Michael Thompson has won the 3M Open on the PGA Tour and Renato Paratore has won the British Masters on the European Tour. Steve Rawlings looks back on their respective victories here...
“We saw all sorts of shenanigans at TPC Three Cities last year, with three players trading at odds-on, and its testimony to Thompson’s ice-cool finish that we didn’t see far more drama this time around.”
The PGA Tour has been kind to punters since the restart. Daniel Berger was a 120.0119/1 chance when winning the Charles Schwab Challenge in the first tournament back but the next five winners were all well-fancied and no bigger than 32.031/1 but that all changed last week at the 3M Open.
Richy Werenski, generally a 110.0109/1 shot before the off, and pre-tournament 230.0229/1 chance, Michael Thompson, who was matched for a couple of pounds at 790.0789/1, dominated the event throughout.
The pair sat first and second after the opening round and they were tied for the lead through both rounds two and three but they both started the fourth and final round slowly, playing the first four holes in one-over-par.
Werenski fell away with back-to-back bogeys at eight and nine (eventually finished tied third) but Thompson rallied brilliantly with birdies at five and six and although challengers came at him thick and fast, he played superbly and he sealed the deal with this incredibly good bunker shot on the drivable par four 16th. He tapped in for his birdie three there and he eventually won by two strokes with another birdie at the par five 18th.
Over on the European Tour, Italy's Renato Paratore, a pre-event event 70.069/1 chance and matched at a high of 75.074/1, won the British Masters in impressive fashion.
Having sat second after round one, the 23-year-old was never headed after halfway, eventually going on to win by three. He was briefly tied at the top before birdying his final hole in round three and again after three holes in round four but it took until the par three ninth in round four for him to record the first of only two bogeys all week.
My 120.0119/1 pre-tournament pick, Rasmus Højgaard, who finished alone in second, was matched at a low of 3.39/4 when level with the winner after 53 holes but he bogeyed the 18th in round three, just before Paratore birdied it, and South Africa's Justin Harding, a pre-event 65.064/1 chance, hit a low of 2.3611/8 when he tied for the lead with a birdie at the par four third in round four.
It was a strange tournament to watch, I felt for much of it that the Italian looked like dropping away again but I think that's as much to do with his style as anything else given he plays extremely quickly. He'd fallen away having sat second at halfway at the Austrian Open two weeks ago and he gives the impression he's going to make a mess at any moment but in truth, he played brilliantly last week.
Harding looked like pressurising him when they were level after three holes but he completely duffed it off the tee on the par three fourth, chunked his chip terribly and missed the lengthy par save. Paratore drained a long putt for birdie and his lead was two.
I have mixed feelings about the outcome to the British Masters. On one hand I probably should have layed some of my Højgaard wager back but on the other, if I hadn't have had him in-contention, I'd have layed the winner in-running at odds-on.
Whenever I have someone in-contention I have the inevitable debate as to how much I should have layed back. If they win it's too much and if they lose not enough but if the truth be told, I was really confident of him winning and I played it as I saw it.
Over on the PGA Tour, pre-event picks, Sepp Straka and Henrick Norlander were never in with a serious chance of winning but both rallied from off the pace over the weekend and my two in-play picks held chances too.
Defending champ and halfway play, Matthew Wolff, was poor on Saturday but he put in a run on Sunday and Alex Noren, backed before round four at 34.033/1, was matched at 6.411/2 after back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 but even if his birdie chances at 17 and 18 had dropped, he'd have still finished up one short thanks to Thompson's finish.
Healthy appetite for a Saturday finish
The last two European Tour events have been staged between Wednesday and Saturday and I've enjoyed the change. Having the two final rounds played across both days of the weekend has felt less intense and it's spread out the drama nicely. There are clearly all sorts of practicality issues but it seems I wasn't alone in preferring the change in schedule...
I quite like having the @EuropeanTour event finish on a Saturday and wouldn't mind it being permanent. Anyone else prefer it?? Steve Rawlings (@SteveThePunter) July 25, 2020
Trading opportunities aplenty at the 3M Open
We saw all sorts of shenanigans at TPC Three Cities last year, with three players trading at odds-on, and it's testimony to Thompson's ice-cool finish that we didn't see far more drama this time around.
At one stage there were 22 players within four of the lead and the eventual second, pre-event 1000.0 shot, Adam Long, managed to tie for the lead when posting 17-under-par, having made the cut on the number and having sat tied for 51st at halfway. He was matched at a low of 3.9, Werenski's price dipped to 3.412/5, Max Homa traded at a low of 3.8514/5 and poor Tony Finau was matched at just 2.285/4.
This is an ideal course set up for late drama and it should be a fantastic event for trading on a Sunday going forward. Although the first two winners have been leading through rounds two and three, it's clearly somewhere you can come with a late rattle and I can see it being a hard tournament in which to pick the winner.
The first two winners have both gone off at in excess of 200.0199/1 and they've both found plenty of improvement out of the blue - especially with the putter!
Michael Thompson led the field this week in strokes gained putting, the first time he has done that in a PGA Tour event in 3 and a half years.? Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 26, 2020
He entered the week 160th on Tour in strokes gained approach; 4th this week.
It's going to be a busy week this week with three different events being staged. We have the Hero Open on the European Tour, and the WGC - FedEx St Jude Invitational and the Barracuda Championship in the States. I'll be back later today and/or tomorrow with my previews.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter
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