Steve looks back at an eventful weekend's golf where there were wins for SSP Chawrasia in India and Jason Day in Florida. Read our man's customary review of all the action here...
“Slowly but surely the European players will get to grips with Delhi Golf Club but they’ll still be worth swerving again next year. Frenchman, Gregory Havret, was the only European to finish inside the top-nine this time around and I’ll be sticking with the locals again next year.”
Both this week's winners went into the final round leading by two strokes and both won with style. It was impossible not to be impressed by SSP Chawrasia's stoic performance in India, given all the pressure he would have been under, and Jason Day's finish at the Bay Hill Invitational confirmed, if confirmation were even needed, that he is now a ruthless and efficient closer.
Chawrasia had finished runner-up in the Hero Indian Open four times previously and he had failed to convert from two clear last year and that alone was enough to make his two-stroke victory impressive enough but add in the fact that his triumph meant that he secured his playing privileges on the European Tour, his place in the World Cup and in the Olympics, and it has to go down as one ballsy win.
Jason Day had gone into the final round as an odds-on shot but after a scruffy start it was soon obvious that it wasn't going to be the straightforward cakewalk his backers would have hoped for and in the end, victory was only assured by a quite brilliant finish.
Having been matched at just 1.42/5 in-running, Day drifted right out to above 7.06/1 as Kevin Chappell looked the most likely winner. Chappell had begun the week as a 360.0359/1 outsider but when he was matched in-running at just 1.412/5 when he led by one with one to play. Playing in the group behind, Day failed to birdie the par five 16th and it looked like a par at the last might secure Chappell his maiden win but he missed the fairway off the tee on 18 and had to chop out sideways.
Chappell's missed fairway led to a bogey five and while all that was going on Day holed from 12 feet for birdie on 17. The Aussie then made a fabulous par, having himself missed the fairway off the tee, on 18 to win by one and to move back up to number two in the official world rankings. And we still haven't had a play-off at Bay Hill this century.
The two events were like chalk and cheese this week. My sole selection at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the hat-trick seeking Adam Scott, lost his way on Friday with a cold putter and my only in-play pick, Justin Rose, was a disappointment too but I always looked like winning in Delhi.
Chawrasia was always in the hunt and had he failed Anirban Lahiri, who I also backed before the off, looked the most likely to win. In fact, Lahiri was matched in-running at just 1.84/5 when he drew level with Chawrasia after just six holes yesterday.
I layed some of my Chawrasia bet back during round three at 1.9110/11 and I covered one or two players in-running yesterday just in case but I was very pleased that I'd backed Jeunghun Wang at 30.029/1 before the final round. He looked a big danger on the back-nine and eventually finished second alongside Lahiri.
What Have We Learned This Week?
Delhi Golf Club played quite a bit easier this year. The 14th hole, which last year ranked the toughest on the course when played as a par four, was changed back to a par five and it ranked the easiest this time around.
Rain in the run-up to the event meant that the course played softer and that the rough had grown more. It may sound strange that extra rough made it play easier but with all sorts of trouble flanking the narrow fairways, it stopped the only slightly errant tee-shots from running in to trouble. At the 2015 edition, minor inaccuracies off the tee led to trouble more often than not, with nothing to stop the ball if it was only slightly wayward. This year's winning score of -15 was nine strokes better than the -6 in 2015.
Length off the tee is irrelevant at Delhi Golf Club and more than 40 players didn't even put a driver in the bag. Accuracy is of far more importance and four of the first nine home ranked inside the top-10 for Driving Accuracy but Chawrasia won thanks to his magnificent short game and that's the real key to success here.
He had a 100% record for sand saves, scrambled brilliantly all week and he didn't make a single three-putt. He ranked second for Putts Per GIR and third for Putts Per Round. The first three home ranked second, third and fourth for PPR and the fact that SSP knew the slow greens intimately was a huge advantage. He certainly enjoys his home advantage. There have only ever been seven European Tour events in India and SSP has now won three of them!
Slowly but surely the European players will get to grips with Delhi Golf Club but they'll still be worth swerving again next year. Frenchman, Gregory Havret, was the only European to finish inside the top-nine this time around and I'll be sticking with the locals again in 2017.
Over at the Arnold Palmer, Day once again proved that you need to be up with the pace to win but that it isn't an easy place to lead on day four. He was the first wire-to-wire winner since 2002 but he very nearly became the third player in three years to lead going into round four and to trade at very long odds-on before getting beat. As already stated, he drifted to above 7.06/1 having been matched at 1.42/5, and he needed a truly world class finish to take the spoils.
Player To Watch
This was the first time I'd seen much of the 20-yearold Korean, Jeunghun Wang, and he really impressed. He hasn't yet won on the Asian Tour but it won't be long and he's one to look out for in co-sanctioned events at a juicy price. He looks to have everything in his locker, including a steady nerve.
Player To Swerve
Having won a few bob in India, and having been to the Manchester derby and enjoyed a few beers, I didn't get involved in the Arnold Palmer Invitational but I regret being so disciplined now.
I'd written in the In-Play Blog all week how poor Henrik Stenson has become in-contention in the States and not laying him in-running at 2.01/1 last night feels like a missed opportunity. It's impossible not to like Henrik and he's a great ambassador for the game but he can't be trusted in-the-mix on the PGA Tour anymore and taking him on at short odds has been a licence to print money just lately.
Given I'm on a hat-trick after Scott Hend in Thailand and SSP yesterday, I'm disappointed there isn't a European stroke play event this week but there's still plenty to get our teeth into, The world's elite are heading to Texas for the WGC Match Play and the PGA Tour's lesser lights are heading south for the Puerto Rico Open. I'll be back later today or possibly tomorrow with my previews.
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