The Punter's De-Brief: Koepka reaches the summit and Sergio wins three in-a-row
The Andalucía Valderrama Masters has finally finished and tournament host, Sergio Garcia, has won the event for the third time. Read our man's look back at the Spanish event as well as the CJ Cup in Korea here...
“Garcia, who was matched at a high of [8.2] last Monday, was generally a [5.4] chance before the off and his supporters didn’t really have too much to worry about once he’d gone clear with a fabulous second round 64.”
The Andalucía Valderrama Masters turned in to a really messy tournament. Constant bad weather resulted in an event reduced to 54-holes that's only just finished! To make matters worse, Sky customers were left with no live coverage this morning and with no explanation as to why. I imagine it was due to having to shift all their gear across to China ahead of the WGC - HSBC Champions event, but no explanation was given and customers were quite understandably a bit miffed - myself included.
Sergio Garcia had begun round three with a four-stroke lead and although Lee Westwood made a charge on Sunday, the Spaniard always looked to have enough in hand until Shane Lowry birdied three-in-a-row to get within one. The Irishman was matched at just [3.6] but just when it looked like getting interesting he double-bogeyed the par three 15th, just as Sergio birdied the 14th and that was that. Sergio eventually went on to win by four.
Garcia, who was matched at a high of [8.2] last Monday, was generally a [5.4] chance before the off and his supporters didn't really have too much to worry about once he'd gone clear with a fabulous second round 64. The ever-popular Spaniard has now won the last three editions of the event but there was good news for the Each-Way column though, with Paul Krishnamurty's 66/1 fancy, Ashley Chesters, finishing fourth.
Over on the PGA Tour, second favourite, Brooks Koepka, jumped to the top of the Official World Rankings for the first time in his career with a four-stroke victory at the CJ Cup in Korea but it wasn't as straightforward as the final leaderboard suggests. The eventual second, Gary Woodland, actually tied the lead deep on the back-nine and Koepka needed a lengthy birdie putt at the 15th hole and this unlikely birdie at 16 to re-establish a comfortable lead, just as Woodland bogeyed 17.
Koepka went on to eagle the final hole to shoot 29 on the back-nine and to win by four.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I backed Sergio at [4.0] on Saturday morning so it's been a profitable week. I layed my stakes back on Sunday morning but I have no regrets about doing so. Whenever someone trades that short with so far to go, and on a tricky track like Valderrama, taking the stress out is always they way to go. Yes, it cost me a few pounds this time but I've enough tales of woe and enough scar tissue to take the easiest route whenever it presents itself.
What Have we Learned This Week?
It looked a really weak renewal before the off but yet again the cream rose to the top at Valderrama - even if we take the winner out of the equation. The leaderboard was dominated by experienced multiple-winners all weekend long and Joost Luiten, caught my eye with his tied 11th finish, having not played since May due to injury. Sergio is going to be a very warm favourite to win the event for a fourth time in 12 months' time but Luiten might just be worth following.
Having looked like being the one to push Sergio the hardest, poor Lee Westwood collapsed today to eventually finish tied for fifth and he's one to swerve now. He has an amazing record in Asia so if the price is right he might be worth backing in a small event there but it's hard to see him winning again in Europe. He fluffed his lines in Denmark recently and today's effort was poor also.
We've had just two editions of the CJ Cup and its an event that I'm not warming to. Being played throughout the night (UK time) is one negative but I'm not keen on the venue either. It's far too easy if the wind doesn't blow and the differential in scores between a windy day and benign day is vast and very hard to gauge.
Both winners have been well-fancied before the off though and both had previously won the US PGA Championship. I wouldn't advocate blindly backing next year's PGA winner, given the event moves to May, but concentrating on big-hitting in-form elite players might make sense.
The late finish in Spain has put me a bit behind this week but I'll be back tomorrow with previews for both the WGC-HSBC Champions event and the Sanderson Farms Championship.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter