Our man looks back on an eventful week's golf where there were wins for Sergio Garcia in his homeland and Justin Thomas in Korea. Read his customary look back at all the action here...
“It had been an exciting finale in Korea and the finish in Spain wasn’t bad either. Sergio Garcia had led going into the final round and when he went three clear after three birdies in-a-row from the ninth, he was matched at just [1.1], but four holes later, he and Joost Luiten were tied! “
It wasn't a great week for the layers with the pre-event favourite, Justin Thomas, winning the inaugural CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges on the PGA Tour in Korea, hours before the well-backed second favourite, Sergio Garcia, won the Andalucía Valderrama Masters on the European Tour but neither man won easily.
Having begun the final round tied for the lead, Thomas put himself behind the eight ball with a double-bogey at the par five third and after he'd fought back to go two clear around the turn, following three straight birdies from the ninth, he failed to birdie the par five 12th and dropped shots at 13 and 17 to keep it exciting.
Anirban Lahiri hit the front after he'd birdied the 12th but he fell apart soon after, playing the last five holes in four-over par, and Cameron Smith threw his hat into the ring with back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 but he could only par in from there and it was left to Thomas and Marc Leishman to battle out for the title in extra time.
Leishman, who was generally a [25.0] chance, was matched at a low of [1.43] during the final round when he gave himself a chance to eagle the last and go two clear. He missed the eagle putt and posted nine-under-par but Thomas matched his birdie and they were back to the 18th tee. Both parred the hole at the first attempt before Leishman made life easy for Thomas with this approach at the second extra hole.
It had been a real slog for Thomas, who was playing for the ninth time in 11 weeks and he had this to say straight after his victory.
"I'm so excited to not do anything. I have officially nothing in the tank at the moment."
It had been an exciting finale in Korea and the finish in Spain wasn't bad either. Garcia had led going into the final round and when he went three clear after three birdies in-a-row from the ninth, he was matched at just [1.1] but four holes later, he and Joost Luiten were tied!
Luiten pushed Sergio hard all day and he was the only man to outscore him in round four but after birdying the tough par three 15th (only the second to do so in round four) he blew his chance with a scruffy three-putt at the 16th. Both players birdied the par five 17th before Sergio took the title after they both parred the last.
Having backed Thomas before the off, Sergio at halfway and having had an each-way double on the pair before the off, it's been a very nice week. I layed both Thomas and Sergio before the fourth round and I also layed Sergio at [1.15] when he was three clear so winnings were diluted a bit but the finish at Valderrama wasn't as stressful as it might have been had I just let everything ride.
As detailed in the In-Play Blog here, I backed a few outsiders in-running in Korea so I wasted a few pounds there but it's been a cracking week.
What Have We Learned This Week?
The cream rose to the top at Valderrama again and the first two home ended the week four clear of Daniel Brooks in third and yet again, being up with the pace was crucial. Sergio and Joost ended day one tied for the lead and Garcia was the fourth 54 hole leader to convert in the last five tournaments at Valderrama.
Luiten backers can rightful feel aggrieved as he put in a determined effort and Sergio's 12-under-par total was the lowest 72-hole aggregate score ever at Valderrama.
Valderrama is a tough and unique track so it's no surprise to see that course form held up brilliantly again. Sergio now has two wins and 12 top-ten finishes from 13 starts here and Luiten's course form figures now read 5-MC-2-2.
Given the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges has been signed up for a ten year stretch on the PGA Tour, it's worth having a look back at the event for future reference.
The course had a big reputation before the off and it lived up to its billing. After a benign first day the wind blew for three days and Nine Bridges proved to be a real test in the breezy conditions. Thomas shot nine-under-par on Thursday and that was the score he and Leishman finished the tournament on. And I don't think it was just a coincidence that the hottest two players in the field on current form were the last two standing at the end.
The fairways are fairly generous but a missed one often spelt trouble. The rough was thick this year and I don't really see any reason why it won't be going forward but the hardest part about the test was the gusty unpredictable island winds and the huge green complexes.
Thomas spoke about how patient he'd had to be and about how he knew he'd make bogeys and it was noticeable how many big numbers were racked up. Thomas had a double-bogey on Saturday and Sunday and poor Byeong Hun An had two triples in round four! I didn't see the seven he had on the par four first but I did witness him take three shots from the thick rough alongside the par three 13th.
The greens are vast with a number of very awkward run-off areas so brilliant scrambling and distance putting is key.
We're off to China this week for the WGC HSBC Champions and the PGA Tour also features the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. I'll be back either late tomorrow or on Tuesday with my previews.
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