The Punter's De-Brief: Storm edges out Rory and Thomas wins in style

Justin Thomas – the easy winner of the Sony Open
Justin Thomas – the easy winner of the Sony Open

There were two vastly contrasting tournaments last week - a tight finish in South Africa and a facile victory in Hawaii. Read Steve's regular Monday review of the action here, including some thoughts on how the Exchange can offer huge prices towards the end of tournaments...

“Having layed Rory after the opening round in South Africa, if I’d have switched the laptop off on Thursday evening and left the event alone thereafter I’d have fared better than I did but that was never my attention”

Just 83 days after Graeme Storm had thought he'd lost his European Tour card, the 38-year-old journeyman has won his second European Tour title, almost ten years after he claimed the Open de France at Paris National.

A bogey at the 72nd hole at the Portugal Masters back in October last year saw him finish €80 behind David Howell, who filled the vital 110th place on the final Race to Dubai standings. The Tour school beckoned for Storm but he then received an unlikely reprieve when Patrick Reed failed to play enough events to fulfil his European Tour membership. Storm's playing privileges were restored and it's fair to say he's made the most of his luck.

He and veteran caddy, Thami Nkonyane, who was winning the BMW South African Open for the first time after 32 years of bag carrying, made for a formidable team as they held of a brave challenge by Jordan Smith and hot favourite, Rory McIlroy.

Smith, a pre-event 130.0129/1 chance, was matched at a low of 3.7511/4 before his challenged final finished at the 72nd hole and Storm and McIlroy were left to decide the outcome in extra time.

McIlroy, whose pre-tournament odds fluctuated between 3.55/2 and 3.9, was matched at a low of 1.192/11 in-running after he'd caught and passed Storm, but a bogey at the par three 17th saw the two level and a pair of pars at the last resulted in a playoff.

Understandably, the market favoured Rory in extra time, making him the 1.715/7 favourite but when the Irishman missed his par attempt at the third extra hole, Storm, who was matched for a few pounds at 300.0299/1 before the off but who was generally a 180.0179/1 shot, was left with the title just 12 weeks after he thought he'd lost his playing rights.

Over on the PGA Tour, Justin Thomas emulated Ernie Els' achievement of 2003 and won the Sony Open, one week after claiming the SBS Tournament of Champions. In stark contrast to the BMW SA Open, the Sony was a dull affair with Thomas romping to victory by seven strokes. It was a tremendous achievement but as highlighted in the In-Play Blog, a Thomas victory looked assured at halfway and almost certain after three rounds.

My Bets

Having layed Rory after the opening round in South Africa, if I'd have switched the laptop off on Thursday evening and left the event alone thereafter I'd have fared better than I did but that was never my intention and a profit was made regardless.

I traded Rory back and forth on Saturday to reduce my losses and once I'd layed Storm in-running yesterday, at an average of 2.47/5, I was always going to make a few pounds. A win by Smith would have been brilliant, although I did lay him too at an average of 6.05/1, and being able to tweak the book during the play-off helped but is so often the case when I look back, I don't think I made the most of the tournament. Rory's price spiked right out to 6.05/1 on Friday and I really should have backed him back then.

The Sony Open turned into a non-event for me once Thomas had opened up with his 59 on Thursday. The extensive research undertaken for last week's De-brief into how the winners of the SBS Championship had fared subsequently meant I couldn't possibly have backed him and I certainly wasn't going to dive in at short odds.

A Chance Missed

As it transpired, I gave some profits back at the BMW SA Open right at the end of regulation play but I've no regrets at all, it was yet another huge overreaction by the market that could have paid off.

Back in November, Mackenzie Hughes won the RSM Classic, having been matched at 600.0599/1 in the playoff! And there was definitely the potential for an outrageous turnaround again yesterday as the final three-ball played the 18th hole yesterday.

Jordan Smith was matched for plenty at 1000.0 and that was miles too big. After a bogey at the 17th, Smith trailed Storm and Rory by a stroke and when all three were on the green in two, but some way from the hole, his chances of making the playoff were very slim but it wasn't an impossible state of affairs and when he'd made his par and the other two still had in excess of three feet for par, punters were clamouring to back him at a double-figure price.

It was far from inconceivable under the circumstances that both Rory and Storm might miss their tricky par saves and if they had, whoever had layed Smith at 1000.0 would have been in a panic. They don't come along very often but the odd overreaction at the end of tournaments still occurs so it's worth bearing in mind.

Rory Worth Opposing in Extra Time

Yesterday was the sixth time Rory McIlroy had played in a playoff and it was the fifth time he'd been beaten. He got the better of Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore at the Tour Championship after four extra holes last September but in addition to getting beat by Storm yesterday, he's lost in extra time to the likes of Rickie Fowler, Russell Henley, Lin Wen-tang and Jean-Francois Lucquin and he'd have been the firm favourite to win every time.

This Week's Previews

The Desert Swing begins with the Abu Dhabi Championship on Thursday on the European Tour and the West Coast Swing kicks off on the PGA Tour with the Career Builder Challenge. I'll be back later today or tomorrow with my previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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