The Punter

The Punter's De-Brief: Ridiculous Rahm wins at Riviera to assume Masters favouritism

Golfer Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm with the Genesis Invitational trophy

Jon Rahm has returned to the top of the world rankings with a win at Riviera and Thorbjorn Olesen has triumphed in the Thailand Classic. Our man looks back at their victories here...

Pre-event 10.09/1 chance, Jon Rahm, led by three with a round to go at the Genesis Invitational after an impressive six-under-par on Saturday but it wasn't all plain sailing on Sunday.

The Spaniard began the day trading at 1.42/5 on the Betfair Exchange and he hit just 1.152/13 when he birdied the eighth to restore his three-stroke advantage after a pedestrian start.

A facile victory looked on the cards for Rahm but things can change in a hurry at Riviera and after a dropped shot at eight, pre-event 27.026/1 chance, Max Homa, birdied nine and ten and we had a contest again.

As Homa was birdying the short but tricky 10th for a fourth day in-a-row, Rahm recorded a bogey five there and all of a sudden, the two were tied. And after matching pars at the par five 11th, Rahm then three-putted at the 12th to record a bogey five and Homa went odds-on, hitting a low of 1.9310/11.

Pre-event 160.0159/1 chance, Keith Mitchell, who was matched at a whopping 490.0489/1 when the market first opened, hung around like a bad smell and he was matched at a low of 7.06/1 but he couldn't buy a putt on Sunday, and Patrick Cantlay, who was a 32.031/1 chance at the start of the week, hit a low of 5.04/1 when he got to within one of the lead, but it never really looked like the title would go to anyone other than Rahm or Homa.

A Homa bogey at the 13th after a poor drive saw the pair tied at the top once more but it wasn't long before Rahm asserted his dominance once more.

After sinking a remarkable birdie putt from 45 feet at the par three 14th to retake the lead, the Spaniard extended his lead to two again after this incredible tee-shot on the par three 16th.

Homa, who was looking to win the event for a second time in three years, deserves plenty of credit for the way he battled against the odds but there was air of inevitability about the way the best player on the planet responded to going behind.

Since finishing the 2021-22 PGA Tour season with a disappointing 15th place finish at the Tour Championship in August, Rahm has produced ridiculously strong form figures reading 2-1-4-1-8-1-1-7-3-1 to return to the top of the Official World Rankings and he might take some shifting from the top of the tree.

Rahm's now the firm favourite to win the year's first major - the US Masters - and given his current form and the magnificent record of US Masters winners at Riviera, that's hardly surprising.

Over on the DP World Tour, pre-event 30.029/1 chance, Thorbjorn Olesen, who touched 40.039/1 before the off, began the final round of the Thailand Classic trading at around 2.68/5 with a two-stroke but it didn't take him long to double his advantage.

Birdies at the first two holes saw the 33-year-old Dane extend his lead to four and he never really looked like getting beat after that.

Olesen wins Thailand Classic.jpg

Germany's Yannik Paul, a pre-event 90.089/1 shot, who eventually finished second, clung to the leader's coattails on the front nine and he was matched at a low of 5.95/1 but it was the pre-event 22.021/1 favourite, Nicolai Hojgaard, that emerged as the main danger on the back-nine.

After a disappointing level-par front-nine, Hojgaard, who was matched at a low of 3.613/5, got back to within two strokes with three birdies in-a-row from the 10th but Olesen responded brilliantly with three straight birdies of his own from the 13th and he eventually won easily by four strokes.

In the five editions of the now defunct Thailand Golf Championship at Amata Spring, no winner had ranked any worse than fifth for Putting Average but it was Olesen's tee-to green game that secured the prize this time...

The front two both drove nicely and found plenty of greens, ranking fourth and first for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and second and fifth for Greens In Regulation. Olesen and Paul ranked only 19th and 12th for Putting Average.

In his each-way column, Matt Cooper highlighted a strong link between Amata Spring and Paris National and Olesen franked the form nicely. The Dane has finished second and third in the Open de France at Paris National in 2011 and 2017 so that looks a fantastic link.

The DP World Tour moves on to India this week for the Hero Indian Open, which I've previewed here, and the PGA Tour skips from the West Coast to the east and from California to Florida for the Honda Classic, which I've previewed here.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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