The Punter's De-Brief: Rahm edges Race to Dubai thriller

Golfer Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm with his brand new trophies

Jon Rahm has won the DP World Tour Championship and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour and Tyler Duncan the RSM Classic on the PGA Tour. Our man looks back at the two events here...

"Time and time again we see halfway leaders struggle in round three but once their big chance has seemingly all but gone, they relax and rally on Sunday. The exact same thing happened last week in South Africa with Tommy Fleetwood and it’s definitely something to bear in mind in future."

It's been a good week for short-priced layers on the European Tour. Pre-event favourite, Rory McIlroy, was matched at a low of 1.9520/21 during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship on Thursday and outsider, Mike Lorenzo-Vera, a pre-event 160.0159/1 chance, was matched at 2.01/1 on Friday when he led the event by six strokes.

But all the time, Spain's Jon Rahm, the 8.07/1 second favourite, was lurking.

Rahm drew alongside Lorenzo-Vera with a round to go and he started the fourth round like a man possessed, recording birdies at five of the first seven holes. It was his turn to lead by six and he was matched at just 1.031/33 but even for the very best players on the planet, winning is never easy and what looked like being a rather dull affair, turned into quite a fascinating finale. Rahm played his next eight holes in two-over par, Lorenzo-Vera rallied, and Tommy Fleetwood put in a fabulous charge birdying five of his last seven holes to draw alongside Rahm, posting an 18-under-par tournament total.

Fleetwood was matched at a low of 3.3512/5 as he waited to see if Rahm would birdie the par five 18th to foil the Englishman's late rally and Lorenzo-Vera was still in with a shout given he trailed the pair by just a stroke but his chance was lost when he drove into the drink on 18. Rahm smashed his drive down the middle before finding the greenside bunker with his second and he was calmness personified as he got up-and-down for birdie and the win.

Over at the RSM Classic, Brendon Todd, who had won his last two tournaments on the PGA Tour, took a two-stroke lead into the final round but he just didn't get going. There was always a chance that he'd finally falter and when he hit a stinker of a shot on the par four fifth from position A on the fairway, he recorded a double-bogey six to slip two strokes behind the pre-event favourite, Webb Simpson, who had birdied both the first and third to draw alongside Todd.

As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, Simpson's record when trailing by one or two shots with a round to go is poor but he did very little wrong yesterday and he was matched at just 1.330/100 as he looked like doing enough to lift the trophy. He didn't play attacking golf though and after a run of 10 straight pars, a bogey at the 14th put him under pressure.

Webb's bogey meant Colombia's Sebastian Munoz was tied at the top and he was matched at a low of 2.26/5 and when Tyler Duncan birdied the par five 15th there were three players tied for the lead.

Simpson responded to the dropped shot at 14 brilliantly with back-to-back birdies and he did brilliantly to par the par three 17th from a semi-plugged lie in the greenside bunker, and to par 18 after a bit of an iffy drive, but it wasn't enough to take the title. Duncan played a brilliant tee-shot on the 17th before knocking in the seven foot birdie putt and he then did this on the 72nd hole from 25 feet to draw alongside Simpson again.

Simpson and Duncan both made four at the first extra hole before the 450.0449/1 outsider claimed the win at the second extra hole with another birdie three.

My Bets

It's been a busy but successful week. Having backed Rahm before the off I layed him back at 1.11/10 after six holes yesterday so the result was irrelevant in the end and the finish far less stressful than it might have been.

My Top 5 Finish lay of Lorenzo-Vero didn't work out but over at the RSM I put myself in profit by laying pre-event pick, Brendon Todd, during the third round and, as highlighted in the In-Play Blog, I backed the winner with a round to go at a juicy price too

I layed some back on Duncan at long odds-on in regulation play (when Simpson looked in trouble on 17) and again during the playoff but again, that removed the stress out of the situation and I've got no regrets.

What Have We Learned This Week?

Rahm is the third man to win the DP World Tour Championship twice in a span of just eight years so it's fair to say course form stands up well. This was the Spaniard's fourth Rolex Series event win so six of the last seven Rolex Series events have now gone to someone that had won one previously. All eight Rolex Series winners in 2019 were priced at between 8.07/1 and 90.089/1 so backing huge outsiders hasn't reaped rewards.

Stats wise, we got what was expected in Dubai. The first and second ranked first and second for Putting Average and length off the tee is imperative. Tom Lewis (13th) and Danny Willett (23rd), were the only two players inside the top eight places not to rank inside the top-eight for Driving Distance and unsurprisingly, the first and second also ranked first and second on the par fives.

Over at the RSM Classic, the clues were definitely there for the surprise winner, Duncan. He didn't have an abundance of form at correlating tracks but his third in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship back in 2017 is noteworthy and he certainly fitted the profile of an RSM Classic winner.

Patrick Rodgers lost a playoff to the experienced Charles Howell 12 months ago but had he won, the five winners before Duncan and six of the previous seven would have been first-time winners on the PGA Tour and five of the last six would have been in their 20s. I made the mistake of concentrating on maidens in their 20s but that was daft really. I've often advocated the positive affect of a significant birthday so that search should have been extended to 30s and under. Duncan turned 30 in July. I did at least fall back on another tried and tested theory in-running.

With the weather improving as the day wore on, it was nigh on impossible for any of the really early starters to make a move from off the pace but Duncan had still begun the final day four strokes adrift and trading at around 50.049/1. His five-under-par 65 yesterday was equalled by Cameron Tringale but nobody bettered it and that was four shots worse than the winner had shot on Friday to take up the running.

I backed Duncan yesterday for two reasons. Firstly, he looked a great price at a venue where off the pace winners are commonplace and secondly, and more significantly, he'd lost his 36-hole lead. Time and time again we see halfway leaders struggle in round three (especially if they've gone low in round two) but once their big chance has seemingly all but gone, they relax and rally on Sunday. The exact same thing happened last week in South Africa with Tommy Fleetwood and it's definitely something to bear in mind in future.

There are no events on the PGA Tour and the Hong Kong Open, which was due to be played this week, has been postponed (temporarily I hope) so we just have the Alfred Dunhill Championship to look forward to this week and I'll be back later today or possibly tomorrow with my preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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