Rank-outsiders, Victor Perez, who was matched at a high of 660.0659/1 before the off, and Matthew Southgate, who was generally a 370.0369/1 chance (matched at a high of 430.0429/1), began the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship tied for the lead and with none of their nearest rivals applying any real pressure, the contest soon developed into a match.
Southgate birdied five, six, seven and nine to take the lead before the turn and when Perez dropped a shot at the par three 11th, the Englishman moved two clear and was matched at a low of 1.241/4. He appeared to be in control of his emotions and that illusive first European Tour win was most definitely within reach but after two great shots on the par five 14th, Southgate completely duffed his third shot before eventually going on to record a bogey six. Perez birdied the hole and the pair were again tied at the top.
Joe Dyer's 100/1 each-way selection, Joakim Lagergren, and another big outsider, Paul Waring, both birdied the 16th to get to within a stroke of the leading pair but they both gave the gained strokes straight back at the tough par four 17th and that was where the tournament was eventually decided.
Southgate's tee-shot found the rough to the left of the fairway and he played a quite brilliant second to find the front of the green but he was still a very long way from the pin. His first putt wasn't awful but he left himself around eight feet for par and missed. Perez two-putted for par and a one-stroke lead before a very simple regulation par at 18 secured his first European Tour title.
Over at the Safeway Open, Cameron Champ, a pre-tournament 200.0199/1 chance, who was matched at a high of 220.0219/1, led by three with a round to go but he needed a red-hot putter to stay in front early on in round four. After birdying the opening hole, Champ saved par at the next three holes from nine feet, 13 feet and 12 feet before back-to-back birdies helped settle the nerves. He dropped a shot at the ninth and needed this chip-in on the par three 11th to maintain momentum.
It wasn't pretty but it looked like Champ would cruise to victory before Canada's Adam Hadwin put the cat amongst the pigeons with birdies at the last three holes. A nervy bogey at 17 by Champ saw the pair tied at the top before he made the simplest of birdie fours at the par five finishing hole to claim his second PGA Tour title.
I had a few pre-event picks in-contention on Sunday but they all fell short so it's been a slightly disappointing week. I managed to trade to a small profit in Scotland by laying Southgate but that would have been a better result if I hadn't then also layed the winner at 1.21/5 with a hole to play but I've no complaints at all.
If Southgate hadn't traded at long odds-on I wouldn't have been able to make a profit at all so I'm thankful that the chance arose and that he didn't just kick on and take the title. I'd written in the In-Play Blog about how Southgate had been repeatedly poor in-contention so it was no real surprise to see him come up short again but I couldn't help but feel sympathy for him.
What Have We learned This Week?
Victor Perez was the first Frenchman to win the Alfred Dunhill Links and after the first 17 winners of the event all had an abundance of links form, he's the second winner in-a-row, following the victory of Lucas Bjerregaard 12 months ago, to win without a strong links-golf pedigree. Or so it appears on paper...
Unbeknown to me, and I suspect almost everyone else that placed a bet before the off, Perez now lives in Dundee and plays an awful lot of links golf so we still need to be concentrating on players with plenty of links form.
A Frenchman may have won the title but six of the first nine home were English and it makes sense to continue to concentrate on the Brits and Irish.
Tom Lewis, Eddie Pepperell and Shane Lowry all started too slowly to figure at the finish this year but all three showed enough to suggest this is a title that's made for them. There'll be on the shortlist in 2020 but I don't fancy Rory McIlroy's name will be.
Rory has a moan
When interviewed after the event, Rory sounded particularly downbeat about ever playing in the event again and it later emerged that further comments were quite disparaging of the European Tour course set-ups. (see video clip at the top of the BBC piece here).
He's backtracked slightly since the comments were made but still insists that the set-ups are too easy which is a bit strange really, given he's yet to win a title with a winning score of less than 12-under-par. Rory shines on courses were the scoring is easier and he only has a US Open title to his name because the course was softened by rain.
Personally, I'd love to see harder set-ups every week but they are there, albeit they're few and far between. Valderrama is a very tough course and there are other events repeatedly won with low scoring totals (the last five editions of the Trophee Hasan II have been won in 10-under-par or less) but Rory doesn't play in any of them.
Rory was only playing this week because his dad is soon to be 60 and he asked him to play alongside him. Maybe he's disappointed that he didn't play as well as he could have done to win the pro-am because by all accounts his dad played brilliantly all week. I think his rant was a direct result of Tommy Fleetwood shooting 29 on the front-nine at St Andrews yesterday to pinch the pro-am title form Rory and his dad and it all smacks of sour grapes. And I had to smile when watching Champ's win in the States, where he was able to take this week's PGA Tour title, despite missing umpteen fairways.
Rory now lives in America and he almost entirely plies his trade on the PGA Tour. If he wants to see tougher set-ups, maybe he should have started by criticising that tour first? It would have been far more logical and it wouldn't have looked so bad.
Many of the European Tour set-ups are easy but we witness plenty of boring birdie-fests on the PGA Tour so to only pick on the Tour he no longer plays is a bit rich.
Anyway, this week's putting competitions are the Open de Espana and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and I'll be back tomorrow with my previews.
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