Steve Rawlings looks back on the weekend's golf after Paul Casey won the Dubai Desert Classic and Patrick Reed triumphed over adversity at Torrey Pines...
"Tommy Fleetwood sat just two off the lead and tied for third in Dubai but, after rounds of 73 and 72 over the weekend, he went on to finish tied for 17th. That was the 32nd time in his career that he’s sat leading, or within two of the lead at halfway, and he's gone on to win just twice."
It's unusual to get a Sunday without much drama but both of last week's tournaments were won in straightforward fashion.
Paul Casey, a pre-tournament 25.024/1 chance, who was matched at a high of 36.035/1, began the final round leading by a stroke and trading at around even money. He was briefly headed in the market by pre-tournament 50.049/1 shot, Robert MacIntyre, when the young Scot birdied the second to draw alongside Casey to trade at a low of 2.26/5 but that was as close as it got.
Casey birdied three and four to establish a two-stroke lead and when MacIntyre bogeyed four in-a-row from the seventh, that was effectively that. There was a brief moment when Casey looked like there was a chance he may blow his big lead when he made a mess of the par three 15th but he holed a 13 footer for bogey to steady the ship before cruising to victory.
Pre-event 310.0309/1 chance, Brandon Stone, finished alone in second - four behind Casey and one in front of MacIntyre.
Casey does it
This was Casey's 15th European Tour win, and he deserves credit, but the chasers certainly made it easy for him. MacIntyre shot two-over, Stone, who had begun the day two behind Casey, shot level-par but was three-over after seven and even the two players that began the final round tied for fourth and five off the lead, Sergio Garcia and Laurie Canter, flopped completely. Canter shot level and Sergio +1.
Pre-event 36.035/1 chance, Patrick Reed, who was matched at a high of 46.045/1 before the off, began the final round tied with Carlos Ortiz but he too was given an easy rise. The Mexican, who I'd backed in-running at halfway at 210.0209/1, was never at the races and the likes of Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, who had all been on the premises and fancied to put up a fight, failed to break par on day four.
Norway's Viktor Hovland was Reed's only real adversary on Sunday, and he was matched at a low of 2.35/4 when the pair were tied for the lead, but he missed his birdie putt from inside five feet at the par five 13th before bogeying three of the next four holes. Reed was able to coast to victory by five.
It wasn't a catastrophic week by any means, thanks to a bit of trading on Ortiz and Hovland, but it was certainly a bit disappointing. Yesterday promised much and delivered very little.
I had a small position on Stone in Dubai that was never going anywhere once he drove into the rubbish on the second hole on Sunday but the big let downs came in California.
Ortiz never traded any lower than 5.95/1 so I didn't get much out of that position and Hovland, who I'd backed before round three at 11.010/1, had looked like he'd put up a much better fight than he did. The missed putt on the 13th took all the wind out of his sails.
As highlighted in the In-Play Blog, Ortiz had been on the shortlist before the off and had I backed two in the Farmers in the Find Me a 100 winner, he'd have been the staking plan.
Max Homa, who was my sole pick there, and who I backed for a top-20 finish at 5/1, failed to make a single birdie on the back nine yesterday. He eventually finished tied for 18th with 10 others and that pretty much summed up the week.
Reed the ruthless
Third round leaders have a poor record at the Farmers Insurance Open so Reed bucked the trends yesterday but we probably shouldn't be surprised.
After much controversy during round three over a contentious drop on the 10th hole, Reed got his head down to convert his sixth 54-hole lead. He's failed from the front just twice and almost all of wins have come in big events around tough courses.
He was yet another major winner to take this title but this week's win isn't necessarily a big plus for the US Open staged in June. I looked at the year's third major just before Christmas here and form at the Farmers doesn't look like it will be as useful as one might think.
Players to watch
Although not yet 20, Rasmus Hojgaard already has two European Tour wins in the bank. His links and desert form hasn't been great so far, however, so his tied ninth at the Dubai Desert Classic was eye catching. The Dane is one to keep an eye on and so too is Francesco Molinari.
After his mishap at the Masters in the spring of 2019, Molinari's form fell off a cliff but there have been definite signs of life in 2021. He missed to cut on his return to Augusta in November but that followed a tied 15th at the Houston Open and, after finishing tied for eighth at The American Express two weeks ago, he shot an impressive six-under-par 66 around the South Course yesterday to finish tied for 10th.
With the Ryder Cup beginning to be talked about, Molinari is starting to show some improvement but his big pal Tommy Fleetwood continues to frustrate.
Flaky Fleetwood needs to be opposed
Tommy Fleetwood sat just two off the lead and tied for third in Dubai but after rounds of 73 and 72 over the weekend, he went on to finish tied for 17th. That was the 32nd time in his career that he's sat leading or within two of the lead at halfway and he's gone on to win just twice.
Tommy comes across as a really nice fella and you won't hear a bad word spoken about him, so his appalling record in-contention is barely mentioned on TV and as a result, he's always too short when in-the-mix.
On a similar note, Sky bigged up MacIntyre's chances so much yesterday that he even briefly went favourite to win the event over the vastly experienced proven winner, Casey, when the pair were level after two holes and that was plainly wrong.
MacIntyre is an awesome prospect but yesterday's performance, when he missed a number of short putts when in-contention, mirrored his effort at the Golf in Dubai Championship and he's still learning his trade. His sole success on the European Tour came in the Cyprus Showdown but that had a quirky format so he's yet to deliver in an ordinary stroke play event.
This isn't anything new, the Brits are nearly always talked up too strongly and it's something to bear in mind and to exploit.
Finally, the greens are going to be replaced before next year's Dubai Desert Classic and that might not be a bad thing, as they weren't great this week and there were plenty of complaints. Anyone who finished down the field that was fancied on account of their recent putting prowess can definitely be forgiven.
This week's two events are the Saudi International and the Phoenix Open. I'll be back tomorrow with my previews.
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