when he turned for home but all of a sudden he was in a playoff with playing partner Kevin Tway, who had been matched in-running at [300.0], way before he birdied 17 and 18 and Ryan Moore, who was matched at [1000.0] before he birdied three of his last four to also post a 14-under-par total.
Tway was a generally a [110.0] chance before the off and this was his first PGA Tour success.
I couldn't have been more wrong at the Safeway Open, as I didn't fancy the winner at all. As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, he'd been awful in-contention on the two previous occasions he'd held a chance to win and he'd been the first I'd dismissed but Bjerregaard's win meant I finished the week in front.
Again, as highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I backed the Dane at [22.0] before the final round so that was a good result, although I did dilute my winnings somewhat by laying Bjerregaard at [3.3] and backing Fleetwood at [5.0] as the tournament drew to a close. I'd backed Hatton at halfway so it made sense to adjust the figures once it was clear that one of those three would take the title.
What Have We Learned This Week?
Bad weather or more explicitly, windy weather, can produce some huge changes. I wouldn't blame the defeats of Hatton and Snedeker entirely on the windy conditions as both players coped well enough over the first nine holes of their final rounds but what windy conditions do, is they set up the opportunity for someone to go against the grain. With so many brilliant players and so many fabulous wind exponents playing in each and every tournament, there'll always be one or two players that manage to score well, no matter how hard it blows, and if that someone is within touching distance of the lead with a round to go, they very often come from off the pace to steal the trophy at a handsome price.
When conditions are fine and the winds light, the majority of the field will score well, provided they can cope with the typical Sunday nerves, so even though low scores are posted from off the pace, the leaders tend to score well also. In poor conditions, and in particular, in windy conditions, good scores are rarer and we see outliers. Unfortunately for my pre-event pick, outsider, Haotong Li, he wasn't quite close enough to threaten the lead with his magnificent 66 yesterday (finished tied fifth) but Bjerregaard shot only one stroke more and nobody else shot better than 69.
Watch Out for the Final Round Bounce Back
Bjerregaard was yet another winner to bounce back after a poor third round. He'd led the field at halfway but in calm conditions on Saturday all he could muster was one-under-par 71 around Carnoustie - thanks in part to a double-bogey seven at the par five sixth - and he went in to the final round trailing by four and trading at a juicy price. He's just the latest example of someone winning after a poor third round and we nearly saw an even better example in the states...
Ryan Moore sat tied for second at halfway and he was trading at just [8.2] but he too flopped on Saturday, misfiring badly with a one-over-par 72 that included two birdies in the last three holes. Moore was generally a [100.0] chance when he trailed by seven with a round to go and he was matched at [1000.0] early on in round four but once Snedeker had been eliminated in extra time, the more experienced Moore was made favourite to come out on top and he was matched at a low of just [1.49].
The majority of contenders that fall away in round three continue to tumble but the market is often too dismissive and there's very often value to be found, especially if the player (like Moore) is vastly experienced and perfectly capable of putting one poor round behind them.
One to Watch
Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen sat eight strokes off the lead after an opening four-over-par 76 around St Andrews on Thursday but rounds of 67, 64 and 69 saw him eventually finish fourth. That was an eye-catching effort for last year's Challenge Tour Money List winner and it might not be too long before the big-hitting 28-year-old notches for a first time on the European Tour.
We're off to Malaysia on the PGA Tour this week for the CIMB Classic and to Surrey on the European Tour for the British Masters. I'll be back with my previews tomorrow.
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