The Punter's De-Brief: Herbert hangs tough in Bermuda

Golfer Lucas Herbert
Lucas Herbert with the Bermuda Championship trophy

Lucas Herbert has won his first PGA Tour event and his third tournament in 32 starts. Steve Rawlings looks back at his victory in Bermuda here.

"The 25-year-old Aussie has now won three of his last 32 starts so he’s fairly prolific and it was impossible not to be impressed by the way he closed out the tournament yesterday."

Despite being on the wrong side of the draw over the first two days, Canada's Taylor Pendrith, a pre-event 70.069/1 chance entered yesterday's fourth and final round of the Bermuda Championship with a three-stroke lead but his bid to win his first PGA Tour event unravelled at the end of the front-nine in round four.

Play began early because of a poor forecast and the weather was so bad that a brief suspension of play occurred as the leaders approached the turn but it didn't help Pendrith. The damage was already done. He bogeyed six, seven and eight and when Australia's Lucas Herbert bogeyed the ninth, it was New Zealand's Danny Lee that hit the front.

Lee was matched between 150.0149/1 and 210.0209/1 before the off but he hit a low of 2.56/4 as he turned for home with the lead. Playing on a medical extension, Lee needed to finish solo second or better to secure his playing privileges, so he was under a bit of pressure, and it told on the par four 12th when he made a scruffy double bogey from position A on the fairway, as Herbert rolled in a birdie to take up the running.

Lee bogeyed the next two and with Pendrith treading water, pre-event 25.024/1 chance, Patrick Reed, emerged as the biggest danger, birdying four of the last six holes to post 14-under-par. Having been matched at a high of 1000.0, Reed was matched at a low of 2.747/4 as he sat in the clubhouse tied for the lead after Herbert had bogeyed the par three 13th.

With Pendrith struggling and Lee imploding, Reed looked like he may just have done enough but Herbert bounced back immediately at the 14th with this brilliant birdie.

Lee bounced back in style with birdies at 15, 16 and 17 to draw alongside Reed but with Herbert parring in, it wasn't quite enough. Poor Pendrith, who was matched at a low of 1.68/13, went in the water twice on the par five 17th and he eventually finished tied for fifth alongside Scott Stallings who shot an astounding bogey-free 62 in the worst of the conditions.

Stallings' 62 was three better than Reed's brilliant 65 and five strokes better than anyone else could muster on a tough day.

My Bets

This was a funny event. My two pre-event picks were poor and all three speculative in-play picks failed to figure and nothing quite worked until right at the end...

I wrote at halfway in the In-Play Blog that I was tempted to back Lee, who was trading at around 24.023/1 at the time, but I treated the event with caution throughout.

Graeme McDowell, who finished tied for 12th alongside another of my three Find Me a 100 Winner picks, the defending champ, Brian Gay, was never in it on Sunday but he was matched at just 14.5 after he'd birdied the 10th in round three. Unfortunately, he couldn't sustain the challenge and my third Find Me a 100 Winner pick, JJ Spaun, finished tied for seventh, despite being on the wrong side of the draw over the first two days.

As highlighted in Sunday morning's In-Play Blog post, I was happy to leave the event alone before the final round began and my only significant in-play punt came towards the end of play when I backed Reed at an average of 11.521/2, after he'd birdied the 17th.

That gave me the opportunity to trade to a very small loss but it was a funny event that I never really got to grips with.

Contenders Often too Short in the Top-5 Finish Market

The third-round leader, Taylor Pendrith, was matched at a low of 1.091/11 to finish inside the top five but he clung on to finish tied for fifth in the end with a par at the 18th, so anyone laying the long odds-on was nicely rewarded.

Pendrith had been impressive on Saturday, and he looked more than capable of converting his lead but he's far from the first to struggle with so much on the line.

If the nerves take hold, a contender can soon struggle and the disappointment of impending defeat can see their concentration slip, along with their position in the standings. With the brain scrambling and a life-changing victory slipping away, it's not hard to plummet down the leaderboard.

Having made nine birdies and an eagle on Friday and seven birdies on Saturday, poor Pendrith failed to pick up a single stroke on Sunday but he won't be the last to suffer such a demise.

Mexico Form Must be Considered Closely

One of the reasons I backed McDowell was that he'd won this week's event, the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, back in 2015 and the correlation has been strengthened even more thanks to Danny Lee.

The first two winners of the Bermuda Championship, 150.0149/1 chance, Brendon Todd, and 330.0329/1 shot, Brian Gay, have both won the Mexican event and Lee has now finished second at both events.

A good week in Bermuda has to be seen as a great warm-up for this week's World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and it may be worth backing Herbert to double-up.

Hot Herbert Seeks to Emulate Todd

Brendon Todd won in Mexico, two weeks after winning in Bermuda (had the week off in-between) and it wouldn't be a huge shock if Herbert emulated him.

The 25-year-old Aussie has now won three of his last 32 starts so he's fairly prolific and it was impossible not to be impressed by the way he closed out the tournament yesterday.

Herbert finished only 27th in his next start after he'd won the Dubai Desert Classic last year but he has a habit of stringing two, three or four high finishes together and he finished fourth at the Scottish Open in July, a week after winning the Irish Open.

Winning back-to-back events is fairly uncommon but given how well the two courses correlate and that Herbert has a history of remaining hot, he may be worth chancing.

After a week off, the European Tour returns with the Portugal Masters (an event Herbert nearly won in 2018) so I'll be back with my previews for that one, and for the aforementioned World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. And just in case you're wondering, Herbert followed up his second place in Portugal with a seventh at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and a third in the British Masters.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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