The Punter's De-Brief: Noren notches the hat-trick and Brendan Steeles the Safeway

Alex Noren with his latest prize
Alex Noren with his latest prize

Steve looks back at the British Masters on the European Tour and the Safeway Open on the PGA Tour, where there were victories for Alex Noren in England and Brendan Steele in his native California. Read our man's customary recap of all the action here...

"At last year’s renewal, both Justin Rose and Brendan Steele were matched at around the 2.56/4 mark, way before the back nine on Sunday shenanigans saw a further three players trade at odds-on and it was a similar tale this time around."

Third round leader, Alex Noren, successfully converted from the front at the British Masters yesterday to win his third tournament in eight starts. The 34-year-old Swede was languishing down at number 471 in the world rankings at the beginning of last year but he's now up to number 18.

Matched at a high of 32.031/1, Noren went off at around the 25.024/1 mark and he was trading at just 1.75/7 when he teed off yesterday with a three-stroke lead. Birdies at the first two holes settled the Swede nicely and he was matched at just 1.132/15 on the front nine but after a bogey at the par four eighth hole, it was far from smooth sailing and at one point he hit a high of 4.03/1 before birdies at the 15th and 18th saw him win by a cosy two strokes.

Brendan Steele led the Safeway Open with a round to go 12 months ago and he was matched in-running at around 2.56/4 before a dreadful late collapse saw him eventually finishing tied for 17th, but it was a completely different story this time around...

Without a win in over five years, the Californian, who began the event as a 70.069/1 shot, trailed by four strokes with a round to go but in contrast to last year's dreadful four-over 76 in round four, this time around he fired an impressive seven-under-par 65 to steal the spoils. When he missed for par from just four feet on the 12th hole, he looked destined for more disappointment but birdies at the last three holes saw him post an 18-under-par total that no one could match.

My Bets

As detailed in the In-Play Blog, I backed Noren during the first round and I layed him back prior to the final round yesterday to ensure a profitable week, even if he'd been beaten, but I didn't leave it there.

I layed him again at around the 1.330/100 mark and I traded him back and fore several times on the back nine and so by the time he'd won, the result was decent enough.

After that, I backed the third round leader at the Safeway Open - Patton Kizzire - and I finished up making a nice profit there too, although if the truth be told, I made a bit of a Horlicks of the whole affair.

Rather than just lay Kizzire back at odds-on, I decided to be clever and back others, even though I'd highlighted in the preview that the course set up could lead to all sorts of late drama. To cut a long and frankly dull story short, I ended up backing the winner along with Johnson Wagner, Paul Casey and Scott Piercy and although I finished up in front, I'd have been no worse off if I'd layed Kizzire on the front nine at around 1.75/7 and turned the laptop off and gone to bed!

What Have We Learned This Week?

The Safeway Open again proved a great event to trade in-running and with hindsight, I perhaps didn't go about things the right way this week.

At last year's renewal, both Justin Rose and Brendan Steele were matched at around the 2.56/4 mark way before the back nine on Sunday shenanigans saw a further three players trade at odds-on, and it was a similar tale this time around.

Paul Casey was matched at 2.35/4 and Piercy just 2.01/1 before we'd even got to Sunday and anyone that had been going after the market leaders in-running were already assured a decent outcome before the final round had even started.

In addition to those two trading so short, Wagner also hit a low of 2.35/4 and Kizzire was matched at just 1.68/13.

Kizzire came in for much criticism towards the end of play as he got slower and slower as the winning line loomed. He put up an amazing putting performance - holing all 56 putts faced inside eight feet - but the rest of game unravelled badly as he tried desperately to secure his first win. It was actually quite painful to watch and although he didn't help himself by slowing himself down so much, I felt sorry for the guy. Especially given the winner was even worse with the lead 12 months ago. He certainly didn't get a break on the 16th hole when he had to play backwards with his second shot after his slightly wayward drive found an awful spot...

As the prolific Noren had already shown us earlier in the day, winning from the front isn't easy and Kizzire didn't do an awful lot wrong. Anyone that can putt that well usually wins at some stage so hopefully he won't have to long to wait.

Is Lefty Ready to Win Again?

Phil Mickelson was all over the shop on day one of the Safeway Open but he pulled himself together after that and on Friday his average approach shot proximity of 17' 11" was his best effort in any PGA Tour round over the last 10 seasons.

Lefty hasn't won since 2013 and at 46 he's not likely to put a string of victories together now but I can see him winning again soon. It's to his immense credit that after yesterday's tied eighth, he's now finished inside the top-10 in one third of the PGA Tour events he's played in. That some record for a 46-year old and I fancy we might get one last hurrah from him some time soon.

We're got the Portugal Masters to look forward to on the European Tour and the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour and I'll be back later today or early tomorrow with my previews.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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