The Punter's De-Brief: Magical Ortiz beats world's best in Houston

Golfer Carlos Ortiz
Carlos Ortiz with the Houston Open trophy

With the US Masters just days away, Carlos Ortiz has won his first PGA Tour title and Robert MacIntyre is off the mark in Europe. Steve Rawlings looks back on their victories...

"With uninspiring current form figures of MC-MC-48-35, 29-year-old Texas-based Mexican Carlos Ortiz was generally a 200.0199/1 chance. He was the ninth winner of the new PGA Tour season and he was the sixth to go off at a triple-figure price."

With the US Masters (previewed here) just days away, we've had yet another big priced winner. It's something of a theme on the PGA Tour this season.

With uninspiring current form figures of MC-MC-48-35, the 29-year-old Texas-based Mexican Carlos Ortiz was generally a 200.00199/1 chance at last week's Houston Open, but he was matched at a high of 230.00229/1. Ortiz was the ninth winner of the new PGA Tour season and the sixth to go off at a triple-figure price.

Now up to number 65 in the Official World Rankings, he's only the third Mexican to win on the PGA tour and the first in 42 years, following Victor Regalado's 1978 success in the John Deere Classic. Ortiz did it in style.

With the overnight pacesetters Sam Burns and Jason Day falling away, world number one Dustin Johnson took up the running. Having hit a high of 40.039/1 on Thursday, when he started slowly, DJ hit a low of 1.42/5 on Sunday and looked likely to win his 24th PGA Tour title and his fourth in 2020. But everything changed at the par five 16th.

DJ drew level with Ortiz, hitting a birdie two at the par three 15th. The world number one hit a cracking drive at the par five 16th before a poor second shot with a seven iron from just 200 yards out. He was unable to get up-and-down for birdie from a tricky spot in the rough and 10 minutes later Ortiz did this with his second on the same hole.


Hideki Matsuyama finished the event strongly, birdying four of the last seven, and was matched at a low of 4.216/5. But Ortiz finished the event in a calm and collected manner, eventually winning by two when he birdied the last.

MacIntyre's magic seals in Cyprus

Over on the European Tour, the brand-new format of the Cyprus Showdown provided an enjoyable spectacle, despite yet another weather break, just as the tournament was hitting a crescendo.

With the scores reset for a second time, the last 16 and ties (19 in total) had began the fourth and final round all level on Sunday morning and when the hooter went, there were still nine players within a stroke at the top of the leaderboard with some players having played only 12 holes and some 16.

Marcus Armitage, who'd played 16, was tied at the top with Masahiro Kawamura (played 15) and Robert MacIntyre (played 13) on four-under-par. When Armitage made a complete mess of the 18th on their return, it was left to the latter two to fight out the finish.

Kawamura, a pre-tournament 100.099/1 chance, who was matched at high of 150.0149/1 before the off, birdied the 16th to get to -5 and when he hit a stunning drive at the par five 18th, following a par at the 17th, he was matched at a low of 1.625/8.

Just as the Japanese player looked to be in the driving seat, however, MacIntyre produced this bit of magic at the par three 17th.


The 24-year-old, who was generally a 30.029/1 chance before the off (matched ta a high of 38.037/1) hit a fabulous drive of his own on the 18th before making the simplest of birdie fours to win by one. It was the impressive Scot's first European Tour success and I'd be amazed if it transpired to be his last.

My Bets

I didn't have any joy with my few outright picks before the off and, with the US Masters fast approaching, I didn't get too involved all week. But I backed DJ at 6.25/1 before the final round in Texas yesterday and I got Kawamura onside before the weather break in Cyprus.

Given they both looked like winning at various stages things didn't really go my way but I layed Kawamura back at 1.684/6 and Johnson at 1.758/11 so, although the results were ultimately disappointing, neither was damaging and I actually quite enjoyed having a low-key week.

Memorial Park Gets Rave Reviews

Along with Torrey Pines, that hosts the Farmers Insurance Open in February, Memorial Park, last week's brand-new host venue of the Houston Open, is one of just two municipal courses used on the PGA Tour. Like Torrey Pines, it's no pushover.

The scoring improved as the week wore on and three men managed to shoot seven-under-par 63s on Sunday - Ortiz, Talor Gooch, and MacKenzie Hughes - and it was noticeable how major winners DJ, Brooks Koepka and Shane Lowry, as well as my US Masters fancy, Tyrrell Hatton, all improved their scores day-by-day.

On the advise of player advisor, Brooks Koepka, Tom Doak, who orchestrated last year's redesign, removed 34 of the 54 bunkers, replacing them with intriguing runoff areas around the greens that really tested the game's elite.

With the likes of DJ, Matsuyama, Koepka, Hatton and Jason Day all inside the top-seven and ties and with Open Champion, Shane Lowry just a stroke outside the places, the cream really did rise to the top. I just wonder whether we've witnessed a revolutionary week in the world of golf? Surely more designers will look to replicate Doak's work at least to some degree.

Maybe we've all seen enough of the world's best getting up-and down out of greenside bunkers with relentless ease week after week?

Given the way the best players improved their scores as the week went on, I fancy anyone that played here this week will have a distinct advantage when we return. I won't rush to side with anyone seeing the place for a first time.

Anyway, that's more than enough looking back when we have so much to look forward to this week. I've already previewed the US Masters here and I'll be back later in the week with the Find Me a 100 Winner column, as well as a look at the side markets.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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