The Punter's De-Brief: Fitzpatrick wins but Westwood is king of the European Tour

Golfer Matthew Fitzpatrick
A relieved Matthew Fitzpatrick after his par on 18 yesterday

Matthew Fitzpatrick has won the DP World Tour Championship for a second time and Lee Westwood has won the Race to Dubai for a third time. Steve Rawlings look back at the action here...

"Yet again, the winner was up with the pace throughout and course form stands up remarkably well. In 12 editions, four players have now won the title twice and even if Fitzpatrick had messed up that would have still been the case with the inaugural Earth Course winner, Westwood, finishing second."

With three players tied for the lead and a further four tied for fourth and just a stroke back, we looked all set for a thrilling final round at the DP World Tour Championship yesterday. Finland's Sami Valimaki birdied the first to join the group just one off the lead but that was as tight as it got and with the 2016 winner, Matthew Fitzpatrick, taking control with four straight birdies to begin his round, it was a bit of a damp squib.

Pre-event favourite, Patrick Reed, who began the final round alongside Fitzpatrick and Laurie Canter at the head of affairs, had hit a low of 2.0621/20 on the front night on Saturday before a poor run and Viktor Hovland was matched at 3.55/2 after a birdie at the opening hole on Sunday that saw him join the leaders, but that was as low as anyone bar the winner traded.

After his blistering start, Fitzpatrick added another birdie at the par five seventh and from that moment on, he never really looked like getting beat. A run of nine straight pars followed the birdie at seven before we did get a slightly anxious finish. Fitzpatrick made a bit of a mess of the par three 17th, eventually needing to hole a testing bogey putt to maintain a one-stroke lead heading to the par five finishing hole.

The 26-year-old Englishman then hit a poor drive that missed the fairway left but he was able to lay up comfortably enough, find the green with his third and two-putt for par and his second DP World Tour title.

This was Fitzpatrick's sixth European Tour title but his first in more than two years. The last time he'd won had been in Switzerland in September 2018 when successfully defending the European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre.

Having been matched at a high of 27.026/1 before the off, the Sheffield star traded at between 20.019/1 and 24.023/1 in the lead up and he was never outside the top two places throughout the tournament.

Despite only winning once all season and having finished no better than 10th in-between his win in Abu Dhabi in January and yesterday's second behind Fitzpatrick, 20 years after he won the old Volvo Order of Merit, and 11 years after he won this event and the inaugural Race to Dubai title, 47-year-old Lee Westwood, courtesy of a scruffy finish to the tournament by Laurie Canter, has topped the European tour money list for a third time.

Westwood and Fitzpatrick.jpg

Given he sponsored the British Masters (played at his local course - Close House) and that he supported the Tour throughout the summer, Westwood's victory was very well received.

My Bets

It's been a frustrating finish to the year but this one was very much a shrug your shoulders and move on sort of result.

My 160.0159/1 Find Me a 100 Winner pick, Adri Arnaus, began the final round just one off the lead but he never traded any shorter than 15.5 and he began the final round as poorly as I suspected he might do - parring the first three holes before double-bogeying the tricky par three fourth. He's a fabulous talent and he clearly enjoys desert golf but he's starting to look like a player that finds being in-contention very hard to deal with. He was equally poor on Sunday at the Alfred Dunhill Championship a fortnight ago and he looks like one to swerve or take on in-the-mix.

Fitzpatrick winning wasn't a surprise by any means but given he hadn't won in so long and that he given up numerous opportunities in-between victories, he never looked like a value play to me. In fact, as he left the 17th tee with a one-stroke lead, I thought he looked too short and I layed him modestly at 1.11/10. His price spiked to 1.21/5 after his drive but once it was clear that he wasn't hampered by any trees and that his lie was OK, par was always going to be straightforward enough.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, he was trading at 8.615/2 after the opening round and with the benefit of hindsight, given he's so often a slow starter, that up with the pace is the place to be here, and that he was only around a 22.021/1 chance at the off, that now looks generous but it's always easy afterwards.

What Have We Learned This Week?

Once again, there was quite a disparity in the scoring on the opening day with the early starters struggling in the cooler conditions. My pre-event pick, Bernd Wiesberger, was out of it before I even got out of bed on Thursday morning and going forward, I'd be wary of playing those that begin their rounds early on day one.

As the day heats up, the ball travels further and those that start later also have an opportunity to see how the course is playing and ponder the pin positions - which this year were very tricky in round one. Thursday's AM starters averaged 1.03 strokes more than those that began in the afternoon and that's fairly noteworthy given an early start in round one is usually advantageous.

Stats-wise, we got pretty much what was expected. Fitzpatrick isn't the longest but he still managed to rank 16th for Driving Distance although given the event was staged a bit later in the year and that the rough was a bit thicker, Driving Accuracy was more important than it usually is here and he ranked number one for that stat.

It's extremely frustrating how little information is released by the European Tour about the courses nowadays (usually just the card!) so most weeks we're in the dark but I suspect it'll be worth considering Total Driving rather than just DD going forward although Reed came very close to winning ranking only 64th for DA.

Canter, who still finished tied for fifth despite the poor finish, found more greens than anyone else, the first two home ranked seventh and sixth for Greens In Regulation and Hovland, who finished tied third, ranked second but Fitzpatrick won the event on the greens, ranking first for Strokes Gained Putting.

Yet again, the winner was up with the pace throughout and course form stands up remarkably well. In 12 editions, four players have now won the title twice and even if Fitzpatrick had messed up that would have still been the case with the inaugural Earth Course winner, Westwood, finishing second.

Well, that's it for 2020 but we have lots to look forward to next year and in the meantime, I'll be back at various stages over the festive period with an early look at next year's four majors so all that remains is to thank you for reading the previews and blogs and to wish you all a very merry and healthy Christmas.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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