The Punter's De-Brief: Pepperell hangs tough at tricky Walton Heath
Marc Leishman has romped to victory in Malaysia and Eddie Pepperell has ground out his second European Tour success. Read Steve's take on the two victories with his customary look back at all the action here...
“Eddie was the latest in a string of winners to drift acutely before the off for absolutely no reason whatsoever and it really is worth checking out the markets on a Wednesday. There’s a clamour to get bets on early but a lot of layers appear to come to the market late.”
Birdie blast gives Leishman platform for success
A quick birdie blast from the off in round four soon put co-third-round leader, Marc Leishman, in command at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The pre-tournament [36.0] chance, who was matched at a high of [60.0] before he equalled the course record to get to the front in round two, parred the opening hole before four birdies in-a-row put him firmly in the driving seat. Back-to-back birdies at nine and ten put him in complete control and he was able to coast home after that, taking irons of tees to eliminate any risk. It was the 34-year-old Australian's fourth PGA Tour title and he'll be considered a contender this week in Korea at the CJ Cup - a tournament in which he lost in a playoff 12 months ago.
Gary Woodland, who was matched at a low of [3.05] tried to keep tabs on Leishman but he trailed by three at the turn and bogeys at 12, 14 and 15 soon ended any feint hopes of success he'd had. And the writing was on the wall very early for poor Shubhankar Sharma. The young Indian had begun the final round tied for the lead alongside Leishman and Woodland but he stood on the seventh tee on one-over-par for the day and five adrift. Leishman, who was the first non-American to take the title, cruised to a five-stroke victory with a tournament record-equalling 26-under-par total. A one-under-par final round saw Woodland finish tied for fifth and a level-par 72 saw Sharma slip to tied 10th.
Composed Pepperell grinds out win
Over at the British Masters, third round leader, Eddie Pepperell, began the final round with a nasty hook off the very first tee but he recovered brilliantly after that, maintaining the calm and composed demeanour that he'd shown throughout the week. Eddie certainly wasn't at his best yesterday but he kept grinding in the foul, wet conditions and he put daylight between himself and the field with this spectacular eagle two at the 10th.
To his credit, Alexander Bjork hung persistently to Eddie's coattails and after the Englishman had dropped shots at 15 and 16 the Swede got to within one of the lead but it wasn't to be. They both parred the par three 17th before a poor drive cost Bjork any chance he had, although the pre-event [210.0] shot did get matched at a low of [3.0] in-running.
Pepperell, who was winning his second European Tour title, following success in Qatar at the beginning of the year, was a fairly solid [36.0] chance on Monday and Tuesday but he drifted right out to [46.0] before the off. The victory sees him climb up nicely to number 33 in the world rankings.
I was extremely cautious at the CIMB Classic, both before the off and in-running, and with Leishman winning, with hindsight, that makes sense. As likable as he is, I'm not a massive fan of the Aussie in-contention from a punting perspective and he's not a player I'm ever in a rush to side with and I never really fancied anyone to win it at any stage.
Leishman, Woodland, Sharma and the ever-flaky, Paul Casey, occupied the first four places at halfway in an event where frontrunners fare well - I didn't fancy any of them. With Casey dropping away in round three to leave the other three tied for the lead, I was still scratching my head with a round to go and I very nearly left the event alone entirely but Sharma looked a fraction too big at [6.6] so I had a small wager on him. I wrote in the In-Play Blog that the 22-year-old was always going to feel the heat yesterday with so much on the line and so it proved. With the benefit of hindsight, I shouldn't have talked myself into the bet but it was far from a disaster.
Pepperell's victory saved the week, after I'd backed him prior to the final round. The stats strongly suggested that he should have been quite a bit shorter than he was and, for a change, I backed him accordingly.
Although still short in price, third round leaders trading at much bigger odds than they should be is something I've really become aware of for some reason this year (see Tiger Woods at East Lake as a recent an obvious example) but as I'm more a fan of small stakes bets at long odds, I haven't really capitalised on a number of winners so it was nice to get stuck in to one and to reap the rewards.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog yesterday, 70% of three-stroke third round leaders had obliged on the European Tour since 1996 prior to last week and given that was 61 winners from 87 that had tried, nobody could say it was a small sample size. Eddie had been impressive enough all week and more than decent in-contention and, with respect, the chasers weren't players to be massively concerned about. Odds-against about a selection that one could argue would have been more accurately priced at around [1.7] was more than fair.
What Have We Learned This Week
Eddie was the latest in a string of winners to drift acutely before the off for absolutely no reason whatsoever and it really is worth checking out the markets on a Wednesday. There's a clamour to get bets on early but a lot of layers appear to come to the market late. Placing half your stakes on a Monday or Tuesday and returning late on Wednesday might be a sensible way to play going forward.
Matt Wallace opened up yesterday's final round with a pair of birdies to get to within three of the lead and it looked for a minute or two as though he might prove to be the biggest danger to Eddie but the putting woes that had blighted his challenge all week long soon returned and when he missed his par save on the 10th the writing was on the wall. It was no surprise to see him play the back-nine in 41 strokes and to see him tumble to a tie for 16th but he played brilliantly tee-to-green and it's very obvious that all Matt's interested in is winning. He needs to be kept the right side of - players with this much will to win are rare and I wouldn't be in the least surprised to see him go in again soon.
Like the three that came before it (Woburn, The Groove and Close House), Walton Heath proved to be a spectacular venue for the British Masters and I really hope the event continues. At the time of writing, the 2019 European Tour schedule is still yet to be published and Sky Sports' continued support of what's been a fabulous event over the last four years is said to be in serious doubt. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed because it's been a hugely successful and well-attended event over the last four years and even though it makes punting a little trickier, moving venues and seeing an iconic old course like Walton Heath stand up brilliantly to some of the world's best players has been a joy.
We're going from one iconic gem to another this week with the Andalucía Valderrama Masters on the European Tour and the PGA Tour moves from Malaysia to Korea for the second staging of the CJ Cup. I'll be back tomorrow with my previews.
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